Having taken up photography many years ago, Rajiv Chopra really doesn’t remember why he took up photography in the first place. “The answer is lost somewhere in the dark and deep recesses of my mind. Perhaps it was due to the fact that my sisters and mother had all expressed their artistic side; or, the fact that I wanted something more than the monotony of a six-day week in a steel mill. It is hard to say. However, I did start!” he says.
He made his foray into photography during the pre-digital days, and processing color was expensive. “I made my entry into photography shooting in black and white film. This is still my favourite medium till date, even though I don’t do too much of it. Over the last one year, I have started to make a separation between commercial and private work. The private work may or may not have commercial possibilities, but this is not the main motivation of the private work.” Commercially, Rajiv shoots stocks, portraits, product and architecture. Privately, he shoots landscapes, macro, abstract, conceptual and fine art, cityscapes, street and photo-essays. In 2016, he hopes to start to look into fine art nude photography.
“Photography, for me, is as much an exploration of the inner journey as it is of the outer. As such, therefore, the entire process from, the act of conceptualizing and taking a photograph, to the final editing steps become critical. One balances the other, and cannot be divorced from the whole. What I have started to find very useful, for medium term projects, is to write an Artists Statement. I did one for a project that I called “Abandoned Beauty”, about the colors of rust on two abandoned cars. At various points in 2016, I will be focusing on The Walled City of Delhi at night, Water, Light and the Faces of Death. There will be, of course, lots of fun experimentation!” he explains. For Rajiv, the motivation for private projects comes from within, from his readings, his observations on life, and his musings on life. “That which is latent becomes manifest, often in ways that are surprising even to myself and this is what brings joy to me, and to the creative aspect of me. To be able to keep expanding, pushing boundaries, this is what drives me.”
Rajiv’s first camera was an Olympus OM-2n. This is a film camera, and I have a 50 mm/1.4 lens and a 70-300 mm lens for this camera. This is one camera that he hopes to never give up. “Apart from this, I have two Nikon Coolpix Cameras. I have a Nikon D70 (which, I will probably sell), a Nikon D 200, a Nikon D810 and a Nikon F 75 (for film work). The lenses that I use on the D200 are the 28-200 mm, the 12-24, and a 70-300. The lenses that I use for the D810 are the 28-300, the 14-24 and the 85 mm prime. Apart from these, I have the 50mm/1.4 prime lens, a 60 mm macro and a 105 mm macro. I do use two flashguns – the SB 600 and the SB 800.”
In addition to these cameras, there are several accessories that he possesses. The collection will expand and then stop. These include a few umbrellas, umbrellas, reflectors and product shooting boxes. “Sadly, I do not own my own chemical darkroom or studio, but I have these in my sights. For now, I have tied up with a stylist and have studios on rent! As for software, for RAW processing, I use LightRoom and Capture One. The final processing is done in Photoshop. Then, I do have Photomatix for HDR, and am looking at Zerene Systems for Focus Stacking. There are a few plug-ins that I have – DXO, Nik and Topaz. This suite of software allows me to experiment, and to give reasonably full flow to my creativity. Some might say that I tread on the edge of craziness, but that is what allows me to grow as a creative professional.”
Besides the camera, Rajiv also uses the mobile phone for photography. “Yes. I use it to take a few shots, and then edit in phone and post on Instagram. It is a useful adjunct to the other equipment that I have, but can’t replace it. Before I forget, I do have Lightroom and Photoshop mobile editions on the phone and IPad, as well as some fun software on the IPad – Tangled FX and the Matter Suite. There are a few camera types that I am eyeing. One, for film, is the Nikon F6. For street photography, where I need a fast and light camera, I am exploring and studying mirrorless cameras. Finally, one that I really want, is a medium format camera – the Phase One or Mamiya – for portrait and landscape work!
In case you can’t afford the 50 mm f1.2 lens, then by all means use the f1.8 version. However, for landscape work, a prime is essential. A wide-angle zoom can be expensive. A good 20 mm is essential, in that case. In fact, I am also looking at this lens, for interior work.”
Of his repertoire so far, Rajiv’s favourite photograph is one that he took long ago. “It was taken using 100 ISO Ilford Black & White film. It is a photograph of a solitary boat riding the waves at The Gateway Of India, in Bombay. The boat is empty, the waves are calm and you can almost feel the communion between the wood of the boat and the waves of the sea. There is peace and tranquility here. This is one of the reasons I like it!” he explains.
As advice to a young photographer, Rajiv keeps it quite simple. “Develop your vision. Expand it. Grow it. Push yourself creatively. Go on the inner journey, to express the outward. Remember, technology is an aid to creativity. It is not a substitute for it. Have fun. Keep learning. Remain grounded and humble.”
Delighted to have Rajiv Chopra as a PhotoConcierge!