Kushti Wrestler
Taken at a Kushti Westling training session on the banks of the Ganga in Varanasi India.
During a travel photography trip to Varanasi, India, in 2011, I decided to focus on a series of themes – animals, traditional Kushti wrestlers and turbans. The photo that I’ve selected here is part of a series specifically about the wrestling. It was taken on the edge of the Ganges River, where a young wrestler was covered in the soil of his own earlier bouts. He was so immersed in watching the work of his peers, focused on learning on how to better himself, that he didn’t realise I was taking his photograph. As he stares out of the frame, his lack of eye contact asks the viewer to imagine what’s happening around him. With his natural, relaxed, non-posed posture, the simplicity of the tones, shapes and textures makes it a strong, strikingly simple photograph. The abundance of colour in India, combined with the incredible soft light, is challenging to describe in words. By making this
photograph monochromatic with a slight selenium tone, the lightingconditions and natural elements add depth and a timeless quality. I had a vision of recreating a digital version of traditional platinum printing, a process known for its long tonal range, surface quality and permanence that first came about during the 1800s in Germany. The starting point was using an older technique in Photoshop to create the monochrome conversion, utilising a combination of the individual Red, Green and Blue channels of the colour image. Using the Calculations command, I blended two channels together then converted the image to greyscale to focus on the black and white result. The colour tone I’ve applied is actually a light sepia tone, using a Hue/Saturation Adjustment Layer with the Colorize option applied.The default sepia tone was too strong for my intended vision, so I modifi ed the Opacity to 30% for a more natural selenium look. I wanted to keep the natural grain, and not overwork the final result and damage the soft, fi lmlike structure. It was shot with a 50mm F1.4 Canon lens, fairly late in the day, using an aperture of F1.6 at ISO 1000 at 1/125 of a second. This created a very shallow
depth of field. To keep that intact, I applied a sharpening layer to the image, placed a mask over the adjustment, and then painted the sharpening out of everything except the young wrestler’s face and eyes.
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