Shilabhalika’s of Belur

Madanika Series collage

The sculptural details on the walls of the Chennakeshava Temple, Belur is captivating. An aesthete is often drawn to this famous Hoysala temple town.

The graceful statue of Chennakeshava, mesmerising Mohini, the details in the ceiling make the temple interiors most beautiful among the Hoysala temples.

However the  bracket figures, popularly called madanike or Shilabhalike , on the outer walls make me spend hours for their intricate details; They represent beautiful damsels in various moods representing feminine charm and grace, this perhaps are one of the best creations of the Hoysala sculptors of the Belur temple

In this blog I will show most of the madanike or Shilabhalike I captured recently! Hope you will like them as much as I did capturing them.

Darpana Sundari

This is a the most popular all the Shilabalike’s The Darpana Sundari is right at the main entrance of the temple and it is lady holding mirror in her left hand and looking at her beauty in it.

Shuka Bhashini

This is a beauty with a pet parrot talking to it .. Shuka Bhasini means sweet talker.

Playing Holi

This beautiful sculpture has her one hand damaged and missing maybe she was holding a color pump ( Pichkari ) , As per local guide looking at the smaller form on the right , filling color this might have been a figure playing holi .. so in 11-12 century AD maybe playing with colors was predominant in south india also 

Gypsy girl

This Balika has dressed like a gypsy girl as per the hair style and she has a parrot on her arm.

Balike chasing away monkey

This Balika has dressed like a gypsy girl and chasing away the monkey which is pulling her dress , the feet is decorated with anklets and toe ring like all other sculptures.. this one is just shows a very pure feminine posture.

The Huntress

A beautiful Balike aiming het arrow at a bird sitting on the canopy

Dressing her hair.

She is dressing her hair after bath. The attendants are holding flowers and toiletry. This madanika has washed her hair and is squeezing the water out of it. This depiction is seen on a sculpture inside the temple too

Thribhangi Nritya

A lady is dancing stylishly by bending her body into three portions, one from the waist downward, other from the waist to the chest and another upwards. This is said to be the most difficult one to exhibit. This is apparently one of the most difficult postures to achieve in Bharatanatyam

Drummer ( Drum Dance )

She holds in her left hand a drum and she is playing upon it with her right hand.If you look closely , the hand that is holding the drum is inside the strings that hold the membrane .. such mastery over sculpting is worth noticing

A flute player; a flautist.

She is playing on her flute. Her maid on the left side is accompanying her to the tune of the flute with her own flute

Musician, Singer

If you look closely she is singing with her mouth open and there are musicians with instruments accompanying her.

Bewitching Beauty

This is one of the most beautiful shila balika .Her hands and legs are cut out very nicely. Look at the canopy above her left shoulder. You can see a jackfruit and a fly on it ( If zoom , this picture does not do justice to this amazing art ) .

Rudraveena Player

She is a Musician . She is standing holding the instrument (Rudra veena) in her left hand. Her maids are arranging for a concert

A Curly Haired Beauty

She holds a mirror having a handle. She is arranging the curls on the forehead with her right hand finger

Beauty with a Mango

She is plucking a mango with her right hand, unfortunately not much is known, this one is damaged more than others with one hand missing and also her maids are missing.

Beauty with a bow (Archer)

Women of ancient india were skilled warriors as well , this is one sculpture of a warrior beauty with her bow , she must have been a great archer.

Drummer – Male form

This is a drummer looks like a female dressed as male or male drummer with feminine pose and ornaments or a young girl . its anybody’s guess . One thing is sure this is different from other shilabalika and stands out.

Dancer posing with drummers

This is one of many dancer shila balikes , one hand is missing and she is accompanied by drummers.

Dancer , vaishnava pose of feet with drummers

This is one of many dancer shila balikes , Beautiful feminine form with a dance pose where The feet are kept two and a half Talas apart from each other. One of them should be on the ground in the natural posture, the other is lifted and turned sideways with the toes stretched and turned towards the shin, its called vaishnava pose of feet

Like Goddess holding a rod with skull

She is like a Goddess . She holds a rod with skull at the top in her left hand and her head is dressed with a band of skulls.

Beauty with a bow, a hunter with her fellow hunters.

This is one of few shilabalika shown with a bow , here the bow is damaged , but looks more intricate , the arrow in the other hand is also damaged , the accompanying images show a female hunter with a deer kill .. It shows in 12/13 century India women also participated in hunting and were very skilled hunters . The toe is also very delicately posed .. indicating a delicate movement required for hunting … amazing.

Practicing her dance

She is practicing her dance. Her maids are helping her by playing on their instruments.

Bhasma Mohini Dance

The figure illustrates the epic story of God Vishnu who took the form of Mohini

Shilabalika Draping a saree / cloth, getting dressed 

Shilabalika draping a saree or a cloth

Getting dressed by a maid

This looks like she is a queen or princess , who is getting dressed up by a maid.

Gypsy Girl speaking.

She is holding in her left hand palm leaves and and the right hand is in speaking pose.

Shilabalika with a fan ( Mostly )

She is holding in her left hand something that looks like a banana and in her right hand a fan

Shilabalika playing Nagaveena

This madanika is holding a ‘nagaveena’. A veena with one end shaped like a snake.

Shilabalika Proud Lady

She is fully dressed and has put on all sorts of ornaments on her body. She is looking at her beauty in proud through a mirror. This madanika is called Abhimani… the proud one. Symbolizing someone who has a lot of pride in her beauty and is also very conscious of it. The sculpture at the left (at her feet), holds up a mirror but is looking away – kind of telling her ‘woman, reality check’.

Shilabalika Dancing with a imaginary flute 

Dancing with an imaginary flute ; This one has an imaginary flute in her hand. Look at the details on the ear ring , beauty

Shilabalika Dancing with Damaru

Dancing with a damaru in left hand and tala vadya in right hand

Shilabalika with hair in fine knot

She has tied her hair into a fine knot, and she is holding a mast of some kind.

Shilabalika being adorned by a toe-ring

The lady has put on her best dress and ornaments and is ready to go for a dance.This one depicts whose is being adorned by a toe-ring. she is holding onto a vine for balance.

Shilabalika Male form drummer

This is one of the few odd one out with male form , with beard and moustache playing a drum , have a look at the fingers of left hand inside the strings that hold the membrane together .. master sculpture

Shilabalika with taala vadya instrument

She is holding a playing a taala vadya instrument with other musicians accompanying her

The Arch Dancer:

The Arch Dancer, She is dancing to the tune of the fun of her accomplice on both her sides

Navaranga Pillar , Shantaladevi

This is one of the most beautiful shilabalika found inside the temple and this is of Queen Shantala devi , an expert dancer and a very able administrator and an inspiration for all shilabalikas , being a dancer she used to dance in Navaranga inside the temple and she was an Queen.

She is dancing here . See the canopy behind. She is wearing a gem just above the middle of the forehead.

Lady and her pet parrot

This Inside the temple

A lady holds a creeper in her right hand. A parrot is sitting on the fore palm of her left hand. She looks as if she is having a conversation with the parrot. She is having a bangle on her right hand and can MOVE UP AND DOWN ( Can really move !)

Kesha Shrungara:

This Inside the temple
She is wringing her hair to squeeze the water after her bath. You can see the drops of water collected at the tip of her hairs.

Gandarva Dance

This Inside the temple

She wears on her forearm, a good number of bangles, which give an impression of moving to and fro.

Thanks for patiently reading and seeing the images as I humbly bow with a sense of awe and admiration wondering at the architectural excellence of the Hoysala craftsmen! Incredible India and it shows what rich culture we come from.

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Cheers

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Goutham Ramesh

Photographing Butterflies in Winter

It is a known fact   that bugs and butterflies don’t have the same far-reaching photo appeal as other natural subjects like things that are feathered or furred in savanna of safari.  They are also difficult to spot, and little challenging to shoot; However, in frame-filling close-up, insects are actually amazingly photogenic. I will talk about Butterfly photography in Indian winters*** in this blog. Butterflies are also fantastically beautiful and photogenic and you  can’t help but be seduced by their colour, intricate markings, delicacy and design and they’ve inhabited almost every type of environment and can migrate large distances – and in large numbers too .. so give it a shot!

**** When I say winter , I’m taking about India , especially south India, where you can still find lot of these small butterflies in winter!

Butterfly photography is easily accessible if you are an early riser and  you can spot them in a local garden or a grassland filled with shrubs:

In this blog I will share some of the images I shot this winter and also share some pointers on how to shoot them ( They are just my techniques and not really tips).

Most important thing you should do to shoot a butterfly is to  get up early and photograph them during sunrise especially during winters ; the winter mist makes them sluggish and that helps you to approach them. Ideally you need to photograph butterflies soon after they emerge when they are still in pristine condition and also note that the window of opportunity is brief – mistime your visit, and you may need to wait long  before you can try again.

Stalking is the best technique , This is when you follow (not chase!) butterflies around, waiting for them to rest, feed or bask. When they do, you need to efficiently move into position – just be mindful of the sun’s position; if you cast your shadow across your subject, you will likely frighten it away. 

At work
At work

What all Circus ..we do to get a picture .. from top right in clockwise :

1. Vinod on the ground shooting (PC Vinod)
2. Myself reviewing the image with a portable dark room ( garbage bag )
3. Grass jewel
4. Tawny Coster .
5. Myself on the Ground shooting an image ( PC Vinod)

Depth of field is inherently shallow at higher magnifications when using a macro lens , so there is no leeway for error when focusing. However, if you are using a tripod you can focus via Live View – something I always prefer to do when practical, as I’m able to magnify the live image and manually focus on the butterfly’s head/eyes with good  precision. A tripod also allows you to select a smaller aperture to achieve the depth of field needed, and – if necessary – use a reflector to light up  shadow areas. Alternatively if you use latest cameras  especially mirror less you can use focus peaking as an assisting aid.

Personally, I usually want my subject to stand out boldly against a nicely diffused, out of focus backdrop , with a Bokeh  so I will typically opt for the largest aperture possible (lowest f-stop number in my case its 2.8 ) Doing so also provides a faster shutter speed.

I don’t use flash on butterflies and prefer natural light  and I do use a reflector at times or a LED light for fill in, which is not as bright as flash and still allows me to fill the shadows a bit.

Finally, be patient… very patient. When shooting butterflies, be prepared for moments of complete and utter hair-pulling frustration. You wouldn’t believe the number of times a butterfly will disappear into the distance just at the moment you are about to trigger the shutter! However, thanks to subject knowledge, good technique, perseverance and a little lady luck, you can capture great images.

Image Gallery

Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

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Goutham Ramesh

My Nikon Zfc!

Nikon Zfc

Not all decisions in life have to be rational, my decision for buying “Nikon Zfc” was just that!

In this post, I will share my experience with this beauty and what I personally think of this beauty and share some pictures shot with this beauty.

Nikon says “Classic design meets modern engineering” when they introduce this camera on their website. I personally agree with this, it is the retro design that was the biggest factor for me to buy this camera. Having used old film cameras in the past I just fell in love with the design and all the controls on the top of the camera.

Important Specifications:

Lens mount: Nikon Z mount

Image sensor format: DX (Crop Sensor)

Image sensor type: CMOS

Total pixels: 21.51 million

Effective pixels: 20.9 million

My Take :

Some Images and what I did to shoot these images; Please note I use different kind of lenses and usually prefer lenses with no electronics and completely manual, so this is not a exhaustive review, however i will try to share my experiences with this beautiful camera and lenses I used.

Usage with Kit Lens (with Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR):

The first thing I wanted to do was check the kit lens and this is what I shot with it.

Dwaja Stambha, Lepakshi

Exposure : 1/15 sec at F3.5 ISO 200 Shot at 16mm

First thing i did was check the Kit lens and how it performs at fully open aperture and I was pleased to get a decent shot with good color tones and decent sharpness.

The NIKKOR Z DX 16-50mm f/3.5-6.3 VR is the smallest and the lightest lens available for the Nikon Z mount.Sporting an all-plastic construction and plastic mounts, these lenses are specifically designed to be as small and as lightweight as possible, while taking advantage of the short flange distance of the Z mount. At a mere 135 grams, it is impressively light ; in fact, it is the lightest DX / APS-C lens Nikon has produced to date! Optically, the lens is comprised of 9 elements in 7 groups, four of which are aspherical elements, and one of which is an extra-low dispersion element. Similar to other Nikon Z lenses, the 16-50mm VR comes with a stepping motor, which delivers quiet and fast autofocus performance. Nikon incorporated optical image stabilization into the lens, and it is supposed to compensate camera shake by up to 4.5 stops ( Yes 4.5 Stops ) .

Considering all this it produces decent results and a great lens to have with Nikon Zfc especially while shooting architecture and street.

Usage with 7Artizans 7.5mm Fisheye Manual Lens:

I love perspectives from fisheye and sometimes even distortions , it is not everybody’s cup of tea and some hate it. But personally for me it gives some perspectives which i like a lot and deviates from mundane.

Naga Linga

Exposure : 1/250 sec at F8 ISO 100

Framed

Exposure : 1/125 sec at F5.6 ISO 100

Bhringi , Lepakshi

Exposure : 1/5 sec at F2.8 ISO 100

7.5mm f/2.8 from 7Artisans produces rectangular images that cover the entire APS-C format, unlike Circular Fisheye lenses which produce round images within the rectangular field. . This Lens has a solid, high-quality feel in the hand and the focus ring completes its arc in about 1/5 of a turn and the aperture ring is click-free. Exposure is not automatic. Set the camera on Aperture Priority and select a suitable f/stop or go Manual and trust the meter. This lens is manual focus; in fact, it’s manual in everything..

The DOF so extreme that precise focusing isn’t necessary at apertures smaller than f/5.6. Minimum focus is 5.9 inches.

Using this lens on Nikon Zfc was fun and they work very well and if you swear by manual exposure and focus like me you will enjoy this; For people who shoot auto and rely on auto focus this lens is not for you.

Usage with 100mm Laowa Macro + FTZ adapter:

This was the combination that I was always interested in , because I do lot of macro and would love to shoot with Bokeh. You can see my Laowa lens review here.

All these images are shot at 2.8 to get a round bokeh.

Tawny Coster
Tiny Grass Blue
Small Grass Yellow
Oriental Grass Jewel
Common Pierrot
Back Lit , Common Pierrot.
Small Grass Yellow

Using Nikon Zfc with Laowa 100mm and FTZ adapter was fun , but also slightly difficult because of lack of hand grip on the camera ( A simple monopod or a small rig grip will solve this problem) .

I love round bokeh and inorder to get that I need to open the aperture , which gives me a very shallow DOF. Now order to make the picture look good with this setting my focus have to be perfect and also I need to be parallel to the subject, with laowa lens which is manual this is a herculean task , this is where focus peaking on Nikon Zfc helped! What an amazing setting this is.

Focus peaking is a focusing aid in live preview or electronic viewfinders on Nikon Zfc that places a white or coloured highlight on in-focus edges within an image using an edge detect filter.

Now, one may ask why a tool such as this is necessary, with the high-resolution LCDs and EVFs being released today. This is because as great as those screens are and as perfect as your eyesight may be, being able to see what is in focus quickly and clearly can dramatically speed up your work. Also, it is always nice to get another, perhaps more precise, opinion on the technical aspects before you get home and find out that you barely missed the shot you needed.

Peaking also shows up in real time, giving you near-instantaneous feedback as you rack focus through a scene.  Importantly it helps you see what all area is in focus!

How to set focus peaking and use , see the video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auBqCn9RdLo.

Thats it friends , I just wanted to share my experience and my take for detailed review there are many sources on the net.

I bought this camera from https://www.videolinks.com/ , Great service from Anish George and his team, They really went out of their way to get me this camera, especially during these days when most of the equipments are out of stock.

Thanks if you like the blog, you can leave a comment at Home Page

Cheers

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Goutham Ramesh