Preternatural Photographs

A red bloom from Indian summer. This photo has flowers from the Canonball tree, Gulmohar and African Tulip taken by keeping them on a notebook Taken with one of the most basic cameras the Canon A800.

I got my first camera c. 2005. It was the Canon S2 with 12x optical zoom and 5 MP sensor and could support a 1 GB memory card. By today’s standards these specs look very primitive, but this is almost 18 years ago. I have taken several thousand pictures with that camera, resetting the image counter two times. About 2015 the camera sensor gave up, and they could not repair it. The camera, had super zoom for those days, but its macro function was excellent in terms of focusing very well on the macro subjects. Then I got my hands on DSLRs the Sony Alpha 350 and then finally a Nikon D300 with excellent selection of prime lenses. But this post is not about the cameras per se, but the photographs.

The magnificent flower of Epiphyllum oxypetallum (mistaken popularly as bramhakamal), taken with Canon S2.

Among all the photos that I have taken some just stand out from the rest. The light, the focus, the exposure and the framing is just perfect. I don’t know how to explain this aesthetic appeal of these photographs. But in these photos, even amongst a batch of hundreds taken in the same setting or with same subjects, some photos just come out extraordinary as compared to the rest. As a photographer you might have experienced this too.

Sophia College, Mumbai corridor, taken with Nikon D300

I am a very visual oriented person. Ever since I remember from my childhood, I have been always attracted to images and visual depictions. This is what led to me reading comics. The visual impact. Also, in my house there were always art projects my mother did such as embroidery, paintings among other things. And I was fascinated by colours and drawings. Though I am not very good at drawing, I can certainly appreciate good ones.

Water lily fields submerged near the origin of Mooi river (Taken with Motorola E6). This is one my favourite photos that I have taken.

But coming to photos, some photos make a connection with your very being, inner-self of you. I cannot explain it. But you can experience the photo at some deeper level than the perceptual one. From what I have gathered talking to other people “seeing” the same image, but this experience might be unique, as not every one feels this special connection. You have your favourite photographs, they are really powerful when they speak to you directly transcending the boundaries of space and time.

A poppy flower in a poppy field (Taken with Canon EOS 80D)

I don’t know if there is a cognitive theory that will explain this in terms of our earlier experiences with images or social interactions with media. But this connection that you feel is real and I can’t put it in exact words…

Mysterious spiral shells

I have visited one of the most iconic sea forts in Maharashtra – the Sindhudurga at Malvan on the Konkan Coast twice. It is one of the most beautiful sea forts you will witness. The crystal clear waters and blue skies will be imprinted in your memories. The first time I had an analog camera with me, so I couldn’t take as many photos as I would have wanted (one of the analogue snaps is above c. 2001). The second time I had a really nice digital camera with me, so I did take a load of photos (all the ones below).

Maratha navy was a very formidable force on the Konkan coast. The maratha navy under the Angre’s was a force feared by the Portuguese and English alike. They ruled the waters from North of Goa to Colaba Fort (not the same as Colaba in South Bombay) with their capital at Gheria (Vijaydurg), in the later half of 1700s. Maratha navy ships were fastest and very agile in open waters and were absolute terror for the europeans. Anticipating the need for a strong navy as well, Sindhudurga was one of the first sea forts to be built by Shivaji. The fort is built on a rocky outcrop off the coast of Malvan. The fort played an important role after Shivaji as well. It housed Tarabai, the widower queen of younger son Raja Ram during the invasion Mughals. The fort has walls which have stood the test of time and are still standing well even after several centuries against sea water and constant barrage of waves. (though in the second visit we found parts of wall had collapsed). The architecture of the fort is amazing, though we only see the bastions and ramparts now. The fort walls are shaped smoothly when required (in the mathematical sense of continuity), unlike later european forts which are more angular in nature. The front gate is hidden inside a curved pathway between two bastions so that is not visible directly (hence cannot be hit directly with a canon. This mechanism is also seen in several other forts such as Raigad and Janjira. But so much about the fort, coming back to the topic of the post.

On the southern end of the fort there is a small door which opens to a patch of beach. This is one of the best spots on the fort if you are a nature lover. In this small patch there is clear water and beach.

From a bit far
A bit closer to the small door, Sindhudurga Sea Fort Malvan
A bit more close to the small door, Sindhudurga Sea Fort Malvan
Crystal clear waters at Sindhudurga Sea Fort Malvan

The beach sand is coarse, meaning most of it is actually made of seashells. This is a treat to see, myriad shapes, sizes and colours of seashells blended to form the sand. Sand is a fascinating mixture which results from erosion (air, water) and evolution over long time scales. Sand has both inorganic and organic content.

Waves, caustics and crystal clear water…


The sea shells are logarithmic in nature, with the nautilus perhaps being seen as exemplary. In many cases of shells the logarithmic spiral is obvious (see the photo), but in other cases as well it shows logarithmic growth.

Close up of the sand shell mix. In the center, Clypidina notata Linne, Size 23-30 mm.
Close up of the sand shell mix. What is this see weed by the way? Upper left white shell is most probably Cardita antiquata Linn  or Cardium sp.
A multishade rock in the sand shell mix
Close up of the sand shell mix, too
Our spiral shell standing out in the sand shell mix
Close up of the sand shell mix. A hermit crab residing in a Trochus radiatus Gmelin (Banded Torchus)
A view of the ramparts and bastion from the small beach
Close up of the sand shell mix, .
Close up of the sand shell mix
Close up of the sand shell mix. This lot needs a lot of identification!
Close up of the sand shell mix
Close up of the sand shell mix. Sundial (Architectonica laevigata Lamarck) with most probably Cardium asiaticum Bruguiere.
A quadrumvirate of hermit crabs in Dwarf turban (Turbo brunneus Röding) with copper legs in a tidal pool near Aguada Fort, Goa)
A company of pebbles (Anjuna beach, Goa)
A company of pebbles (Anjuna beach, Goa)

See a previous post on patterns in nature, this post is a sort of extension of that. For an extensive and excellent treatise on spirals see The Curves of Life by Theodore Cook. On a side note, you should also read Junijo Ito’s spiral themed horror manga Uzumaki.

I did collect a few noteworthy shells from this patch (there were so many to collect!), and these included a few approximately hemispherical ones which were flat on the other side. These shells had a nice logarithmic spiral on the flat side which was also relatively smooth. While the hemispherical side was comparatively rougher.

Now in all other shells, one could easily visualise where would the animal be that created the shell or how the animals used that shell. for example

Connus mutabilis (Reeve) showing excellent spiral structure, from Madh beach
Cantharus spiralis (Gray), from Madh beach
Turritella duplicata (Lamarck) along with a hermit crab, 
Natica didmya (Röding), Revdanda Beach
Burasa tuberculata (Brodip) Tuberculated Frog, Madh Beach
Surcula javana (Linne) Javan Turrid, Nagaon Beach
Mix of organic and mineral sand, Madh Beach
Mix of organic and mineral sand, Madh Beach
Variants of Umbonium vestiarium (Linne), Button shells
Variants of Umbonium vestiarium (Linne), Button shells, Nagaon beach
Variants of Umbonium vestiarium (Linne), Button shells (from Nagaon beach)
Our mysterious spiral shells
Our mysterious spiral shells.
Our mysterious spiral shells
Our mysterious spiral shells


But in case of these spirals I could not understand how or where the animal would be using this shell. There was no hole to hide or provide a protection to the animal, as it was solid. It was indeed a puzzle. The shells definitely belonged to an animal, but which one and how did it use it? I asked around but did not get any clear answers. Thus began a journey to unravel the mystery. The image search for spiral shell did not help, though I came to know that these shells are used in astrology oriented rings with silver. And apparently they are seen in jewellery shops.

The first thing we knew for sure was that the shell belonged to a marine animal. But how did that animal use this? It remained an unsolved question for a couple of years. I would ask around to anyone with some knowledge of zoology, but it didn’t get any answers. Then one day someone did faintly recognised, “Isn’t this an operculum?” Now a quick image search with this new term, operculum, I learned gave the answer to this mystery. And commonly it is also known as cat’s eye shell. And the long mystery was solved:

The operculum is attached to the upper surface of the foot and in its most complete state, it serves as a sort of “trapdoor” to close the aperture of the shell when the soft parts of the animal are retracted. The shape of the operculum varies greatly from one family of gastropods to another. It is fairly often circular, or more or less oval in shape. In species where the operculum fits snugly, its outline corresponds exactly to the shape of the aperture of the shell and it serves to seal the entrance of the shell. (wiki)

TODO: Identify all the shells in the photos..



Deepak Apte – The Book of Indian Shells (BNHS)



How many photos are enough?

A photo taken at eye of the Mooi River. I wish I had taken perhaps hundreds of photos, but alas I have only a few.

Whenever I go to an interesting place or look at something interesting, I try to take photos. Though recently in last couple of years this has gone down a bit. But now that I have a camera phone, I try to make up for it. When I am in the process of taking photos, I try to take as many angles and frames as possible. And at that time, it seems whatever photos I have taken are enough or sometimes even think that they are more than sufficient. All the angles and frames are covered. I try to take macro shots if its an object, and some full frame shots. And I am actually satisfied with the quality and quantity of the photos at that moment. And I smugly leave subjecting that subject to further assaults of the camera lens.
But then, when I look at the photos again, I realise that I have taken too few! I then realise a few more photos could have been better, maybe this frame or this angle is missing. And then I despair. While it would have made sense in the era of film cameras, to conserve the film, in the era of the digital, the preview makes it possible for us to delete something which was not good. So you can spend slightly more on experimenting with the photos. But alas, I still have hard time convincing myself that I have not taken enough photos, and always end up taking too few..

The 5 Φ’s of Life

Life as I see it, has five essential `F’s’. Many people may not agree to them, but then this is my blog, so I will tell, whether you like it or not. I will give my reasons for each one, why it is esential according to me. You may agree, or disagree, or give no opinion, it does not matter. Since this blog is more like a personal diary, which I will not link to anybody, I think it is safe to write things here, which I would not like to be in public.
[But then am I not contradicting myself, when I am putting my personal thoughts in a public place?]
So the five F’s

  • Phood: Food is essential for our survival, this represents a living organisms most basic needs. This is what distinguishes us from non-living matter. But the food just should not be for sustenance. It should also be enjoyed. What is the point in eating something that you don’t like? No I don’t mean that we get to eat everything that we like, [I am definitely not suggesting that if you don’t have breads then you should eat cakes], but with whatever we have to eat, we should be enjoying it. If you make the food [not like the plants] but in the more human sense of the world. When you “make” food you get joy of creating something wonderful, if you do not then I am sorry for you. Also the cook should have the complete freedom to do with the food .
  • Philosophy: This is what distinguishes us from the other living beings, we have to have a philosophy of our own, or at least one that is taken from others. But what is essentially needed is to critically look at the aspects of life.
  • Phuck: Well what to say about this? I guess you understand my feelings!
  • Physics: Physics according to some people is the pinnacle of our achievement. Since I am a physicist by training, I have included physics here. Physics has given me a skeptical attitude towards things in life. Though this is not the only path which will lead you here nor that everyone who is a physicist by training will go along this path, but this was my path, hence I list is here.
  • Photography: I have included photography for two reasons.[I am still an amateur [literally and figuratively], as I have not been paid for anything that I have done so far.] One is that photography enables you to store moments, that you have for an extended period of time, and that too in a form that you can share with other people. The other reason is about the art of photography itself. When you are behind a camera, you start to see things differently, from differently perspectives and angles. Is this what not a skeptic needs? Photography in a way provides me with practical tools of implementing many philosophical ideas which would otherwise remain abstract.