Urban Exposure 2019 - My Experience

Living in a big city like Calgary just makes me feel at home. The warm and welcoming people here and the proximity to the mountains is beyond good luck. As I ventured into photography, documenting streets of this city has been on my list of projects to do however it was a little intimidating to approach strangers or show the struggles of the community in incorrect way. When my friend suggested to participate in United Way annual project called Urban Exposure I immediately signed up.

Growing strong YYC

Growing strong YYC

It is one thing to feel at home and a totally different point to see how your home is designed and how to improve it for comfort of all the members living in it. In our city United Way is doing just that - giving each Calgarian a chance to feel at home. Through various assistance programs it is helping people heal, learn, grow and be accepted in the society. Through donations, brainstorming ideas and volunteers, kind and hard working professionals in the organizations across the city United Way Calgary is helping numerous individuals to get control of their life back in ways unimaginable. We all need that friend by our side when we have bad days and their projects do just that.

Urban Exposure is a program to inform and encourage participants to observe & understand the social struggles, know about the linked patterns of approach towards problems in our society and tell stories about our wonderful and resilient city. Over the course of 10 weeks we were introduced to multiple organizations and teams that work to connect newcomers, youth, teens as well as individuals with the right support, resources and knowledge they need. It assists Calgarians who are seeking guidance to get back on their feet. Challenges of mental health, drug abuse, domestic abuse, poverty, education, employment, finances, affordable living and so much more can be dealt with if we all come together that is exactly what this team is working towards.

Our resilient and strong city

Our resilient and strong city

The message to document this year was #unignorable and #dolocalgood. I have seen many kind souls going beyond their way to help strangers on numerous occasions. We participated in many photo-walks and explore the neighborhoods across the city like Bridgeland, Beltline & Ramsay. There is a such a fine mix of old and new architecture, blend of art and creativity in different areas of Calgary. Even night life and photographing the sunset with Neil Zeller was amazing experience. It helped me find the voice to share my thoughts and be imaginative. Spending time as a team, having fun, sharing ideas & being with outgoing participants got all my creative juices flowing.

In my 7 years as a Calgarian I’ve experienced such deeds of kindness it brings joy to my heart and makes me feel proud to be living here. However, for my photo series I chose the idea unignorable, as we are reaching at a break point of exploiting the earth and its resources it’s time we took global warming seriously. Each species on earth deserves to live and enjoy the space just as humans and yet there are many birds and animals going extinct due to our mindless actions. Small steps like recycling, conserving energy and water resources, city planning, keeping our national parks and oceans clean can help us and the next generation to sustain and survive. I hope my images can convey my thoughts and bring some positive change. You can find my images and comments here.

Photowalk with UEP members at New Library

Photowalk with UEP members at New Library

As an immigrant it is very insightful to get a sneak peek into all the hard work and efforts by organizations like United Way that make all Calgarians feel right at home. I am happy to say the exhibition on June 19th was well received with more than 100 guests attending the event. This experience definitely helped me to be more active as a photographer and certainly more engaged & involved in social issues with focus on local good and small acts of kindness. I am pushing myself to be more outspoken and as an introvert this was perfect opportunity to connect with people interested in the same passion for photography and documentation of various phases of our city. I look forward to more volunteering opportunities with United Way and do my part to make Calgary the best city ever.

365 day photo project report

Creativity is hard and these days being original is even harder as we have multiple sources of inspiration, learning and instant sharing. I needed to train my mind to see images where there weren’t any and to understand impact of color and lighting on my landscapes and even human images. So I took a challenge last December to post a photo a day on my Instagram @lensesofi throughout 2019 and improve my eye for the sake of my lens.

Commitment is a very strong characteristic for a human and especially for a business that is trying to create a strong identity in the internet world. I took days off and went on vacation also had lazy moments and last minute scramble to find a wildlife, landscape or cityscape I wanted to share. I am happy to say the project has been a success so far as we are almost close to the middle of the year.

153 posts so far

212 posts to go

Photographer at work

My perspective on things has changed a little. I find more beautiful images as I drive by or catch a glimpse of a scene that would be perfect if I had a camera. The exercise is working and training my brain to be the photographer that is always ready to capture. Lets’s see what it looks like when I finish my challenge on Dec 31st and I’ll share more details with you.

Hope this inspires you to pick up your own personal project and try something you haven’t done or are afraid to do. A big tip I got from my photography instructors about being original is “‘you’ make your photo different” so don’t worry if thousands of pictures are already there in the world wide web. Go out and take pictures, just do ‘you’. Thank you for reading.

The blood-moon eclipse experience

On 20th January we experienced the first lunar eclipse of the year 2019 and it was also a super blood moon which means it appears 30% brighter with a reddish glow. There was a lot of hype and excitement around the event as the eclipse was about to last for 5 hours which is a very long time. As all photographers, I was thrilled about this event as well. So I joined my partner and we planned to photograph it. The sky was mostly clear and the timing was more humanly comfortable to be out of your bed and cold temperature of -4 Celsius was ideal to stay outside.

The moon before the eclipse

I decided to pick a good spot for viewing the phenomenon, a tie was between downtown with city views or mountains. Between Vermilion lakes in Banff and the Three Sisters mountains as best options, I was undecided which would be best. The first stop we choose just to check out, so we reached the location very early and I picked the first mountains as Canmore is the perfect site for looking at the open skies with beautiful foreground of the Rockies. This is a spot on the way to highway 40 near Old Goat lookout towards Spray Lakes.

As the show began at 7:30 pm, I was perfectly set up with my camera and my big 150-600 mm lens all focused on the spot. Initially the moon just came up as a clump of white cloud around 7:00 pm and I was so sure it was going to be a disaster, but we kept our hopes up. When the moon rose above the peaks it begun to get clearer. Many people drove past us and some stopped on the way to tell the positioning might be incorrect as the other peak may block the view, but we stayed. I had my doubts, but hubby kept me in check.

Over 4 hours my feet froze and my camera focused and unfocused on the subject. It was hard and sometimes frustrating, but I enjoyed my solitude and the longest I've been out staring at the moon. The water over the pond was frozen and as winds hit the ice it made a rattling sound that eerily echoed through the valleys around us.

When my headlamp gave away and my lens settings were changed by some error( I was unaware of it till later), I just decided it was time to quit. The total eclipse had begun around 8:30 pm and it made the skies very dark. This was dark enough to see all the stars and the constellations to peek through. The moment was magical when I saw millions of stars scattered across the sky and perfect mountains surrounding it.

We were hungry and cold and exhausted by the end of it, so pizza and hot coffee sounded perfect. I joined my partner in a hot meal and drove back home to Calgary after the midnight. All the internet was flooded with moon shots from the best angles and wonderful compositions of foreground and background. It makes you compare your skills and results with the world, but you got what you went there to try. This was a wonderful and so far pleasantly memorable astro-photography experience of my life.

Stages of blood moon eclipse 1st half

Composite of lunar eclipse Jan 20, 2019

I managed to create this composite image using some editing and Photoshop to sum it my way, it was a very satisfying experience in my young photography career. I look forward to some more chances and certainly a do-over.

Thanks for reading and sharing my experience. Cheers.

New year, new plans

Hello Everyone,

Wish you a very happy new year! I hope that the first week has been enjoyable and as good as you hoped.

I am starting this new year with some different ideas and approach towards 'Lenses of I'. With your help and some dedication on my part we can make the new plans a success. As all businesses need plans to move forward and keep working towards learning, I am going to post an image of the week on every Monday of 2019. It will include a story behind the image and how I captured it. This will also be a fun way to document how I progress as a creative individual.

Lets begin this journey with my first image.

Snowy owl east of Calgary

Snowy owl east of Calgary

I had attended a workshop on photographing snowy owls at the end of last year. Honestly, till 2017 I was just daydreaming of capturing owl images. So I decided to venture out with my partner to find more owls, we left home in afternoon and for 3 hours we just drove around the country roads without success. As the sun was almost setting, we stopped for a sunset shot and as I got out of the car, we were given a golden opportunity to take picture with this white beauty. This image was taken with a canon at ISO: 1250 ,F: 8.0, Shutter speed: 1/500 sec and focal length: 562 mm. Slightly edited in Lightroom.

The owl was out ready for hunting and dinner and it stayed on this wire for few minutes. It was amazing to see it swoop down and move to a post closer to ground.

Snowy owl on a post

Snowy owl on a post enjoying sunset

These amazing birds are just visiting us for winter, however they are decreasing in numbers so we must be respectful of their territories and hunting grounds. I look forward to exploring more snowy owls around Alberta in next few months.

Let me know what you think and if you have interesting stories of finding animals and birds in the wild from your bucket list, please share in comments. Thanks for spending time here.