Vrindavan – Morning walk

13th February 2014 (Day 5) (Vrindavan #8)

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Early this morning we set off on a walk through part of Vrindavan. In the background above is Jugal Kishor Temple, constructed in 1627 following permission from Mogul Emperor Akhbar.

Following images show some of the places and views I encountered on the walk. In most cases they need no further comment, particularly since I may know little more about them than what you see.

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A vendor on the way to work, I should think. Rubbish collection is not a strong point in the Indian states Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. Corruption is also not unknown. Apparently the current or a recent mayor of Vrindavan sold the land that was being used for a tip, so now they have no official place to dump rubbish.

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This is a passageway into a compound where we visited a local family.

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And here is the family. While we were there a dog unfortunately bit one of our party. This resulted in quickly organising a doctor for rabies injections. Fortunately she was OK.

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This is a view at the upper level above the compound.

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Some followers of Shiva whom we visited.

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Vrindavan – Evening ceremonies

12th to 13th February 2014 (Day 4 to 5 (early morning)) (Vrindavan #7)

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Washing clothes at the pump.

Following our visit to the sugar factory, we returned to Vindravan.  The first two images look across the road before we alighted on the bus.  The next four are from the bus on the way back.

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Ever get the feeling you're being watched?

Ever get the feeling you’re being watched?

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Preaching to the converted?

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When the light was starting to get low, I headed off to the river where another puja ceremony was underway.  This time I was more interested in what was happening around me than the ceremony itself.

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The ceremony is going on below me here as I sit on top of a pillar like the one at the right.  While I was sitting there, a young girl aged eight approached me to sell me small containers with a candle surrounded by flowers.  I did not understand their purpose at the time but it was to set them adrift on the river with the candle lit as an offering.

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I didn’t photograph her then but she was in the details of some of the images I took from the boat of the puja ceremony, two nights previously.  She is on the right having probably just tried to interest the people sitting on top of this column in her wares.

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Gunjan.  Image by David Bassett.

Here is a portrait of her taken on this evening by Dave Bassett, another member of our group.  Her name in Gunjan.  We know this because when we returned to Australia, Brian Rope, the leader of our group, discovered a remarkable article on the web about her.   By an extraordinary coincidence it was published on the web just nine days before this night, though we did not know of it at the time.

Her father was killed by his brother a year or two ago and her mother has difficulty finding work so Gunjan supports her family of five by selling the flowers.  This means she is no longer able to go to school and she is illiterate (though she speaks English very well).  At the time of the article, her twelve year old sister was unable to leave the house because she was of “marriagable age”, lacked a dowry and it was not safe for her to go out by herself.

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Image by Brian Rope.

Gunjan is here talking to me as I sit on top of the column.   The photograph is by Brian Rope (web site, blog).

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Slowly the sun goes down.

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The women in the archway above are eying off the monkey to make sure it does not creep up on them.  These monkeys have been known  to attack women and children.

It is some hours later, quite late at night, and this is the entrance to the Sri Radharaman Temple.  It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Krishna that dates to 1542.  It escaped the systematic temple desecrations in Vrindavan at the time of Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb in the seventeenth century because it was located in what was thought to be a residential quarter.  It houses one of the most important deity statuettes of Vindravan.

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We were able to photograph during the ceremonies though we were given some instructions on etiquette such as not to turn our backs on the altar.

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Returning to the ashram through the narrow back alleys….

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Vrindavan – Making Sugar

12th February 2014 (Day 4) (Vrindavan #6)

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On the way back from Kusum Sarovar to Vrindavan, we stopped off at a village where they produce sugar.  Here is a young boy sitting in front of the sugar factory.

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There were also a couple of young buffalo tied up nearby.

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But I digress….

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This is the operation as seen from the street.  Usually I post the images in chronological order but here they are in an order to show the sequence of a process. Actually in this one we are returning to the bus and I am taking a last shot looking back.

The edge of a pile of cut sugar cane stalks is at the bottom left corner.   The machine grinding the stalks is at mid-left.  The furnace is towards the centre and there are a series of large shallow ceramic bowls on the ground to the right of that, not visible in this image.  These are for heating and cooling the sugar cane juice.

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Here we have a friendly operator feeding the machine that grinds the sugar cane stalks.  A hidden petrol or diesel engine drives the machine through the big wheel and belt at the right.

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This is the other side of the machine where the mulched sugar cane emerges.  I presume they later use this to feed the furnace.

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The juice from the cane comes out a chute at the front of the machine, into a collecting bowl and then flows further down a channel.  You can see that better in this view.

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The juice flows into a heated bowl.  The heat comes from the furnace that we saw earlier.  The chimney is behind the person at the back of the crowd with the horizontal striped shirt (you may be able to just see the top of it).

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The juice flows down a series of large ceramic bowls that are heated from below by the furnace.

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Image by Julie Manley.

This is the final cooling bowl.  I took one of this but it wasn’t in focus, I think I had accidentally put the camera in macro mode.  My partner Jools, standing beside me, took this one.

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Some nice patterns on the surface….

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Stirring the final mix.

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Image by Julie Manley.

Eventually, it goes into moulds and ends up as cakes of sugar, as above.

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On the road near Vrindavan

12th February 2014 (Day 4) (Vrindavan #5)

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Family with house and dog.

Most of the images in this post were from the journey back from Govardhan (and Kusum Sarovar temple) to Vrindavan.  The first two are from the journey to Govardhan.  Many were taken from the bus, in motion.

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This is at Govardhan, having just alighted from the bus.

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This is still at Govardhan but we are leaving on the bus.  This appears to be a makeshift shrine.  Three seekers or holy men and their puppy.

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The shadows don’t really help here or in the previous image but when you’re travelling you can’t be everywhere in good light.

The wheels are a kind of mechanical threshing machine that you can see more clearly if you click on the image.  There is a handle on the large wheel to turn it around.  I suspect the huts store the green materials used to feed the machines and the output in turn is for animal feed, such as for the buffalo tied up in the foreground.

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Low-tech traffic signals for trains, it would seem.  This is taken from the bus on an unregulated crossing and I presume that all trains are expected to stop to ensure no accidents.

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A village scene flashing by as we drive past.  All the huts would be for storage.

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After a while we stopped for lunch under a large tree.  This image and the next five were taken of people passing by or of the farming area around where we stopped.

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I can’t show you the photograph taken on the phone.

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For the last two, we are on our way on the bus again.  I understand these cattle are just lounging around in the sun, rather than being outside their own house in a village where cattle have property rights.

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Current technology transport and transport from time immemorial.

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Resizing Images in WordPress

This post is for others who generate WordPress blogs, especially with multiple images per post.

WordPress removed most of the functionality for image editing two days ago in the guise of an upgrade. There has been a storm of protest on the WordPress forum and they are now looking at how to restore at least some of the functionality.

For me the worst downgrade was no longer being able to resize images by percentages.  When you place images on a WordPress page they appear at page width. A landscape (horizontal) image with an aspect ratio of 3:1 therefore starts off nine times smaller than a portrait (vertical) image with the same aspect ratio. I used to use the percentage resize option to get all images on the page to be approximately the same area.

Losing this capacity got me thinking. I realised you could change image sizes by editing in text mode so I knocked up a utility in Excel to specify what the changes should be. Typing in those new values is probably quicker than percentage resizing was. And then I realised I could automate this using a Word macro, potentially useful for multiple-image posts.

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Adult blue-tongued lizard

Adult blue-tongued lizard

Here are two images (cropped 1×1 and 16×9) that I resized in WordPress edit using the Word macro.  Actually, with only two images I might as well have done it manually using values from the Excel spreadsheet.

I usually use standard aspect ratios in Lightroom to resize images including a few custom ones I have defined for panoramic images (2:1, 2.5:1, 3:1). I started using standard aspect ratios so I could reuse mattes for prints in Canberra Photographic Society competitions.  I then found standard ratios more useful than custom ones for considering cropping and seldom need to specify custom ones for individual images.

I have included all these standard aspect ratios in the macro.  The macro will not change other ratios.  You can get the revised values for these from the spreadsheet and type them into the editing text or perhaps revise the macro.

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Baby blue-tongued lizard

Baby blue-tongued lizard

The images show blue-tongued lizards sunning themselves in our garden yesterday, an adult and a young one. These are more specifically the eastern blue-tongued skink, Tiliqua scincoides scincoides. We also have the closely related shinglebacks in our garden.

Here is a link for an Excel spreadsheet which has both the utility to calculate image dimensions and the text of the macro to copy to Word.

  • Resizing WordPress Images
    • The spreadsheet includes the instructions for using both the utility and the macro.
    • You can use the macro to change all images to constant size provided you use captions (WordPress bug)
    • Otherwise, you can obtain values from the spreadsheet and use them in Edit Image/ Scale Image
      • including percentage resizing (further resizing cell)

I have also suggested WordPress incorporate an automatic capacity for resizing images and suggested how they would do this.  Whether they listen of course is another matter.

Vrindavan – Kusum Sarovar

12th February 2014 (Day 4) (Vrindavan #4)

We went on a short journey from Vrindavan to Govardhan where we saw the Kusum Sarovar temple complex which was built in the eighteenth century.
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The area round Govardhan is on Govardhan Hill, which I also heard described as the Sacred Mountain.  It is a gently uplift over four or five kilometres that you only really notice from a distance.

Krishna is said to have encountered villagers preparing to sacrifice to Indra, the God of Rain, and he told them to stop the sacrifice and go about their business.  When Indra sent torrential rain, Krishna lifted up Govardhan Hill to protect the villagers and their cattle.  The legend represents leaving behind old practices of sacrifice to concentrate instead on dharma, the way of living one’s life to generate most beneficial karma.

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People are actually not supposed to bathe in the waters but there is no way of stopping them.

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Inside the domes there are ancient frescoes which are sadly in need of restoration.

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Vrindavan – Walk through town

11th February 2014 (Day 3) (Vrindavan #3)

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On the street.

In the afternoon, we went for a walk across town to a recycling centre and then back to the ashram.

Here are a few comments about my attitude to street photography.  I don’t ask people if I can take their photograph.  What would be the point of that?  You just would get faces put on for the camera, not potentially a fleeting glimpse of reality.  On the other hand, if people ask me, that’s fine.  I don’t usually look through the viewfinder or the back of the camera in order to have some interaction with the people I photograph.  If people indicate they don’t want to be photographed then I don’t do so.  I’m looking for what’s real rather than flattery. I will discard or not take images that show people in an unfortunate light.

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Walking past a yarn shop.

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Automotive recycler.

This was a case where a couple of people pulled me over to take a picture so I did so.  It was only later, looking at the image on the computer, that I realised they had given me a special opportunity for an environmental portrait.

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People in Vrindavan were frequently keen for me to photograph them just for the event and the social interaction.  All I could do was show them the image on the back of the camera.  Usually they had no computer or email and maybe not even a viable postal address.

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These women are making paper using recycled materials.  Friends of Vrindavan is a non-profit community organisation that seeks to improve the environment in Vrindavan in a variety of ways and also provides employment to the poor.

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Bovine pedestrian.

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Canine pedestrian.

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For a while walking back along the streets of Vrindavan I was besieged by a scrum of laughing, screaming children, wanting me to take their photograph and having a great time.   It was difficult getting images in focus because you can’t focus on a moving crowd from six inches away.

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Simian pedestrian (though in fact we’re all simian).

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Doorway in a back alley.

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Indian Macaque mother and child.

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Vrindavan – Across the river

11th February 2014 (Day 3) (Vrindavan #2)

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This morning we crossed the river and went for a walk to a nearby village.

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The second boat with the other half of our party.

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Egret.

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Storage hut, not a dwelling.

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The hut has collapsed, they appear to be removing the contents.

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Buffalo at the village.

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Herbs at the edges of the fields.

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Black-winged stilt.

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In this last image, what is behind the boat is not a sculpture or a special roosting installation for birds, it is the pylons for a motorway bridge that was to go through the heart of Vrindavan, demolishing the integrity of a cultural heritage area.  This was only stopped following concerted local objections.

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Vrindavan – On the river

10th February 2014 (Day 2) (Vrindavan #1)

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Having arrived in Vrindavan and dropped our luggage off, we went for a journey on the river.

Our stay in Vrindavan was very special.  It is an ancient religious centre, where Krishna spent part of his childhood, and we were staying at an ashram, guests of Robyn Beeche (also see A Life Exposed) and also Raju.  Robyn was a pioneering fashion photographer in London in the 1970s and 1980s, creating amazing surreal portraits using skin-painting, lighting and backgrounds.  She has lived in India since 1985, producing remarkable images of the people there.  Raju, who grew up in Vrindavan, is also an experienced and highly accomplished photographer.

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The images in this post are taken from a boat on the Yamuna, one of the most sacred rivers in India.  The exception is the last image, taken from on land, having just alighted from the boat.

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This pontoon bridge is removed and stored each year prior to the arrival of the monsoon floods.

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There was a religious ceremony being performed by the river as the sun went down.  I thought perhaps there was a festival but this happens frequently.  It is a Puja or Arati ceremony.

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Delhi to Vrindavan

10th February 2014 (Day 2)

Delhi

Delhi

We undertook a long journey from Delhi to Vrindavan.  This gate in Delhi caught my eye as we went past on the bus.  It was only later when I looked more closely at the image on the computer that I was intrigued by the spelling error in the sign.  OK, most people in India are more comfortable in Hindi (or other non-English language) and it’s probably just a signwriter’s error but this is a University offering law courses in English and as well they offer “Management Coureses”.

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Delhi

Ready, set, go… (Delhi)

The traffic in Delhi is often a challenge.  Just as well I didn’t have to drive in it.

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Delhi

Delhi

Some modern sculptures in a park on the outskirts of Delhi.

This was taken from the bus, as for most of the images in this post.  Tricky at the best of times, with the opportunities usually very fleeting.  After this we got up to highway speed and it got just too hard until we reached Vrindavan.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

For this image and the next two, we had stopped (I think for people to get some money from an ATM) and I was out of the bus and photographing from the street.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

In the background an old Hindu temple, Madan Mohan Temple, built in 1580.   In the foreground are people playing cricket and spectators.   On the pole is an advertisement for a new block of flats just outside town, somewhat bizarre in context.

This and the next three images flashed by as we travelled into Vrindavan on the bus.

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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Vrindavan

Vrindavan

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