I had been photographing for almost 3 years using my Fujifilm HS30EXR, a bridge/point and shoot camera and I knew that it was time for a change. Although the camera was quite good, given its capability and price range but it had stared to show signs of slowing down and obviously it had its limitations.I got myself a Fujifilm X-T10 with the XF18-55mm lens in February 2017 and within a week of purchasing it I headed to Varanasi for the test shoot. Obviously, I hadn’t completely got used to the mechanics of the camera by the time, but then again, I use my mirrorless as if it was my earlier point and shoot and to be honest this technique of mine helped me quite a lot while documenting the kids.
I don’t like playing around with the settings or the controls of my camera as it takes my mind off other important stuff such as story, moments and composition and basically, I just point my camera at the desired subject and simply press the shutter. So generally, what I do is I keep my camera on Aperture mode (generally between f/7.1- f/11 as I like keeping everything in my frame in focus) with Auto ISO (200-3200) and Exposure Compensation of -1.
When it comes to focusing, I mainly choose the zone focus and keep it centrally positioned mostly, I even prefer the pre-focusing technique at times. As I get very close to my subjects while shooting, it’s not always possible to keep changing the focus points as my subjects tend to move in and out of the frame very quickly and this is when I use the above-mentioned technique. I pre focus my camera to about 5-6 ft and with a higher f-stop number as soon as I compose my frame, I press the shutter getting all the frame in focus. This procedure also helps me save a lot of valuable time as using the autofocus takes a certain bit of time and in my work environment things happens so fast that I need to be focused ahead of time.
Before heading to Varanasi for the test shoot, I had decided to document the lives of the Brahmacahri kids of the International Chandramauli Charitable Trust. Most of these children are between the age of 10-15 years, who have come here to study at the gurukuls (schools where the students and teachers live together) from various places including Mathura, Agra and Vrindhavan. Their main objective is to lead a simple and disciplined life devoid of unnecessary necessities of today’s world. These children are not only taught Sanskrit here but also Vedic literature, English literature, Mathematics, English Grammar, Music and how to use computers. From simple food to simple dress, these children are taught to lead a simple lifestyle.
Now I didn’t face any problems as such while documenting the kids but there were certain instances when having a bigger and bulkier camera might have caused me some difficulties. While taking their photos I had to make the kids feel comfortable to get the best emotions and expressions out of them and I think this is where the sleek and small size of the camera came in handy. My camera didn’t make them feel threatened and allowed me to mix with the them and at times become invisible, which is what we want when documenting our subjects.
The space inside the gurukul was quite adequate for the kids to live and study but for me it posed a challenge. With the geometrical structure of the building and the kids running around most of the time I had to react very swiftly to situations. I remember when I was photographing their yoga sessions on the roof top I had almost no time to change the settings as the action was happening all around me and I had to adhere to my point and shoot approach which gave me great results. Overall, I enjoyed the whole process of documenting the life of these Brahmachari kids with my Fuji X-T10 and have been visiting them at least once every year since.