I think that even in the hearts of the saddest folks, some part of them finds a smile when looking at images of Holi. I grew up knowing it as Phagwah, but Holi makes it, in my opinion, much more marketable. Combine that with the fantastic photos that folks can make these days, and everyone will want to get in on it. In fact, that’s precisely what Parikshit Rao found when he decided to photograph his friends during the holiday. And you wouldn’t believe that these were actually done with natural light.
This year, Parikshit wasn’t too thrilled about celebrating Holi. But his girlfriend and a few of her friends were really excited about it. “These extreme attitudes to Holi are common in India, especially for women, where the festival easily turns rowdy and descends into absolute molestation at times.”
So Parikshit borrowed her camera and started getting creative!
When Parikshit pitched this series to us, I sincerely thought that off-camera flash or LEDs were involved. But that’s not the case. “The light is natural sunlight coming from an angle at the terrace that the holi party was held at,” says Parikshit. “For a long time, I’ve been doing staged environmental portraits (with lights, props, etc.), so this felt like a natural but simpler extension of that.” Parikshit used a simple Canon G16 too. He continued explaining that he just wanted to keep it simple as he’s often caught up in batteries, strobes, tripods and more.
I’ve been experimenting with the G16 since the last few weeks as I wanted to push myself to create images with no complex setups, SLR, tripod, softboxes etc. No flash, no LED, nothing extra used – just an idea and good execution.Parikshit Rao
Parikshit notes that one of the significant learning curves of the G16 was the slow burst speed in RAW mode. “I think I may have actually missed a lot of split-second moments, but that’s fine with me as this was more a personal project than one made for a paying client.”
Compositionally speaking, Parikshit also tried to keep the framing a bit looser to get some cropping room in post-production later on. Plus, emphasis could easily be put on someone’s head and, therefore, their reactions.
Most of all, Parikshit didn’t want photos that looked like everyone else’s. “I said I’m tired of seeing only messy, wet, scary crowd shots when holi usually gets photographed in the mainstream media,” he tells the Phoblographer. “I wanted to create fun, energetic portraits during Holi that conveyed the surety and ambivalence (and sometimes terror) of the revelers. Besides, everyone would get nice portraits of our merry group photographed uniquely.” Two of the people photographed were popping their Holi cherry. Eventually, everyone got swept up in the celebrations organically.
Because Parikshit is such a great photographer, it immediately motivated everyone else to get in on the fun!
Here’s what Parikshit says about the compositions:
Since the idea was to show people’s reactions to Holi, I decided to distill the frame to capture a neutral sky backdrop (indicating bright summer, sunny skies) and show mainly their face. I had also just finished a corporate headshots assignment few days earlier so the formality of those headshots was playing on my mind too. I wanted to create something different and playful, while keeping the process simple and fun for everyone involved. Having their full body shown would be distracting for the series as a whole, so avoided it completely.Parikshit Rao
Parikshit says that choosing the clear sky was an easy choice because it provided a clean backdrop. The night previous, he decided against doing this series against a dark background. He didn’t want to drag his monolights around, though. And I don’t blame him; sometimes, we must get simpler.
Here’s the crazy part: everyone stood for around two to three minutes. Parikshit crouched down to take the photo. Two other people threw the water and colored powder when he told them to. This comes from his background as a food photographer, as that’s where we first featured him. Action shots can do a whole lot to tell a story.
Only one of these portrait sessions required a retake because he wasn’t happy with the colors. None of this was stressful for anyone, though, and everyone seemed perfectly fine with the fun. “Serendipity did play a minor role in getting few of these shots, but most were produced due to the efforts of a happy bunch of participants,” says Parikshit.
All images used with permission from Parikshit Rao. Be sure to visit his website and follow him on Instagram.