Tips: Night Sky Photography

1. Search for a location on the ground from where you can see the entire sky. The best option may be a huge terrace where you can frame the sky. Make sure there is no obstacle coming in between such as buildings or trees.

2. Mount the camera on a tripod (or a firm support). Mounting the camera and setting the speed.

3. Set the ISO to a lower speed (around 100)

4. Set the mode dial to shutter priority mode. You can set the shutter speed to the bulb setting, or can set it at a range of settings between 15 and 40 seconds.

5. Turn the auto focus mechanism off and then manually set the ring of the lens to infinity.

6. Position the camera and start shooting. It is better to use cable release/remote control in order to minimize the distortion. Alternately, you may set the timer mode and shoot image without a shake.

 

Tips: Which Shooting Mode should be used in DSLR

After a few of my friends have also picked interest in photography and posed several questions to me, I have decided to start a series on tips of using DSLR and as result this is the first in the series.

All DSLRs have creative modes for Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Program Mode. In Canon cameras these are denoted by symbols M, Av, Tv, P and as M, A, S, P in Nikon cameras.

Program Mode (P) - While you are learning to get grips with a D-SLR, the point-and-shoot Program mode ensures you will be able to get great shots from day one because with Program mode, you are allowing the camera to take control of everything. However, unlike Full Auto mode, the Program mode allows you to set the white balance, ISO speed, AF mode, Metering mode and flash firing. The drawback with this mode is that this may actually bias the camera towards a faster shutter speed and this would be more appropriate for action shots (too slow shutter and you will get blurred images from subject or camera movements). In summary, this may be a mode for starting but isn’t the way to go with.

Shutter Priority (S or Tv) – Shutter Priority mode gives you the control to create movement effects such as frozen or blurred i.e. by using a long shutter speed will gives you the effect of blurring water or light trails and a fast shutter speed to freeze the water splash. You can select the shutter speed regardless the brightness level. The range of shutter speed varies depending on the camera model and make, however, generally it ranges from BULB (shutter will remain open as long as u keep the shutter fully pressed) to 30 seconds to 1/4000 of a second. The faster shutter speed will enable to freeze the action and slower shutter speed will give effects of flow, blurring of water, light trails.

Aperture Priority (A or Av) – Aperture Priority mode put you in control of the zone sharp focus (Depth of Field) in a shot and because it will always give you a usable exposure setting. Nevertheless, Aperture Priority mode isolates your main subject and create professional-looking portraits. Moreover, use this mode and a large aperture setting for a shallow depth-of-field and blurred background. Aperture Priority mode is dependent on the lens fitted and as a result, it will always give you a setting that can take a picture. Hence, use this mode as a ‘Default’ shooting mode, which is most recommended for everyday shots! Most of the times I keep Aperture mode as default on my camera. It enables you to control focus area in your shots, leading to greater control on your end shot. It’s widely useful when clicking portraits, landscapes, group photos and when you want to isolate the subject from background or foreground.

Manual Mode (M) – Manual mode gives you complete control over your exposure settings. It is necessary with studio flash, in low-light conditions or if you’re after a specific effect like ‘painting with light’, but it’s too slow to set-up for everyday use. Use this mode when you have grown in confidence. To master this mode will take considerable amount of time and practice. My suggestion is to move to this mode only after you are comfortable with previous listed modes.

Why is the National Emergency of 1975 seen as one of the most controversial times in the History of India?

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Travel Photography – 10 Tips, 10 Pros

I picked up travel photogrpahy as my latest interest area, precisely because I feel I am very bad in this area. To understand this genre of photography its my way of taking notes of my learnings and as such this is second post in this series. I am compiling below few tips I came across from 10 pros considered masters in this genere of photography.

1. Don’t just take photos; create them by planning your shoot. “If you plan a photo session in advance, no matter where you travel, you’ll shoot images you’ll be proud of nearly every time”  – Michael Doven

2.  Odd numbers are more interesting than even numbers. For example, opting for three trees in a landscape, instead of four, “is more visually appealing”  — Wendy Connett

3. Take note of what’s behind your subject. “The background is just as important as the foreground in the final look of the image”  – Larry Louie

4. Engage your subjects by talking to them – or using gestures if you don’t speak the language. “When you create a feeling of intimacy … with your subject, you can shoot stunning portraits” — Chase Guttman

5. In popular tourist spots, go out early in the morning when the locals are going about their business, but before the tour groups arrive  – Mitchell Kanashkevich

6.  Practice “situational awareness” to anticipate what’s coming. When doing ski photography, for instance, get into position before a storm in order to capture the best post-storm light.  — Marc Muench

7. Be patient. Compose a shot and then wait for action to enter the scene   – Nadia Shira Cohen

8. Know your camera. Great travel photographers are a mix of “an artist who can make the ordinary look beautiful and a geek who understands a camera and all its settings”  — Tom Robinson

9.  Snapshots record memories. Photographs tell stories. “A great picture is one where we don’t know if we like it better because of the aesthetics or the content” — Jesse Kalisher

10.  When photographing an object in motion, follow it “with your body and camera while you’re snapping the image. You’re freezing the image as it’s moving, but the background relative to you is moving at a different speed, so you can capture the feeling of speed and exhilaration.” — Peter Guttman

Travel Photography – A skill yet to be mastered

 

Its been long since I have written anything on photography on this blog, and now I am here

Category:Wikipedia requested photographs of ph...

Category:Wikipedia requested photographs of photography (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

to pen down certain thoughts on Travel and Street photography. Over last few years, I have tried several genres of photography including macro, monuments, portraits, wildlife etc. and the one which I feel I am not good in and struggled a lot is with Travel photography, Street photography and Environmental portraits. Over last weekend I stumbled upon a you tube video lecture by Ashok Sinha on travel photography and here are certain learnings and key takeaways to practice in this genre.

Travel photography is one of the most challenging genres of photography and probably falls in same quadrant as wedding and street photography. The challenge in this type of photography is to get the right shot, both technically and aesthetically. There is definitely a luck factor included to be at right place at right time to get that right shot, but it’s also about the approach and your individual qualities, about being able to sense the place, culture and people turning this even more challenging.

So, what is that one should always keep in mind while shooting on travel…….

1. Do not shoot ambiguously each and everything. Just think why you want to shoot a particular picture and what is the communication you intend to provide.

2. To get aesthetically correct pics, you need to understand… understand the culture, people and environment. There can’t be a good pic unless it conveys a story

3. Walk around the place before you start shooting, if possible come back again to same place.

4. Dont crib about bad weather, bad light, washed out sky etc., yes these are constraints, but good travel photographers have won over these by working with patience and changing odds in their favor.

5. Appreciate what the place is all about, observe what is happening around, a good shot is the one which can capture the true essence of the place, people. Appreciate the surroundings whether they are dirty, chaotic, cluttered, beautiful, crowded, secluded or whatever. Things may be of not your liking but that’s not the idea, rather the idea is to capture the essence of surrounding.

6.  In every photograph, human element is a must. Yes, do not forget to include human beings. Too many people or a single person, that’s something you need to decide based on what you are shooting.

7. Shoot from varied angles but not from human eye view. Shoot from hip, or get high, or get very low. This will actually create a lot of impact to the photos.

8. Try not to shoot postcard photos, they are already available for few cents. The idea of getting a different perspective is very important. There are millions of photographs of any monument say Taj Mahal, but what needs to be seen is how differently you can shoot the same monument. Some examples could be to include humans in foreground / background doing something, include human to bring the effect of scale or perspective.

9. Shoot in layers. Try to bring different elements in the frame. A frame can be divided into separate 3 -4 layers. Try to place something striking is in each layer. Example, some elements in foreground, middle of the frame and background of the frame or on the right side of frame or left side of frame or in the sky or in reflections

10. Keep in mind rules of photography like rule of thirds, leading lines, composition techniques, geometric patterns, shapes and effect of lights.

11. Frame your scene and wait for the right moment. Look into your frame and think what more addition or deletion or different placement can bring an impact. Remember patience is key. A lot of patience is needed, a lot….

All about Social Media Analytics

 

Some Interesting facts:

  • 1 out of every 8 people on earth are on facebook
  • 9 out of 10 US internet users are on a social network
  • 1 of 5 minutes spent online is on a social network and on average the time spent on social network has increased from ~8% in 2007 to ~20% in 2012
  • In one minute we produce: 694,980 status updates and 532,080 tweets
  • Average number of friends in real life: 150, whereas average number of friends on facebook: 245
  • People add friends because: 82% know in real life, 60% mutual friends, 29% due to appearance and 11% for business networks
  • 250 million photos are uploaded daily and 35% of users tag themselves

Now this is even more interesting: Half of all users compare themselves to others when they view photos or status updates:

  • As people spend more time on Facebook, they start believing that others have a better life than they do (Did u ever felt that ….)
  • People with high levels of narcissism or low level of self-esteem spend more than an hour a day on Facebook
  • When people get frustrated by seeing others high success, they start feeling depressed and many a times quit facebook or stop going to facebook

What is Social Media Analytics?

Social Media Analytics refers to the study of the structured and unstructured data generated by the users of the social networking sites like facebook, twitter, LinkedIn etc. to make informed business decisions. The most common use of social media analytics is gauging customer opinion to support marketing and customer service activities. It is about to know what consumers are talking about a brand or product or services, it is about analyzing the new trends in consumer preferences and taking feedbacks to improve on brand image and service offerings. Social media provides valuable data for your business, along with a medium for conversation. These tools enable you to spot trends, opportunities and get insights, enabling you to act on some of those insights by participating in conversations that are going on and increasing your ROI.

What needs to be done?

Step 1: The first step in social media analytics is determining your purposes for social media involvement in the first place. Typical objectives include increasing revenues, reducing customer service costs, crowd sourcing, getting feedback on products and services, and improving public opinion of your company or products or a combination of above.

Step 2: Define Measurable and actionable KPIs: The second step is to define and identify KPIs or Key Performance Indicators (business metrics used to analyze or answer specific objectives or achieve goals). You could evaluate customer engagement, for example, through numbers of followers of your corporate Twitter account and numbers of retweets and mentions of your company name, or number of likes or mentions.

  • Define specific KPIs for each social network
  • Define actionable KPIs
  • Choose Metrics that translates into business context

Few examples of actionable KPIs are: Number of people in a specific location who follow your company on twitter or like your page on FB, Number of product improvement suggestions, percentage increase in product reviews, percentage reduction is support costs etc.

Step 3: Configure your analytics

  • Create a filter or segment for social traffic – Identify quickly which actions work and from which social network
  • Add event tracking for social media – Customize your landing pages for different users based on different promotions they are looking for. Directing user to correct landing page is big factor for your online campaign success.
  • Add tracking to measure interactions and event responses – Which buttons do visitors interact with? How much time they spend on landing page vs. other pages on site? What graphics make users click often and more on? Is that button doing what you expected? If not Change It!
  • Add Campaign tracking to URLs – Figure out what wording leads to more click-through and conversions.

Step 4: Use Other Social Analytics Tools: There are a number of types of tools for various functions in the social media analytics process. These tools include applications to identify the best social media sites to serve your purposes, applications to harvest the data, a storage product or service, and data analytics software. Social media tools crawl blogs and social network sites for brand mentions and enable companies to build communities and engage with their customers.

Some Free and Popular Social Analytics tools are:

Social Mention, WhoisTalking, Howsociable, Backtype, Trendistic, Thinkup and Tinker.com

Some effective Paid tools are:

Radian6, Sysomos, Alterian SM2, Ubervu, Raven, Hootsuite pro, peer index and Lithium

Step 5: Understand each Social Metric

Quantitative data: New Likes, Total Likes, Page views, Referrals, Profile data including followers, following, tweets and Daily tweet average, number of clicks, number of retweets, what times, which tweet structure gets a better CTR?

Qualitative data: User Profiles, user location, language, Comments (sentiment), Interaction times, Brand mentions, mention content

Step 6: Action and Strategy

Based on the analysis of data generated above you need to evaluate if you are achieving your goals? Keep on measuring, act differently and keep on experimenting to get even better results. Identify worst performing metrics one by one and devise an action plan.

The ROI of Social Media

Return on Investment is a business metric which measures the effectiveness of the social media marketing efforts. Measuring ROI of social media marketing vs. traditional marketing is very tricky and also very different concept than measuring ROI through traditional marketing efforts. Different people, strategists and marketers have defined the concept of social media differently. This is precisely because Social Media ROI includes various intangible benefits other than the one that can be measured. Measuring social media ROI is to go well beyond the simple metrics of number of followers or likes. It rather depends on the combination or all of below attributes:

  1. Attitude towards the brand: There are various studies done which shows the linkage of returns based on the attitude of users towards a brand, like buying a brand, or recommending the product to friends.
  2. Engagement:The more engaged your user or fan means stronger brand and greater ROI. ROI increase happens because of
    1. Consumers who share about brand are more likely to buy the product (based on cognitive consistency theory)
    2. When consumers engage with your brand, your message travels to wider audiences
    3. When folks engage your brand, it acts as an endorsement to their friends and we know recommendations by friends are more powerful than any commercial marketing campaign.

3. Customer Service: How a business handles complaints of negative remarks is going to be major differentiating factor in increasing ROI. Complaints travel faster than praises. So there needs to be a mechanism in place to address negative comments by companies.

Overall, social media marketing doesn’t translate directly into social media ROI, but it has an impact on overall ROI of business. Social media marketing is a communication plan, it can act as change agent, increased visibility and wider reach and it translates into revenues through various intangible means. The increase in ROI through social media needs to be managed by engaging with clients, tracking what clients and users are discussing on various platforms and forums and addressing customer complaints.

According to Forrester, identifying the value of social media marketing efforts comes down to looking at four factors:

1. Financial: Have costs decreased or sales increased?

2. Brand: Have perceptions of the brand improved?

3. Risk Management: Are you better prepared to respond to issues that affect brand reputation?

4. Digital: Has the brand enhanced its digital assets?

Disclaimer: Some or all of above facts and figures are compiled from different open source websites licensed under creative commons license and hence reproducible. This post contains various opinions and judgemental statements which are based on the research and studies done by me. However various facts and figures are sourced and compiled  from the research done by several institutions including but not limited to Forbes, Dreamgrow, Psychology degree, FB newsroom, Harvard.edu, comscore, pewinternet. Please use this information as per your discretion and I would not be responsible for any loss attributed due to actions taken by you based on information presented herewith.

 

What is so special about the word ‘OM’?

While browsing net I just stumbled upon this question and a meaningful response by Chris Peter. Some how I had this question always at back of my mind to which I didnt' got practical and logical answer which could quench my avidity. The below explanation is by Chris Peter(some parts are though edited by me..), which I just felt to share.. So here it is:

Forget the philosophy, find out for yourself! Chant it correctly and you'll instantly understand why every religion in the world uses the word (yes, even Christianity). Even atheists would find OM interesting as the sound has a very clear, physiological effect on the body.

  1. First, know that OM is actually 3 sounds, Aaaaa, Uuuuu, and Mmmmm.
  2. Aaaaa is chanted with the mouth wide open. You don't need to intentionally focus on making the vowel sound. Just open wide and the Aaaaa comes out naturally, like opening your mouth for the doctor.
  3. Uuuuu is chanted by forming a circle with your mouth. Again, don't try to make a specific sound, just form the circle with your mouth and the sound happens naturally.
  4. Mmmmm is just that, making a sound with your mouth closed. Kinda like a bumblebee.
  5. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. If your mind is super-chatty, try taking 10 deep breaths first. Then chant the 3 sounds, Aaaaa, Uuuuu, Mmmmm separately, with a silent pause in between. You should feel the Aaaaa vibrate in your belly, Uuuuu vibrate in your chest, and Mmmmm vibrate your head. Don't force the vibration, it happens naturally.
  6. Then combine the 3 sounds. Just start out with the mouth wide open, Aaaaa, and slowly close it to Uuuuu and finally completely closed to Mmmmm. One smooth, slow motion of your mouth from wide open to closed. You should feel a vibration start in your belly and move up your spine as your mouth closes.
  7. Repeat the sound 3 times and then notice how your environment sounds afterwards. Most people experience a distinct stillness in the air. Did you contact heaven or just settle your mind? Who knows? Who cares! It just works.

Most of the world's major religions have a slight variation on OM. In Christianity, it is AMen; in Islam it is AMin, and in Judaism it is ShalOM. Buddhism uses plain old OM.

 

LAGAAN – Management lessons from movie

This 15th August I was watching this movie called Lagaan, being telecasted on Set Max

Some inspirational management take aways from movie Lagaan

  • People with Sudden heartfelts should be tested before being part of same ship
  • Focused people as part of the team are very instrumental, they act as catalyst and help sails through difficult times
  • When required leader should not hesitate forming giving direct warnings
  • Your enemy can be the closet person to you. It’s duty of a leader to keep an eye on everyone, even to your closet allies. This however does not mean you need to doubt everyones integrity and intentions but just keep an eye.
  • Don’t underestimate anyone, sometimes the weakest looking person turns out to be the most strong team member (remember ” kachra”)

 

What is Big Data Analytics?

There is a lot of buzz around big data analytics. Infact, big data is termed as major growth engine and revenue driver for the outsourcing companies in coming years and more so every IT company in its latest quarterly performance release has spoken about their focus on Big Data and big data analytics..

So what is Big data?

Big data refers to the enormous amount of data generated on daily basis by individuals and firms through phones, internet, websites, intranet sites, social media and business transactions. According to IBM, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being created every day and industry expects 4300% increase in data generation by the year 2020. As per IBM report 2.7 Zetabytes of data exist in the digital universe today and 90% of which is generated in just last 2 years.

Opportunities in Big Data

Social, Mobile, Cloud and Big Data all play a role in this emerging era of engagement. In its simplest form, Big Data’s role is to better inform operations, drive more intelligence into our automated processes, inform interactions through context awareness, and optimize our outcomes. It will enable the inclusion of a broader base of data (both structured and unstructured), delivering more insight to decision processes and more intelligence to drive automation.

Big Data opportunities exists in both database software and hardware installation at the clients site. Since BIg Data analytics is applicable in all major Industries like Manufacturing, healthcare, Retail & Logistics, Social Media to name a few., the opportunity for IT services companies are mammoth and would definitely be the next revenue / growth drivers for these companies.

Companies’ worldwide are adopting technology and know-how to synthesize these data which help them to make better business decisions. The ever-increasing demand by the companies to unravel the gold mine gave rise to new branch of analytics called Big Data Analytics. Analytics or processing raw data into information help companies to explore hidden patterns and trends that can add value to their business. Many companies are seeking the assistance of service providers to analyze the huge data generated every day to make into useful information. Market research firm IDC expects that Big Data Analytics service market will reach $16.9 billion by 2015. As per another study by Wikibon big data will be a $50 billion business by 2017.

Challenges in Big Data Analytics:

Big data analytics is still in nascent stage and lit of firms like IBM, Oracle etc. are in foray providing host of software and hardware solutions to firms to capture their unstructured data and synthesise them to reveal patterns and as such meaningful insights which can deliver enhanced business meaning to it.  There are other challenges on front of skilled manpower to convert the raw data into information. In fact, they are short in supply. According to a recent report by McKinsey global Institute, US alone will face shortage of almost 200,000 data analysts by 2018 to synthesis the data into information relevant for decision-making.

The amount of data being generated is exceeding the supply of talent required to analyze the same. This gap between demand and supply will only widen in next few years.  The reasons are:

 Every fraction of second, new data is being generated and the demand for creating value from the data is increasing. It is estimated that every two years the size of existing data will be doubled. It is said that even though supply (talent) increases, demand (data) will increase at a faster pace.

 There will be demand for value creation from data from all the industries again adding on to the situation of demand increasing supply.

Case study on how Big data analytics helped a major firm in saving millions of dollar:

OPower said its software and big data tools will be able to help save one terawatt hour worth of energy — which is the equivalent to the energy consumed by 100,000 American homes per year — collectively from U.S. homes by the end of 2012. That’s worth a whopping $100 million in consumer’s utility savings. Opower’s algorithms collect and crunch utility energy consumption data, combine it with other large data sets, analyze it for behavior-changing tidbits, and package the results into a detailed utility bill that can help consumers save around 2 percent on their energy bills. Per person that might be small, but as a whole, the company, is making a real difference.

Decoding Index of Industrial Production

 

Index of Industrial Production is a very important economic indicator to gauge the industrial activity of an economy. It measures the status of production for the industrial sector of an economy in a given period of time, in comparison with a fixed reference point in the past. The base of IIP and the weights assigned to different sub-sectors with in are revised from time to time depending on the changes in the economic structure and to attach a meaning to the current dynamics . The current base is set to 2004-2005 and is revised from earlier base of 1993-94.

The IIP, numbers are released every month in India and generally seen as an important but short-term indicator of whether industrial activity in a country has risen or dipped. They are also regarded as the leading indicators for the estimation of the GDP of the country as they serve the basis of estimating how the growth in GDP would look like in coming quarters.

IIP numbers are divided and recorded under four main categories Basic goods (45.7% weight), Capital goods (8.8% weight), Intermediate goods (15.7% weight) and Consumer goods (29.8% weight). Consumer goods is further breaked down into Durables (8.5% weight of total index) and Non-durables (21.3% of total index weight). In India, IIP covers areas in mining, manufacturing and electricity, however as per UN statistics it should also include some other areas like Constructions, energy, gas etc.

Since, industrial activity contributes about a quarter of our GDP, this indicator is keenly followed by economists, markets and policymakers. A higher growth in industrial activity, reflected by movement in the index, will naturally lead to better growth for overall GDP. Neverthless, to say this further reflects on the sentiments of the stock markets and leads to changes in stock values depending on how IIP fairs. A continual contraction of IIP index will also put pressure on the RBI to relook its monetary policy, as in days of contraction, it will come out to possibly ease the interest rates to boost the GDP.

 

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