Gehna Mahiarya is an absolute sensation. She's six foot tall, drop-dead gorgeous and understands how to work the camera. Her movements are not clouded by photo shoots that tend to regiment one in certain ways. There is an innate fluidity in her body language. I believe she has a lot of potential to reach the acme of success in the modelling world and should eventually move abroad to further her career. Her height and features are truly mesmerising and can make an artist do wonders with her. There is something so powerfully sexy about this shot, given Gehna’s Amazonic proportions. This picture was actually one of the initial images I shot to check the lighting but it turned out to be the image we foresaw for the Kingfisher Calendar. As it happens so often, sometimes a frame clicked without much planning is all what you need.
Adline Castelino, I realised, was a mini-Internet sensation after her Miss India win. The added plus was that she spoke Konkani, my mother tongue. She is extremely confident like all pageant winners and knows exactly how to work the lens in a manner that flatters her immensely. This image is an excellent example of how a simple location can be transformed by the model and lensing. We shot this with a long lens and used foreground interest from the grass to create a shallow depth of field in the front as well as throwing the background out of focus. This drew attention to Adline completely while she held her Yoga/Pilates pose long enough for me to capture the grace and strength that you see in the image. What is particularly interesting is the fact that she makes it look absolutely effortless.
Kritika Babu has been modelling for many years in the South and we were keen to work with her this year for the Calendar. A qualified Yoga instructor, she has an extremely fit and proportionate structure that translates through the lens. She has an ability to just ‘Be’ in front of the camera. For this image, I wanted to create an optical art kind of a shot and worked closely with our stylist Allia Al Rufai. We used shadows formed by chick curtains hung above her and let the light stream through. She sat in a wading pool at the Taj Kumarakom, and we made different patterns in the water around her. When the patterns multiplied, I got the exact optical art effect I had in mind. Part of the process of using Photoshop for a visual artist is to imagine the final image and work towards putting it together.
Sumita Bhandari flew in from Delhi and brought with her a consummate ease to the shoot. She has a terrific poise coupled with an easy going attitude that radiated wonderfully for the lens. You can see it in the image. This shot was taken at the Marari Beach Resort of the Casino Group, under a wood apple tree that tends to shed, which left us with a bed of flowers and leaves that I particularly loved. The light on this section can be captured only during the middle of the afternoon, when the sun is directly above and we shot Sumita laying on the bed of flowers that were naturally strewn from one level above.
This image of Adline was shot at the Coconut Lagoon Resort. Notice the reflection of the trees behind her, shimmering on the relaxed backwater which ties into the scenic beauty of the image. Interestingly, you can reach this resort only by a boat. Behind Adline is a waterway complete with a gate that has to be opened to allow access onto the property. The hotel is a mirage of pieces of land that are connected via small bridges. All of this adds to the quaint and unique topography of Kerala which makes it the incredible state it is.
Behind the scenes
Putting together the Kingfisher Calendar is a painstaking process, which requires multiple variables — the locations, models, outfits, hair, make-up and many other factors — fall in place seamlessly. Before anything, we recce different locations, and zero-in on a spot after carefully studying light patterns for a week or two. The final shoot — both the spot and the time — is decided only after this recce.
A detailed study of the location is made with the stylist, who chooses the swimsuit, the model and the time of the day for the shoot. One thing I can say is, always be absolutely sure of the plan of action especially when shooting with a unit of 20-odd people. I have been blessed with an immensely talented team of professionals — Allia Al Rufai (stylist), Maniasha Fialkina (make-up artist ) and Flavien Heldt (hair stylist) were absolutely brilliant with their work. My assistants Vinay, Yogesh, Rahul and Abhijit were as always on top of the game.
Finally, my producers Vidyut and Vandana who have been veritable rocks by my side every year of the Kingfisher Calendar. We work as an extremely democratic set up where everyone is given an open floor to voice their ideas. The location for this year’s Kingfisher Calendar, Kerala, has always held a special place in my heart; I have been there for many holidays in the past and cherished the poetry the state fosters through its meandering water bodies, exotic wildlife and luscious greenery.
Through my professional experience, the local arrangements of the hotel properties and the grip crew that was assisting us, made it an absolute seamless, noiseless and extremely conducive set up to creating terrific images. My particular thanks to the Casino Group and the Taj properties for their unbelievable attention to detail, service and making Kingfisher Calendar 2021 a success.