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Shooting to tell stories

Even your tiny phone camera can reveal some universal truths

So what if you can’t shoot pix like this National Geographic winner? (Photo by aliasgabriel at

I got this picture off the net. My guess is it was clicked with an expensive camera mounted on a drone, by a person with an eye for a great shot.

I have been lucky to have worked with some good photographers. So I’m aware my photos won’t match up to the quality of their pictures. What they create are often works of art that capture a perfect moment with intriguing composition and lighting (and no doubt, a little professional help from Photoshop). Even if I had their skill, I don’t have the time or money to invest in travel and technology. I mean I won’t find an orangutan outside my home, and that camera and drone won’t come cheap.

Having said that, we are lucky to live in a time where anyone with a half-decent camera on his phone, can shoot passably good photos. Pictures that are good enough to tell a story or reveal some universal truth. And someday, someone is going to be glad we took those pictures.

In my case, that someone is my daughter. She can spend hours happily swiping through my photo library, probably because it’s mostly her baby pix. Her childhood memories are often actually memories of my pictures.

Nature is the world’s original storybook

Seeing the picture below makes me ache for a time when kids were fascinated by nature, and not by gadgets.

Touch-me-not. Photo by babulous.

This next picture was unplanned and admittedly, badly composed, tilted, badly lit, and in general, a bad photo.

But I love what it says.

Guns & Roses

Doesn’t it capture how our society subconsciously pushes boys towards guns and girls to flowers?

Guns & Roses. Photo by babulous.

Kids are the perfect muse for anyone who loves photography. They are just so in the moment.

Happiness is a cool drink on a warm beach

This next picture was shot with my old Canon Rebel 350D, back when eight megapixels was a big thing! The camera still works but it’s big and bulky and well on its way to becoming a museum piece.

Life’s simple pleasures. Photo by babulous.

However, kids grow up, and once my kid became older, she became conscious of my camera, and I was forced to look around for new stories.

Turned out there was some intense action happening right under my nose. I just had to look closer. Real close.

An ant’s world

Ok, I had a little help. That would be the macro lens that’s part of a 3-in-1 pack of clip-on lenses I got for my phone. It was going for just $3 at an online Chinese seller, and I couldn’t resist the temptation. $3 won’t get you top quality though (Hint: that blurring is a lot more than I intended).

Seeing through ant eyes. Photo by babulous.

However the shot looks cool, doesn’t it?

Symmetry is what beauty is about

I was once shown a picture of the Mona Lisa painting and guessed the lady was trying to suppress a hiccup. However, even an art-challenged guy like me knows it’s the symmetry that makes this flower a statement of perfection. I vaguely recall seeing a similar wallpaper on one of the earlier iPhones. Anyway, if Apple wants to buy it, they know where to find me!

I know not what it is but I know it’s perfect. Photo by babulous.

But there’s only so much you can shoot around your home. For me, holidays and travel time is when I get trigger happy.

To recycle is human

This year, we visited Ladakh, a picturesque mountain-desert region in the Himalayan ranges at the northern tip of India.

Wheels-on-house. Photo by babulous.

One of our stops during this trip was an unusual school called SECMOL which only takes in students who have failed their school-leaving exams. They are re-educated creatively at the school to fit back into society. So it was pretty apt to see how a few students from this school hauled an abandoned car back to their school and converted it into a cozy, little quarter for the school cook.

Google is the ultimate authority on everything

I was told the animal I snapped below is a yak. I’ve never before seen a yak. In hindsight, it could be a hairy cow for all I know. Were they fooling me?

I ask Google Photos to look for a yak in my photo library, and it pulls out the same picture. If Google says so, it must be true. Because Google is now the ultimate authority on everything; right?

Yak, yak. Photo by babulous

The world’s greatest artist is not a human

A big advantage of a camera phone is I can shoot at a second’s notice. That’s how I shot this picture from a moving car in that split second when the sun suddenly shone through the clouds.

Khardungla Pass or thereabouts. Photo by babulous.

My Android comes on as soon as I point the camera at my subject as it has face recognition (Poco F1, running Google Camera app). My old iPhone 6S+ is slower as it doesn’t have Face ID and gets stuck when Touch ID refuses to recognize my sweaty finger. Picture quality in my $200 one-year-old Poco and my $750 four-year-old iPhone is similar. So that’s why the Poco is my go-to camera phone these days.

Here’s another painting by nature. Pangong Lake.

Pangong Lake, Ladakh, India. Photo by babulous.

I’m sure there are far better shots of these places by better photographers. But my point is you don’t anymore have to be a trained photographer with expensive photographic equipment to shoot a picture that tells a story.

Anyone can shoot. Anywhere. Anytime.

Every up has its down

Like this shot, which I clicked from the window of a moving train. It catches a fisherman on a lonely boat, seemingly contemplating the sunset.

So was I thinking about the sunset too? Nope, I was wondering if the mosquitoes were eating him alive! This was shot in Kerala in south India, a singularly picturesque state. But it’s hard to enjoy the sunset there, as hordes of these pesky creatures take flight at dusk, and send people fleeing indoors.

Bloodthirsty sunset. Photo by babulous.

So get that shooter out of your pocket, and start clicking. You have nothing to lose, and possibly a nice story to gain.



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