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Monthly Archives: January 2010

India Destination Wedding Photographer; Madhu + Devaraj: Haldi Ceremony

I love being an Indian person. I take great pride in coming from a place that has traditions like this. It’s like a soul cleansing food fight.  The Haldi ceremony took place at the gorgeous Taj Hotel in Kerala. It is the cleansing of old and renewing of self, in preparation for life with a new companion. All Madhu and Devaraj’s families gave their blessings and love to carry with them as they embark upon the journey of being husband and wife.

Looking through these images I feel so inspired by their joy, and their togetherness. But I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Madhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and DevarajMadhu and Devaraj

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K Patel

Just saw your wedding episode on TV. Absolutely amazing. Wishing both of you Madhu and Devraj a great life ahead of you.


Punam – These pictures bring back the excitement and the happiness that we felt that morning. Those moments unexpectedly ended up being the most meaningful moments of the wedding and you captured the mood and the joy just right. Thank you. Cannot wait to see more ….

I wish I was Indian!!! (Always have!) This is such a vibrant and beautiful blog post full of life and love. WOW! Thanks for making me smile.

Stunning images yet again Punam!

What an amazing ceremony. It’s so important to take pride in your identity, I also believe that it’s necessary in order to appreciate others. Thank you for posting these, they are a pleasure to see.

These really moved me this morning. Many thanks.

Monkey attack!

It was early in our trip, and the sight of Monkeys out there among people were thrilling. I didn’t even notice him at first, I was trying to get the thick swarm of pigeons to lift of the ground. I crept into the vast crowd of birds, careful not to startle them before I was ready. Than Husbone walked briskly over to the birds and they launched.

pigeons in india

I stood to chimp on the Contax (oops!), and see out of the corner of my eye, this giant male langur monkey. My heart began to race, I wanted to get a shot of his eyes, and he was so close! So I crept closer, slowly, like with the birds, as Husbone encouraged me to be careful. Yeah, yeah, I chided. And oops! I got to close! Monkey Attack! And umm… his thingie was hanging out. Yikes!

monkey attack! - India

Obviously, I was not attacked by a monkey in India, or I might still be there now, but it was one of those little adventures that only photography could have led me to.

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just catching up on my RSS feeds and I had to comment after reading this post. This is why I love your blog…his “thingie” was hanging out. you are awesome, Punam! that is hilarious!

That poor monkey!

I am terrified of pigeons and that picture although lovely is horrifying to me. The monkey is pretty cool though!


I love it!! And it’s never pleasant to see an animal’s “thingie”. That’s why our new dog is female.

That expression. It’s terrifying and beautiful all at the same time. I love images like that!

Answering Everything! Part 1!

Wow. You people asked me some thought provoking doozies. That being the case, I’ll be answering all your questions in a few parts. Let’s begin!

Mai: What is your go to lens for wedding portrait session?

Depends on the camera:

Contax 645 and 80mm 2.0

Canon 5D Mark II and 50mm 1.2

For portrait sessions, and details, I’m almost always reaching for the Contax. There is something about the way the quality of film conveys emotion. I love it’s lightness and it’s intensity. The 80mm is so lovely because the shallow depth of feel is so buttery and saturated. I like to shoot film when the lighting is right, and I have total control. Even when I’m somewhere where I have to work to get inspired, looking through my Contax helps me see things more clearly. It feels like taking the paint to canvas. When I get the images back from the lab, they are finished. I almost never have to do anything else to them.

Jackie and Dale

Sometimes though, the situation calls for digital, because I need to use external lighting, to back up what I’m shooting with film, or just because I am trying to save some money on processing film (or just because I feel like it!). I shoot with the 5D Mark II, and I love my 50mm 1.2. It’s SO sharp, and so buttery, and so saturated and clear. I shoot in JPG, and all the images taken with that lens feel finished when I upload them. I barely have to touch these images before posting them on my blog, either.

jackie and dale

Kim: Any tips for photography beginners who feel like they don’t know what they are doing? I think I read on an old post that you are self-taught. Could you please share some of your learning process?

Oh the Internet is a an amazing thing. I’ve never done very well in school, and it made me feel like I just couldn’t learn anything really fluently. But the Internet serves a few purposes in the search for knowledge, I’ve found. First off, it facilitates obsessions, because if you are really really into something, no matter what it is, you can find other people who are just as into it as you are on the Internet. And once you find that community, you can immerse yourself, and the thing you are really into can easily become an obsession. Photography was always a twinkle in my eye, but it was never anything more than that because I never had a community in which to encourage that twinkle to flourish. And second, there is such a wealth of information available if you know where to look, and if you know the right questions to ask. So the first thing I did, was find a community, and at the time there was no better place than Flickr. It was perfect, because most photographers on Flickr are not shooting professionally. Many photographers there make work just to post it on Flickr and get feedback. So many young artists seem to be learning the craft of photography at a lighting pace, and I think it’s because everyone is always sharing their methods, because a lot of people are all learning things together. As helpful as Flickr was is my photography, there is a resource that I recently stumbled upon which is so much more amazing, and accessible. Here’s the link:

It’s amazing! You can participate on the forums read the blog and be inspired. You can take part in the different photo projects and get feedback. There are posts about shooting nature photos, weddings, journalism, equipment reviews and recommendations, post production tutorials, lighting tutorials – you name it! And the examples are actually relevant to the way people are shooting now. There are so many tutorials out there, and I have to say, most of the ones I came across were pretty dated and well… ahem… just not quite my style. Good luck!

Stephanie: Why did you start using a tilt shift lens for portraiture?

Hmm… I’m actually not sure. I think I saw a tilt shift portrait out there on the Internet somewhere, and new to the novelty I was like, WOW!!! But after using it for a while, the effect faded on me, though I do enjoy seeing it in other people’s work. Also, with as much as I travel for weddings, I don’t like to bring a lot of equipment, and I like to shoot simply. And now that I have a film set up too, the 45mm 2.8 TS had to go. Now it sits in a cupboard. Now that you mention it, I’m selling it. Email me if you are interested!

Amanda: What has been your most eye opening (good, bad, shocking!) experience when traveling abroad?

Hmm.. That is a really tough one. It’s tough because I could think of something on almost every trip. Here’s a rundown:

1. Getting trapped in an elevator in Jamaica for 2 hours. My first destination wedding. Luckily it wasn’t the day of the wedding, but it was a small elevator, there was no air conditioning, and they had to use some sort of jack to pry it up out of the shaft. I crawled out as the floor was at my chest by the time I had my first opportunity to escape. Terrifying.

2. Second time in Jamaica, a hurricaine that was going through Cuba unleashed it’s anger to the ocean, which proceeded to hammer away at the shore so terribly, every room in the hotel was flooded. Then a tidal wave came through our terrace, busted the wooden shingles to toothpicks, and overtook my camera bag. I came back to my room after breakfast to find the doors busted off the wall, having broke the canopy bed, and about 1 inch of saltwater in my closed camera bag. And everything turned out ok, and my equipment worked fine! Canon Equipment is the best!
tiffany and jared

3. In Nigeria, people were fascinated by my white husband. We drove with the bride an hour out of Lagos to the Yoruba ceremony, and we were stopped on the highway by men with machine guns. They just wanted to touch his hands. They had never seen a white man before. At the wedding, people who were just passing by, and also guests at the wedding proceeded to organize themselves in a line to be photographed with my husband. It was pretty awesome.

4. Shooting a wedding on a Glacier in Alaska. We landed on the glacier and could see nothing else for miles. It went off without a hitch, but it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Kids were fishing in the river at the reception. The sun didn’t set until 11:30 at night. You can bet I shot film all day long!

5. Our wedding at a private Chateau in France. The Mayor of the town donated all the flowers!

6. Many many stories in India. I’ll tell them over the next few weeks – with pictures! A small sample: I almost got attacked by a monkey and I walked barefoot in a temple full of holy rats.

Tara: How do you edit/retouch your photos?

When it’s film, not at all. I just resize and post it up. When it’s a JPG, as minimally as possible. I remember when I was in Junior High, and one of the moms came by to teach a class on how to wear makeup. She said, as have many TV moms said, that the trick is to make it look like your not wearing any makeup at all. That’s how I like to approach editing. My handiest tools are TRA 1 and 2 and Kubota Production Pack 1. These Photoshop action packs are so diverse and flexible, you can really hone your editing style with them through experimentation. These days though, in keeping things to a minimum, I use: Ying Yang to even out lighting and subtly bring the focus of my image to where I want it, Select-O-Pop to selectively enhance or sharpen, Slice like a Ninja to sharpen the whole image (I don’t usually use this action at full power – I find it to be pretty strong!), and A Better Web Sharpen to sharpen my images for the blog after I resize them with Kubota’s resizing actions. And of course, I have no trustier action for any of my images than just opening up Curves and bending the line, just a tiny smudge. Here’s an example of the editing that goes into a typical image (and a preview of Madhu and Devaraj’s wedding!!)

Here is the image, straight out of camera, unsharpened, not saved or or sharpened for web: (just so you know, once your image makes it to the Internet, without ANY editing at all, it’ll look kind of crappy. But this image straight out of the camera at full resolution is still printable, saturated and sharp. But the image was not meant to be so small with out taking care in re-sharpening.)

After a bump in curves:

And a few actions – here is what my layers palette looks like:

Slice like a Ninja: 34%

Select-O-Pop: 20%

Yin/Yang: 100% but painted with a large 500px brush with 0% hardness and 50% opacity

Resized to 900px high

A better web sharpen

Saved for web

and voila!:

Bam! No makeup!

side by side (click to enlarge!):


And that concludes our session for today. Check back tomorrow for Monkey Attack! and again on Monday for more answers! Yay!

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[…] More from her about film, from an earlier post: […]

Wow amazing post! Thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions! I love the before and after!

thank you for sharing!

Thank you so much for answering my question Punam!! What a pleasant surprise! And as usual, breathtaking images!

loved reading your answers – very insightful & honest.
also, your post processing is amazing! can barely tell the difference – just the way it should be! btw i love the colours in your images…so vibrant yet not over the top – still realistic & natural.

looking forward to the rest of your answers.

Poonam Ho!

When I was growing up, I never really fit in. Granted, I made things hard on my own self by refusing to shower and wearing strange clothes to school, writing the days left in school on my face and playing catch with my mouth and burritos from the cafeteria at lunch. Honestly, I was weird, and it was a rare person who was able to cut through the odd shell I had built around myself and see me for the person I was. Most of those people are still dear to me to this day.

I think more than anything, I was trying to cover up the fact that I already felt so different. It may have been easier for others, but for me, where I grew up,  it wasn’t easy to be an Indian American with no real ties to her culture. People would treat me like an outsider, even though I was born and grew up in their neighborhoods. Substitute teachers would freeze at the sight of my name at the top of the roster. People would, in an effort to make me feel welcome, clasp their hands together and mumble Namaste, which usually earned a strange look from me that was disregarded. When I first started in drama, my teacher made me wear a sari and shout funny exclamations with an Indian accent as an extra in more than a few performances. I actually didn’t even own a sari for this occasion, and had to buy one. Living in a world where the word “poo” and “numb” had all their own meaning didn’t bode well for sliding under the radar. In addition to many other very close variations on the syllables of my name that mean things a 5th grader shouldn’t know.

And so, as I have seen some young boys and girls in a predicament similar to my own, I rejected my culture, insisting I had no desire to ever visit the land of my mother and father, or know anything about this odd place I must have come from, to feel like such an alien in my home town.

And then I grew up. But the insecurity of our youth often ingrains itself as a part of our identity, and I carry a small piece of that rejected girl inside me, though for the most part I have to say, I never really had it that bad. These days I am just a little bummed they never have my name on license plate keychains.

When it turned out we would be making the voyage to India, suddenly I became overwhelmed with so many emotions about going there (and subsequently, fully submitted to my apparent innermost obsession with Shahrukh Khan – it’s totally in the genes!).When we finally landed in Delhi, an overwhelming feeling swept over me. A small part of me felt like something clicking in place. Like things would start to make sense. And as much of a stranger I felt, I felt like I had found what I had been missing.

A friend of mine in college tried to get me to join the Indian Club, and a young man there dubbed me an ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). I was resentful at the term at the time (it was my first and last meeting), as it was my understanding the term is derogatory – however benign. But our three weeks in India proved the term highly relevant, as so many things people thought I was weird for doing, actually seem to be entirely Indian. What an odd thing, to be brought up as an American, and so deeply influenced by a culture that presented itself to me only in the mirror, and the deep love I have of rasmalai (my most favorite desert ever).

Even Husbone said, as we pulled through the sky away from India, I feel like I understand you so much better now.

Who Knew?

And so you can imagine the youthful joy and satisfaction I felt, when I found my name (it’s not spelled the same, but I’ll take what I can get!) etched into the ancient fort at Orchha! Joy! AND! In India, there’s even a SONG about me(ish)!!


Also, thank you all for your questions! I’ll get to work on them this evening, and I will be answering every single one! I’m also excited to say that I finally received our India film – and I just can’t wait to flood these pages with our many adventures!!!

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what a beautiful post… your story is so similar to mine… and i have tears in my eyes. it wasn’t until my first visit to cambodia did i feel like everything made sense. the greatest thing was my husband got to experience the homeland with me. he said almost the exact same thing as your husband when we left. amazing! thank you for sharing.

Awesome post! It really resonated with me because your story is very parallel to my experiences. I didn’t go to my family’s homeland for first time until I was 30. Reading this was like you telling the Indian version of my Nigerian story. I love the picture. It’s an appropriate punctuation for this trip. Thanks for all your posts. I’m looking forward to seeing and reading more.

Your writing is just as enjoyable as looking at your amazing photographs! Loved this post!

haha, Jen! H&M!

Jen Kent

Ok, how irrelevant is this? But I love your earrings!

i hear ya fellow desi :) when I moved here from Pakistan my name was actually spelled “aroona” …somehow it got changed aruna on my papers. i’m going to be in New York in March – would love to hang out!


i read your story over and over again b/c it was so beautifully written. thanks for sharing *just like someone, i feel that Indian culture is rich and tranquail at the same time… got a sampling from yoga class and would love to be able to be able to visit.. one day, it will be done. ps- is there a connection with the second word in the title weaved in your story that i missed?

I love that you posted about this. I love it even more that I heard the story in person first while listening to said song 😉 missing you already and looking forward to next time. love!!!

Thank you for this post, its beautiful. You are beautiful.

You are…Incredible…Beautiful…and so perfectly Fabulous. This post was perfection. Squared.


I loved reading this. And, the picture of you is stunning!

I love that photograph of you. It melds with your amazing story so well!

I remember feeling the same emotions when I visited China for the first time. Thank you for sharing your story. You look beautiful in that photo as well.

This post made me smile. It seems like we’re following you on your journey to discovering who you really are! When we look deep inside ourselves, we’re never really sure what we’ll find. Most of us are deeply afraid of that place but you’ve shown by going there and following your heart, all can be well. It’s always inspiring to hear about someone doing what they should be doing and going where their heart tells them to go.

Thanks a million!

Punam I remember going to your house in high school, I remember when you cut all your hair off and I remember when we did the lip sync show of Dead Man’s Party. We had some great times!

Reading this has brought tears to my eyes. Beautifully written, intensely moving. Even if you already felt at peace with yourself, I’m glad that the little girl inside you now feels it as well.

Featured: The Knot!

Congratulations to Lana and Phil! Yay The Knot!


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Kiersten Rowland

Wooohoo Punam! It looks awesome..congratulations! <3

sooo well deserved, punam!


YAY! congrats! 2010 is starting off great!

So cool! Big congratulations!

Wow, great spreads! Congratulations; it is well-deserved!

Kudos! You always do such lovely work, and attract such wonderful creative clients because of it… beautiful!

beautiful Punam! Congrats on the feature!!