Shooting Rajasthan with a Pro, Mohit Gena

Ace photographer, Mohit Gena, takes us for a two wheeled blitzkrieg through his home state of Rajasthan.

He and Vipul (aka Stunthacker) went around Rajasthan on their motorcycles with Vipul’s BMX bike attached. The idea was to capture the majestic royalty of Rajasthan.

In this article, Mohit, has selected a handful of photos to tell us his Rajasthan story.

As Mohit is from the state he wanted to showcase some of the many iconic spots.

He has also been kind enough to share his ideas behind the lens, tips on how to shoot like a pro and a few basic mistakes that amateurs make…

Photo Feature: Rajasthan Beckons…

The Yellow Fort of Jaisalmer

Jaisalmer fort. City view

A bird’s eye view of Jaisalmer. Vipul stands on the Jaisalmer Fort rampart, as he gets a spectacular view of the city.

Buildings in the city are constructed with the same yellow sandstone as the fort, giving the entire place a unique vibe. A perfect time to visit this spot is either during sunrise or sunset.

From this vantage point you feel like ‘The Lion King’ as you overlook half the city!

While the city might not have changed much over the decades, the telecommunication towers on the horizon speak a different language.

Common Mistakes: A mistake which many beginner photographers would make is to stand much closer to the subject in an attempt to capture the city. Thus cutting off a major chunk of the subject.

When in doubt follow the ‘rule of thirds’, it will help you place your subject correctly.

Pro Tips: To compensate for the very different lighting on the subject and the city, Mohit has shot two photos at varying exposure settings and merged it in the post processing software.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/400, f/14, ISO/100

Royal Dance

Cycling at Gadisisar Lake Jaisalmer

Vipul dancing in a Chatteri on the banks of Gadisisar Lake, Jaisalmer.

The lake is the most iconic spot of Jaisalmer and is best enjoyed at sunrise when you can see the fort with the sun shining on it.

It was once upon a time a source of water for the city, though now it is just a scenic spot to soak in the feeling of the golden city.

The image captures the spirit of the city, with the city’s heritage, architecture and nature all being juxtaposed by that one man on his bike.

Common Mistakes: This photo has been clicked post sunset. A common difficulty would be in finding the best exposure balance and also the White Balance settings. Which would result in the background details being wiped out or the subject being bathed in inky darkness.

Pro Tips: Even with the fading light, this picture has been clicked without a tripod. The photographer must learn to keep his/ her body still. The legs should be set wide. Shoulders held steady and hold your breath the moment you are going to click.

Exif Data: Shutter speed 1/160, f/10 and ISO/400 

Erm… The Cycling Monk!

Zostel in Pushkar

Reflections over a spot of meditation.

BMX riding is hardcore. You need an incredible level of fitness to do the moves. What you also need is high levels of concentration. Meditation helps with channelling your thoughts in tune with your body.

This picture is shot in Pushkar. A city famed for its Brahmi script inscriptions, which supposedly predates emperor Ashoka.

With all that much ancient knowledge and wisdom floating around Pushkar, meditation seemed like a superb idea!

Common Mistakes: The main element in this picture is the reflection in the water. One would often pay attention only to the subject and none at all to the reflection.

Pro Tips: A shallow dept of field has been employed because the background and subject are close. A low aperture setting is used for sharpness in the reflection. Slightly higher ISO and slower shutter speed has been used because of the low light in the indoor area.

With a better lens, Mohit would have preferred shooting at f/2.8 to get things even sharper.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/30, f/4, ISO/250

Prime Doppelganger

Pushkar street market

As Mohit and Vipul roamed the busy market streets of Pushkar, they came across this gentleman. A shopkeeper selling trinkets and street jewellery, his real gem was his own face.

He looked like the current Prime Minister of India and it was an opportunity too good to miss. Vipul posing with his shiny trinket and the shopkeeper with his!

Both of them sporting headgear suitable for their respective trade.

Common Mistakes: The first mistake is to pay more attention to the camera rather than the surroundings. First talk to your subject and make them comfortable for the photo.

Correctly exposing the photo is difficult because of the varied light sources in the marketplace. Study all the light around.

At such times, don’t shoot with your ISO on Auto mode, it will bump it up ridiculously and make your photo exceptionally grainy.

Pro Tips: After studying the light sources in the vicinity, place your subject in the exact spot. You can do this only after striking up a conversation and making your subject comfortable.

Use your body as a tripod. Hold the camera in your hand with the strap taught around your neck. Pull your head back slightly to put pressure on the strap that is becomes rigid. Hold your breath and shoot.

The most important point for shooting a picture like this is communication.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/6, f/9, ISO/640

Warrior Tribe

Maharana Pratap Monument Pushkar Ajmer

The man and his steed.

Vipul indulging in some trickery as he pays homage to the setting sun at the Maharana Pratap Smarak. This place is in between Ajmer and Pushkar and is popularly known as Kind of the Hills!

As George Orwell famously wrote, sport is like ‘war minus the shooting’. Athletes much like warriors have a killer instinct, with a burning desire for victory.

Common Mistakes: This picture was clicked at sunrise. Because of the low light, many would use a low aperture setting. Though this would help with the light, it would completely wash out the background with the statue.

Pro Tips: Shoot blank frames in your chosen spot to experiment till you get the perfect aperture setting. You need to find a balance between getting the light and background right.

The ISO has been bumped a bit to capture more detail of the subject.

Mohit points out his own mistake. He believes he should have used a higher shutter speed to get the subject in the exact position he wanted. Right now it is slightly off!

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/250, f/9, ISO/250

Tick Tock!

Cycling Ghanta Ghar Jodhpur

A bunny hop in time can save you from a traffic fine…

Vipul pulling off a bunny hop with Ghanta Ghar as the backdrop in Jodhpur.

This clock tower might be of interest to few, but those with unlimited time at hand would rather check out the neighbouring Sadar market. A perfect place to shop for those Rajasthani mementos, including local textile, clay figurines, marble figurines and traditional silver jewellery.

Common Mistakes: Most would stand and shoot this at eye level. Get down and dirty to shoot from a low angle. Capturing the Ghanta Ghar in its entirety.

Shooting in portrait mode also helps with cutting out the majority of the crowd on an otherwise busy street.

Pro Tips: Since the sun is beating down hard from the right, Mohit positioned himself ever so slightly to the right of the building, to avoid the shadows and let it be bathed fully in the light.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/200, f/9, ISO/100

Escape from Alcatraz Mehrangarh

Cycling outside Mehrangarh Fort Jodhpur

The famous Mehrangarh Fort of Jodhpur, one of the largest in India. It rests some 100 metres above the city line and is enclosed by signature thick walls.

With all the tight security that this fort provided in the past and present, it was fitting that Vipul made a dashing escape.

Of course if you are a BMX athlete even the great escape must be done in style and preferably on one wheel!

Common Mistakes: This picture is clicked under the scorching noon sun. Shooting at regular exposure will burn most of the picture. Keep the image slightly underexposed to capture all the details.

Pro Tips: You would ideally use a high shutter speed for capturing action. But Mohit wanted to show motion as well, so the shutter speed is much slower, else the subject would have appeared static.

A rather high aperture setting of f/16 has been employed to keep the subject and background in focus.

Because of the higher aperture, the ISO has been boosted to 160. Normally not required in bright sunlight.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/60, f/16, ISO/160

Jag we met!

Jag Mandir cycling Udaipur

Serenading the lake.

Vipul turning circles on the bank of Lake Pichola in Udaipur. This is part of the Jag Mandir complex.

Mohit in sniper position is on the opposite bank of this water body. The gentle ripples in the water are very much like the flowy nature of a capable BMX athlete.

Common Mistakes: In an attempt to focus on the subject, one would zoom in excessively. As a result, one would lose out on the background.

Pro Tips: Mohit predefined the area to Vipul for him to perform. So the subject would be in the desired area of the frame.

A high shutter speed of 160 has been used to capture the action without blurring. But it hasn’t been bumped to 320, the ‘normal’ for action shots, because that would have killed the ripples in the water.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/160, f/11, ISO/125

Birds of a feather…

Badi Mahal, Udaipur

The pigeons take wing as Vipul walks amidst them taking in the view.

This is Badi Mahal in Udaipur. This particular spot is known for its pigeons and you will find a ton of people feeding the birds.

Udaipur known as the city of lakes has countless such picturesque spots, which are a delight to photographers. It is a place with tremendous potential.

Common Mistakes: Shooting at eye level would kill this image, as the subject would merge into the background.

Also getting the lighting right at the time of sunset requires a bit of experimenting.

Getting the subject to walk adds dynamism to the image.

Pro Tips: Leading Lines. A useful tool to employ when the opportunity presents itself.

The building, fencing and embankment are all lines leading the viewers eye towards the subject.

Making the subject walk, adds drama, a sense of victory or accomplishment.

A high shutter speed is used to capture the movement of the pigeons, which also help direct the viewer towards the subject.

What also helps the subject is that he is placed against the blue sky. This is done by going down on one knee to get the perfect camera height.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/320, f/13, ISO/160

Emperor Pink

Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur

If you were emperor of the pink city, this would probably be your favourite spot to keep an eye on your kingdom.

This picture is clicked at Nahargarh Fort, Jaipur. Within the fort it is clicked near the baoli, which gives a fantastic view of Man Sagar Lake and the sprawling city.

Wonder if we could persuade Vipul to take a flying leap from the fort and see if he lands in town!

In the horizon the Aravalli mountains stand as guardians of Jaipur.

Common Mistakes: This is a rather ‘simple’ shot. And so easy to botch up!

The subject is on a raised platform, while the photographer is at ground level. Clicking from standing position would only reveal the subject and blue sky, hiding the entire city.

Pro Tips: Set up your camera for the perfect settings beforehand. Use your body as an extended tripod. Hold your camera as high above your head as you can manage without being unsteady, hold your breath and shoot.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/100, f/10, ISO/100

Theatre of Love!

Nahargarh Fort

This is the open theatre of Nahargarh Fort in Jaipur. Vipul is expressing his love for two wheels as the sky darkens into oblivion.

That isn’t the only love on display. Lake most Indian monuments, there is ample wall space for lovers to express themselves to each other. These walls were popular long before Facebook built their wall!

Common Mistakes: Shooting in twilight is difficult. Getting the correct exposure is important, too bright and the sky burns out, too dark and the subject and monument become one big black blob.

Pro Tips: To capture the moon, monument and cyclist, Mohit used a high ISO setting with a lower aperture.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/160, f/6.3, ISO/640

Uncle Sam

Sam Sand Dunes Jaisalmer

The famed Sam sand dunes of Jaisalmer.

A desert so impressive, that even a flamboyant BMXer can stand back and only watch nature take centre stage.

This picture is clicked with a drone. Mohit is hidden behind the camel and the cart as he operates the mechanical bird. A special talent where you need to hide from your own lens!

Common Mistakes: Forgetting to buy a drone before a holiday!

Pro Tips: Don’t accidentally get captured in your own photo. With wide expansive drone images, it is easy to shoot a fantastic image, only to find that you are the star of it.

Hide behind something big before clicking the picture. In this image, Mohit is sitting behind the wheel of the cart, hiding himself from the camera.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/100, f/11, ISO/160

Shopping Rampage

Pushkar Main market near Brahma Temple

The shopping street of Pushkar.

This is the road which leads up to the famous Brahma Temple.

On the one hand you have a place of worship for the devout and by the side of it is the place of worship for the spendthrift.

No matter the goods on display in the shops, all shoppers’ eyes were on the flying cyclist, rampaging his way through the street.

Common Mistakes: The right time is right NOW. Often one gets lost in setting up the camera, to an extent where one misses the action unfolding in front of ones eyes. Be ready.

Pro Tips: Mohit was setting up his frame while Vipul was doing a few warm up jumps.

One of the warm up jumps was executed perfectly and Mohit was correctly placed to shoot it.

He has panned it a tad to blur the background while keeping the subject as sharp as a swiss army knife.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/160, f/7.1, ISO/1250

Bylanes of a working fort…

Bylanes of Jaisalmer Fort

Exploring the narrow bylanes of the Jaisalmer Fort.

It is a ‘working fort’. Unlike other forts which are operational only for tourists, this actually has trade and commerce going on as normal. It gives you a glimpse into the life of a fort, from centuries ago.

This sort of ‘urban terrain’ is perfect for a BMX guy to go wild. Till someone doesn’t throw you out for destruction of heritage property!

Common Mistakes: To shoot the narrow lane, most would stand in the middle and zoom in on the cyclist. Don’t do that, you will lose out on the effectiveness of the image.

Pro Tips: More than a third of the image on the left is occupied by a large wall. It is overbearing, it is squeezing out the rest of the image. Giving the viewer a feeling of being cramped.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/60, f/11, ISO/100


Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur at night

When the wolf with his dreadlocks is out baying for the moon.

The last in this photo log is from Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur. The end of the Rajasthan odyssey was celebrated with a tribute to the glowing bright moon.

Night shots are both fun to click and experiment with and challenging at the same time.

The Sony mirrorless cameras make night shots super easy as this picture testifies.

Common Mistakes: The biggest mistake most would make, is giving up. Without a tripod in the darkness, they would not even bother clicking a picture.

Always try…

Pro Tips: There are times for the ‘rule of thirds’ and there are times to forget it. Keeping the subject in one of the side arches would have killed the image. Placing the subject bang in the centre was essential.

This handheld photo has been shot with a 35 mm lens, with the ISO bumped to a whopping 3200 to capture the stars in the night sky.

A very low aperture of f/1.4 has been used to allow maximum light to enter the camera.

A relatively fast shutter speed was used because of the lack of a tripod. Also the subject would not be able to stay still for a long exposure shot.

EXIF Data: Shutter speed 1/30, f/1.4, ISO/3200

Did you like these photos and the tips provided by Mohit? Let us know! And don’t forget to watch the video from this trip #bmxBanjaarey

Check out more of Mohit’s stellar pictures from the ATH race in the Aravallis. Also enjoy Prajwal Pingali’s pictures from Temghar, Maharashtra

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