Q: Introduce Yourself:
A: Shirshendu Sengupta is an award-winning photographer, travel blogger & visual storyteller based in Hoofddorp, The Netherlands. Trained in electronics & communications engineering & business management & working for the last 15 years in consulting firms, his life was utterly mundane & monochrome. So one day, he picked up his camera on a chilly, foggy winter morning & stepped outside the warm, cozy room to embrace the miracles of creation. Since then, there has been no turning back. Over the last few years, he traveled across 37 countries, collecting images & stories. His images and articles have been featured in several international magazines, journals, newspapers & websites. To check out the complete collection of Shirshendu’s work, please visit shirshendusengupta.com
Q: How did you get into photography?
A: To me, photography has never been merely a hobby or a profession. To me, photography has always been an indomitable spirit to witness the footprints on the sands of time. It has been a burning desire to collect pebbles of stories from the vast ocean of truth surrounding us. Stories of glorious civilizations, mighty empires & great wars. Tales of unshaken faith, unflinching courage & undaunted valor. Legends of eternal wait of the enchanting mermaid, sorcerous creation of the imposing cave temple & divine miracles in the misty island church. Stories entwined with every step taken to climb the endless snowy mountain, stories of the carefree dance in the rain after days of the scorching sun, stories of lying on the grass next to each other under a star-studded sky & all those seemingly insignificant stories of the half knitted fading memories of days gone by. One day when we turn back, we see it is only the stories that remain, even long after we’re gone. And that’s why many years ago, I picked up my camera on that chilly, foggy winter morning & stepped outside the warm, cozy room to embrace the miracles of creation!
Q: What was your first camera?
A: Haha, my first camera was my Dad’s Kodak Click 3. Good old analog camera, with film, no flash & hence no batteries. You had to be really calculative, or shall I say rather stingy, in taking those 32 unique shots in one expensive roll. Resources were scarce, but life was simple.
My first DSLR was Nikon D3300. Despite being a beginner-level APS-C (half-frame sensor camera), I must say it can produce beautiful images if you know how to use it & underexpose your shots a little. I bought it with an 18-55mm & 55-200mm combo kit, on the bad advice of a good friend (who you later discover knows nothing about photography once you start knowing little about photography) as every other beginner, but quickly got rid of them as kit lenses are not the best in class.
Q: What gear are you using now?
A: I had always been a Nikon loyalist, despite having worked with Canon. I used D3300, D7200 (I think the best APS-C sensor camera Nikon has ever manufactured), & D750. Recently I made the big switch from DSLR to Mirrorless & therefore shifted my loyalty to Sony. I currently use Sony A7III.
Q: What is your post-processing process & what software do you use?
A: I shoot in RAW format. Sony’s RAW images are in ARW format that Photoshop or Adobe Camera RAW (A Plugin of Photoshop, same as the standalone application named Lightroom) or Lightroom cannot read. So my post-processing workflow is as follows.
Use Adobe DNG converter to convert .ARW RAW files to .DNG RAW files
Open the .DNG RAW files in Adobe Camera RAW (or Lightroom) & do basic RAW processing – apply basic lens profile corrections to remove barrel distortions & chromatic aberrations, sharpening, adjusting exposure, contrast, highlights, shadows, white & blacks
Save the file as TIFF & export the file from Adobe Camera RAW (or Lightroom) to Photoshop for advanced processing (if needed) like removing people from the images, or stitching multiple images to get a wide-angle image, etc.
Open the image in Nik Color Efex Pro (available as Photoshop plugin or standalone application) & apply polarization, color filters, etc. (if needed)
Open the file back in Photoshop, apply my signature & save it as JPEG.
Optimize my image for my website (for reducing file size, thereby rendering faster page loading) using FastStone Photo Resizer
I also use Photomatix Pro for HDR images though I rarely do HDR these days since the modern sensors can already capture a vast luminous range
For Noise reduction, I use the Adobe Camera RAW (or Lightroom) Noise Reduction. For exceptional cases, I use Noise Ninja (now discontinued)
Q: What is your favorite Lens?
A: Believe it or not, going against the entire photographer fraternity, I have always been in love with superzooms, & I still stand by it. Because I travel a lot & with my wife & my kid, changing lenses can be a hassle at times. And that’s where superzooms steal the show. Of course, there will be a subtle difference in sharpness/quality with prime wide-angle lenses, but if you use the best quality (& expensive) superzooms, know how to perform detail extraction in post-processing & apply correct lens profile corrections to manage the barrel distortions at the long end, the difference isn’t big enough to the untrained eye compared to the convenience that the superzooms offer. My most sold, licensed & published images in international magazines, newspapers & journals are all shot by superzooms. In fact, some of them were also shot by half-frame sensor cameras.
So, if you ask me my favorite lenses, I would say
Sony – FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS for Sony Cameras
Nikon – AF-S DX NIKKOR 18–300mm f/3.5–6.3G ED VR or AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II for Nikon Cameras
Tamron – Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD (One of the best from Tamron ever as 16mm offers great wide-angle & its Piezo Drive Vibration Reduction algorithm is a winner) & Tamron 18-400mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD (the biggest ever zoom ratio made by humankind 22.2x)
Q: What is your favorite type of photography?
A: Since childhood, I’ve had a keen eye for geometric shapes, patterns & architectural designs. With time the interest turned into passion & I started studying the various forms of architecture & their evolution. Over the years, I trained myself to capture the salient elements of the following architectural styles (listed in the order of their evolution period) – Classical (Ancient Greek & Roman), Byzantine, Islamic, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Victorian & Modernist (including Post-Modern & Futurist). The same goes with cityscapes. Photographing cityscapes is an art of exemplifying grandeur, using patterns, and presenting unique perspectives. A good cityscape that is taken at the right time of the day, from the right vantage point with the right framing, is destined to get hung on the wall of your living room. So over the last few years, I trained myself in my areas of interest which are architecture, cityscape & urban landscape photography.
And I mostly take long exposure shots during the golden or blue hour. I think sunrises are more interesting as there is dew & mist around & the feeling of standing alone in the dark in the lap of nature amidst pin-drop silence & waiting for the sun to rise & the whole world come to life is an experience only golden hour photographers can understand. However, in reality, having a family & being a tad lazy, I often end up shooting sunsets which is a bit melancholy as when you see the sun go down the horizon, you know that’s the end of another day from your life.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have been able to photograph?
A: That’s a tough choice to choose one as every creation of the Almighty is beautiful beyond comparison. But I would tie it between Cinque Terre in Italy, Santorini Island in Greece & Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Q: What would you like to give a beginner photographer as a tip?
A: For all beginners, I would like to give 3-step advice as follows –
Work on your composition – Remember, no lens, photography technique, or post-processing can correct a poorly composed image. To facilitate your imagination & composition skills, I urge you to look at as many photos as you can on photography websites & magazines.
Find your style of photography – Each of us has his/her unique perspective that drives how he/she looks at an object or scene & interprets it, which finally reflects in the image. Like I’m more into architecture, cityscape & urban landscapes whereas my wife is into doors & windows, still life & street photography. The way she looks at a simple mug on a table, I can never do that. Complementing each other’s photography styles, she & I try covering the essence of a place in its entirety, thereby providing completeness to its story. So it is crucial to find out what you love to photograph. To do that, start by taking as many pictures as you can in different genres. One day you will find your passion. Remember, the key to finding the perfect sofa for your living room is to check out & try as many sofas of different types as you can.
Know your camera, study optics & start shooting – Remember, the best camera in the world is the one that you have. So study the basic settings of your camera & the fundamentals of optics around the aperture, shutter speed & ISO. Then go shooting, try different apertures, shutter speeds in different situations & take lots of images. To me, the mystery behind taking masterpiece shots is to take a lot of shots & choosing the best out of the lot. And just like in everything else in life, it goes without saying that your success in photography is directly proportional to the time you invest behind the theory & practice of the art. Remember, it’s never about the gear. It’s always about you & what you want to show to the world. So I wish you good luck in grooming yourself to be a great visual storyteller at the soonest.
Q: Can you please share some of your best pictures with our viewers?
A: With pleasure. Please find them below. And thank you for having me on your blog!
To check out the complete collection of Shirshendu’s work, please visit shirshendusengupta.com