The mayhem behind the show

I photographed the backstage activity for the Wharton Charity Fashio Show this year. It is quite a spectacle backstage! The models need to change within a matter of a few seconds between their rounds on the ramp. The designers and artists scramble amongst the models. There’s a lot of movement and madness behind! Lot of nervous laughter, anxious waiting when waiting to get on the ramp, and high fiving to cheer eachother up.

As someone who loves to take candid shots, I really enjoyed the experience! It is challenging as the lighting is terrible, and it’s close to impossible to get the shot you want as there’s always a ton of obstacles in front or behind. It’s critical to have a fast lens. It’s again critical to be quick on your feet, and have enough space on your card to take as many images as you can and then sort them later. I also realized I need to soon invest in a good mounted flash to help in these low light conditions.

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A few snapshots from the Wharton India Economic Conference, 2013

Arvind Kejriwal

Arvind Kejriwal addressing the audience

Penn Museum

The venue at Penn Museum

WIEF

PE and VC panel

An engaged audience

An engaged audience

Shabana Azmi and Vrinda speaking about women's empowerment

Shabana Azmi and Lakshmi Pratury speaking about women’s empowerment

Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi

Shabana Azmi

Students debate with the speakers after the panel

Healthcare panelists

Healthcare panelists

Rob Sommers

Rob Sommers

The audience

The audience

Boman Irani and Javed Akhtar

Boman Irani and Javed Akhtar

Interesting debate between Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar

Interesting debate between Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar

Antarctica – Itinerary & Experience

After seeing my photographs from the Antarctica trip, a number of people asked me to share details on how I even got there. So here’s a long overdue post on what my itinerary and experience was like.

So first of all, how I got to Antarctica will perhaps be very different from how someone else will go there. The reason is that I went there as part of something called the “Leadership Ventures” program run by The Wharton School (where incidentally I am a student). The program aims to teach leadership by putting students in hard and stressful conditions (such as Antarctica :)).

Our trip was organized in conjunction with an external organization called “Vertical“. It is a Chile based organization, that specializes in adventure education. They organized our tents, food and were responsible for managing “risk” during the trip (So even though I signed a legal document saying that Wharton has no responsibility if I die in Antarctica, they atleast had someone trying to minimze the chances of that happening!).

Here’s a rough schedule of what our trip looked like –

Day 1,2: Arrive in Punta Arenas, Chile. The flight to King George Island (the Antarctican island we went to) leaves from Punta Arenas (DAP airlines).  Due to very variable weather conditions in Antarctica, the fact whether your flight can land there or not remains debatable till the last moment. Our flight was cancelled twice before we finally landed. Therefore, it makes sense to build in some buffer time in Chile, both before and after the time in Antarctica.

We used our time in Punta Arenas to get used to our backpacks, buy any remaining gear, and get to know our team mates.

Day 3: Land in King George Island and hike to first campsite. The first glimpses of Antarctica from the flight were of course amazing (lot of snow). The main challenges of the first campsite were figuring out how to set up our tents (very hard in the cold, the snow and the gloves). Each team was assigned two barrels of food. We needed to figure out what to cook, which required going through the contents of the barrels, and deciding quickly. Cooking in the cold was not fun. There was no running stream, and melting ice to get water was again long and painful.

Another issue was the washroom. We had makeshift tents, where we had to use polybags to do our thing, and then dispose off the polybags. Antarctica is an environmentally protected land – what goes in, goes out. Including your shit.

This day was also New Year’s Eve. We welcomed the new year in Antarctica! 🙂

First night in the sleeping bag is always painful. I was cold, and slept in bursts. Recommendation: Carry toe warmers, they can make life very comfortable. If not, keep your Nalgene filled with warm water inside the sleeping bag. Can work wonders.

Day 4: We had to hike to our next campsite. Getting ready in the morning required getting out of the warm sleeping bag, putting on gazillions of clothes, rolling up your thermarest (mattress) and sleeping bag, packing your bag,  brushing, making breakfast, going to the loo (if possible!), and packing up the tent. Very time consuming.

This day was all hiking as it snowed. We reached the second campsite, and barely had energy to set up anything. Later, we visited a Ukranian research base nearby. It was so warm!! How we wished we could stay there forever! Or atleast use their washrooms 🙂

Day 5: Hike to next campsite. Two special things about this day – the hike was across a glacier. The reflection was a lot, so googles were necessary. The hike of course was beautiful (or as beautiful a white expanse can be…). The other special thing was that this campsite had no “washroom tents”. Which meant we had to carry our own poop! Each team was given two poop tubes where the team members deposited their poop bags. I will not get into more details here 😀

Day 6: Day trip to observe wildlife – seals, penguins, birds. This day also happened to be my birthday, and the most sunny day in our entire trip 🙂 My birthday was celebrated with a cake made of Snicker bars 😀

Day 7: Hike back to second campsite.

Day 8: Hike to airport and leave.

Overall, the trip was spectacular. I got a scholarship and so did not have to spend a lot. For others, it cost $10,000. However, our trip was more expensive as there was also an element of education to it. I’ve heard it is much cheaper to go otherwise.

I can share the gear list for the trip if there is enough demand. You can also email me at sonali.mangal@gmail.com if you have any other questions.

The trip is worth it and a once in a lifetime experience 🙂

Photographing the Wharton Charity Fashion Show

The Wharton School recently organized a Fashion Show for charity. MBA students walked the ramp, adorned with designer labels, some designed by Wharton Students themselves! 🙂 One of the designers asked me to photograph his line (http://www.masons.it). It sounded like fun and so I agreed.

This was the first time I was doing something like this and I never realized it would be so hard! The backstage is always in a flurry, with people running around, trying to get things done, trying to find what they need. Plus, this was all student organized so you can imagine the mess! The issue becomes how to photograph what you want especially when everyone is moving around, and you can’t really ask people to pose for you. There isn’t much place to move, you keep bumping into people, and so composing your shot and focusing on the right subjects is also tough.

Photographing the ramp was much worse since the models move so fast!! It was incredibly hard to get a non-blurry shot 😀 I had 4 lenses with me. The kit lens I did not use. The prime lens (85 mm, f/1.8)was of course not ideal for the ramp. Then I had a 55-250 zoom lens which again did not work. A fellow photographer lent me 70-200mm for a while but it was so gigantic and heavy! While perfect for the ramp, I just could not take stable shots with this lens (need to build some muscle :D). So I stuck with 50mm, f/1.8 macro lens.

But overall the experience was great. It was a lot of fun and I learnt a lot. Sharing backstage photos first, will be posting the (few) ramp shots I could take next.

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