Here's how fashion photographer Sunder Ramu is making the best use of his terrace for lockdown projects
Ever since the lockdown started, Chennai-based fashion photographer Sunder Ramu has been out on his terrace looking for birds. Scroll through his Instagram account that previously featured stunning pictures of A-listers of the film and modelling industry, and you will find a number of beautiful birds of various kinds -- all of them shot from his terrace during this lockdown.
“Because I’m a freelancer who has traditionally been needed at an active physical spot to work from, the idea of work from home was a little challenging. But after a couple of days into the lockdown, my instincts kicked in and I decided to explore ways of staying relevant in this fluid, volatile situation. I decide that I’m going to take it one day at a time and adapt to what lies on the other side of this experience,” says the photographer who's been in the line for over 25 years.
Besides the birds, another cool project that he started, titled The Girl Next Door, is now garnering attention all over the Instagram world. “The idea came up when my good friend and longtime muse Andrea Jeremiah walked on to her terrace one evening when I was shooting birds. We live near each other but since both of us have never gone to our respective terraces at the same time, we never realised we could spot each other from our homes. After a couple of conversations, we came up with this idea to shoot through her window while coordinating on the phone.”
“I have always believed that the mood of an image is more important than the technical excellence of it. So we decided to give it a shot and got great results in the first try itself,” shares Sunder adding he now plans to make a series out of this. Most recently, Sunder has also featured actress Sriya Reddy, who is also a neighbour, in his terrace diaries.
When asked if he uses any special gears to capture images from across buildings, he says, “I’m not using any fancy gears as I don’t have access to them at the moment. The main challenge is getting a sharp pic through the glass from a distance of almost five properties apart and having no control of the lighting. I stand on a step ladder and shoot with no support and my tripod doesn't reach the height I need. I have been standing with one foot on my terrace wall and the other one on a ladder, trying to arrest the shake of the camera.”
Talking of the challenges to pull off such a project using a Canon 5D mark iii and Photoshop, Sunder shares, “The problem is that I can’t push the ISO settings too much because the image will get grainy as you blow it up. And if I try to increase the depth of field to make sure that I have her in focus behind all the reflection, then my shutter speed drops so low that I will lose the clarity of the image anyway. Ideally, for this kind of a shoot, I would have used a drone, a 1000 to 1500 mm telephoto lens, or even a 100-megapixel camera. But here it's just my 5D mark iii.”
As we ask him how he got to chasing birds for photography, Sunder says, “I’m shooting birds for the first time in my life. I started by shooting crows on my phone camera during sunset while I was up on the terrace to get some fresh air. Then I saw the pink moon and I ran down to pick my DSLR and shoot it. I then decided to take a few images of crows and slowly started finding that there were some amazing birds on the trees around the building. It’s a beautiful, magical world that you can see through the branches. I have slowly started to recognise the direction and the distance they are at by the sounds they make. It’s amazing how alert you have to be. I now know that the bats and exotic migratory birds tend to come late in the evening. So I go to the terrace and wait there. Every day I’ve learnt something new about a bird, about my camera, about processing the images and a lot about myself.”
And what else has he been up to during the lockdown? The list goes on. "I’m learning a lot through online courses and live sessions by artists. A lot of these courses are free and artists are sharing music, knowledge, thoughts and ideas in abundance. Right in the beginning itself, I had decided that I won't distract myself with TV shows or Netflix except for checking in on the news. I am also learning how to cook and doing a pretty good job of it. Apart from that, I’m writing and designing a book and writing an interesting script. I’m also doing online research on farming which I think is going to be very useful later on. I’m coming up with a bunch of ideas on relevant things but I’ll reveal them at the right time," he signs off.