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India

03.08.2011
I don't know where to even start this post. Perhaps you should get a beverage and a snack as it's going to be a long one... in fact, this is my longest blog post to date. 65 images and a video, plus a plethora of stories from an epic adventure.

Back in January, I went on a photo safari to India with my friend Joe Photo. We were both contracted to speak at the SWPP photography convention in London, so we just got the wild idea that after our time in London, we should just "pop on down to India" for a little photo filed trip. At the time, neither of us knew how far away London was from India... who knew it was an 8 and a half hour flight and 5 and a half time zones away? We didn't. But we went anyway!

The other cool thing about this trip was we went with no plans and very little expectations. We booked our flight to and from Delhi, but that was it. We had no other reservations or accommodations arraigned in advance. We just showed up with the clothes on our back, a backpack and a camera bag. We wanted to be able to just go with the flow and have a life experience.

Well, shortly after arriving in New Delhi and grabbing a cab to the train station, and finding that just about everywhere we wanted to go was sold out for a few days, we switched to plan B and found a local travel agent. He arraigned for us to have a personal driver for the first half of our trip who drove us to Jaipur and Agra, then booked us first class tickets on an overnight sleeper train to Varanasi, followed by a flight back to Delhi for the last leg of our adventure. It was really quite affordable even when we opted to upgrade to 4 and 5 star hotels. Unfortunately, some of the hotels weren't all that great, but we managed to survive regardless.

It was an amazing trip... the people were amazing, the country is so colorful and the weather was actually quite nice. The food was incredible. It was impossible to stick to my slow carb diet over there, so I didn't even try, however I did manage to shed a few pounds (lots of walking). Joe & I had some garlic naan at every meal. We'd each get our own order, then we'd usually split a 3rd order for desert or just to sop up the rest of our tiki masala sauce or curry. Neither of us caught the infamous "Delhi Belly" either. (Travel tip: pop a Pepto tablet each morning when you wake up so it coats your stomach as a preventative measure).

I'll never forget the night we were supposed to take the overnight train from Agra to Varanasi. Our driver dropped us off at the train station around 6pm in time for our 8pm scheduled departure to Varanasi. As soon as we checked in, we found out our train was delayed until midnight. Bummer, but not the end of the world. The only problem, was it was starting to get cold and the train depot was an open air structure. Sure it had a roof, but not so many wall. Picture a cement patio cover with a ton of people and cows in it. The place was packed as a few other trains were also delayed. We decided to walk into town and buy a few blankets. By the time we got back, there was no seats on any of the benches, so Joe stayed in the terminal and tried to figure out when our train would arrive and I headed out to the train platform and made camp. I actually got half way comfortable and just as I dosed off, I was awoken by a security guard or police officer poking me with a stick. Apparently I wasn't allowed to sleep there so I made my way back to the terminal only to find out that our train was now delayed until 2am. And then at 1am, the changed the board to 3am, then at 2am they changed it to 4am. Then at 3am, the skipped all the way to 6am.

Finally when the board didn't get updated at 5am, we made our way out the platform around 5:45 and the train finally showed up shortly after 7, a mere 13 hours after getting dropped off. The best part was when I was sleeping while seated on the bench around 3am, I had my head in my lap and my hoody & blanket pulled over my head, I heard a noise that woke me, I looked up only to find myself nose to nose with a huge smelly cow, which then proceeded to relieve itself right in front of me, both #1 and #2 (thankfully I was next to his head and not the other end). Anyway, once we finally got settled into our private sleeper cabin, we actually got a good sleep in as the trained rocked along en route to the holy city. It made for a great story and a night we'll never forget, but the only bummer was we lost an entire day of shooting in Varanai as we didn't arrive until after sunset.

I could go on and on boring you to no end about our trip, but instead, I'd love to share my art with you. After all, we went to shoot photos for ourselves, but I also take great joy and satisfaction in sharing my art with the world. I've separated the images into 5 categories: Architecture, Street Portraits, Textures & Color, At Work, and finally Personal. There a dozen or so images of each and at the bottom, there's a 6 minute video that has even more images. Please vote for your favorite and leave a comment of Like this post on Facebook at the bottom.

Section 1: Architecture. India is filled with beautiful buildings and grand architecture.

I guess the best place to start is the Taj Mahal. It was truly impressive and quite a site to see in person. I've seen photos of it before and I am happy with the images I got of it, but unfortunately the images just don't do it justice. There's just something about seeing it in person that was so moving. We went first thing in the morning, we arrived before the sun even came up and we got to watch the first light of the day hit this gorgeous and symmetrical structure. I am also a big fan of the reflecting pool that leads up to it.


This is the Pink Palace in Jaipur. It's basically just a facade. This was basically a place for all the king's wives to site behind the windows you see pictures and look out on the busy street below.

We saw the floating palace in Jaipur on our first night in India very late as we drove to the city. I loved the reflection in the water and decided we needed to come back and see it at dusk, so the next day we came right at sunset and stayed for a while. This was one of the few times that I wish I brought a longer lens however I do love that I was able to capture the full moon in this frame. (I only brought a 50mm/1.2 and a 24mm/1.4... it was all about traveling light.)

The Jaipur Fort was filled with color and intricate details.

This was taken at the largest mosque in India. It's in Delhi and we were able to walk around for a few minutes before the call to prayer.

Inside of a temple in Jaipur.

This is the monkey temple outside of Jaipur. You can see some of the women washing at the bottom. Feeding the monkeys was a trip. They sure are filthy animals.

This is the Red Fort in Agra, just a few miles away from the Taj Mahal. Apparently the Maharaja that had the Taj built for his wife was later imprisoned at the Red Fort and was forced to look at it through his jail cell window, but never visited the finished monument.

These last few images in this section were taken in the holy city of Varanasi. This a hotel that overlooked the Ganges. This was my favorite city that we visited.

One of the 95 Ghat's that were arranged along the river.

There's a lot going on in the city... there was always something to look at. Very busy, very colorful.

Here's the city from the river. You can see the moon rise above the city. This image was taken just after sunrise.

Section 2. Street portraits. I love shooting people. Whether it's a bride, a model, my friends or just random strangers that I meet along the way. I think this was about my favorite part of India. Just meeting and photographing the beautiful people. Everyone was so nice and receptive. Hardly anyone turned us down if we asked to take their photo. We shared the images on the back of our cameras and people really seemed to enjoy it.

This is one of my favorite portraits from the entire trip. I love the color, the light and his expression. I also love how sharp his face is and how he is separated from the background.

I found this homeless guy on the streets on jaipur on one of our morning strolls. He seemed to not have a care in the world and was certainly enjoying his chai:

A shop keeper in Varanasi.

I found this guy literally sitting on the side of the road chilling with his friends under an awning. We had pulled over on the way to Agra to photograph a colorful church, but loved his outfit and ended up liking the shots of him better. Orange is my favorite color.

We didn't photograph very many women on this trip, they were a little more shy and reserved, and we got rejected by the women a lot more often - story of my life! ;-) This beautiful soul was just sitting on her porch one morning in Agra.

Joe & I stuck together pretty much the entire time we were in India, however he did have to run back to the hotel to charge his camera battery one morning and I ran across this guy at one of the ghats. I would have loved to learn more about what he had going on.

The children were so lovely and warm and welcoming. They loved seeing themselves on the back of our cameras:

I think this guys looks like Indian Jesus:

At first, this guy didn't want to be photographed, but then I shot couple of his friends and they helped me peer pressure him in to posing.

I found this guy at the mosque in Delhi. That is one sweet beard!

I'll never forget some of these faces.

Most of my street portraits were up close and personal, but I really liked the color of this door and wanted to shoot a full length shot of this kid:

This guy was a barber who was giving haircuts & shaves on the sidewalk. He's got a sweet do himself eh?

Section 3: Texture & Color. As some of you know... it's one of my goals in life to have a collection of my images ship with every Mac computer so people can use them as their desktop photos. Oh yes... it will happen eventually... mark my words. In the mean time... I love shooting random textures and color if for nothing else to grace the desktops of my several computers. I have them set to change every half hour.

Anyway... here are a few of my favorite textures & colors of India. This was taken in the pre-dawn light in Varanasi and was one of my favorite images from the entire trip. I'd be honored if you'd make this image your desktop image. Feel free to download a file that best fits your monitor.

Their carrots look different then our carrots:

Bison hooves anyone? I hear they are de-lish... but I am going to have to take their word for it.

This was taken on a morning stroll through Jaipur right as the sun was coming up:

This was taken at a fort outside of Agra. I want this for the front door to my house:

Some spices at the market in Old Delhi:

This was the first photo I took when we arrived in Delhi. This was right next door to the travel agency where we booked our tour:

This was taken in a neighborhood in Agra.

The alleys of Varanasi were crooked, confusing and colorful. If you ever plan a trip to India, you've got to make the trek to Varanasi:

This was taken in Agra, just a few blocks from the Taj:

Most of India is made up of Hindu and Muslims, be we found a few signs of other religions:

I loved the color of this door. We waited for a good 20 minutes trying to find someone I could shoot in front of it, but had no luck. People were particularly shy this day.

Got onions?

Section 4. This might be my favorite section. "At Work". I loved shooting environmental portraits of people while they were just going about life doing their job.

By the way, I understand why a lot of people in India are vegetarians. If I had to view my meat this way often I'd think twice about ordered the lamp chops. Thankfully our meat from the supermarket comes nicely packaged and I don't have to think about it! Reminds me of a t-shirt one of my blog stalkers sent me a while back. It reads: "Meat is Murder, Tasty Tasty Murder!"

I was fascinating how they don't believe in table & chairs over there. Most merchants just sat on the ground with whatever they were selling:

Right above where this guy was sitting, there was a glossy 4x6 print of an image that another photographer snapped of him and sent over, only the image was taken about 20 years ago. Same pose, same background. I wish I had snapped a shot of the photo for comparison.

There's just something about this shot that I really love.

It's awesome how they just use an old school scale to weigh the veggies.

That is a whole lot of onions!

This doesn't seem safe. Shouldn't he be wearing some shoes or protective eyewear?

This guy was pouring Joe a cup of chai.

We found this guy on the street and he invited us back to see his carpet factory. It was fascinating how much detail and effort goes into each hand made carpet. Those bundles in the back ground are patterns for every carpet the produce incase they get a re-order. They actually had an impressive system for keeping track of everything... get this... without the use of a computer or anything like that. These kids rock it old school!

If you make it to Varanasi, make sure you get a boat ride on the Ganges at sunrise.

I'm not sure what he was making, but I loved the texture of the image regardless:

Another butcher shop in Delhi:

I guess they were making bread, however I saw no ovens, not did I see any loaves of bread the whole time I was in India, only naan bread which gets baked in a Tandoori oven.

I'm surprised he wasn't crying while peeling onions.

I wish I would have photographed more women.

Finally, here are a few photos of Joe & I being tourists. This trip was truly one that I will not soon forget and I am so thankful I got to share this adventure with one of my best friends and on the planet. Joe is an amazing photographer, a dear friend, a wonderful father, a devoted husband and a kick ass travel companion.

This image was taken at a vegetable market in Delhi on our last morning in India:

Nobody here but us chickens:

We had a blast hanging with these kids in Agra. They were so curious and so friendly.

Am I going bald? Or is it just the bed head? Let's pray for the latter!

I couldn't believe Joe handled his Nikon D3 to a random stranger while we were stuck on an elephant. Thankfully he didn't run off and also nice job on the focus!

These images we taken about 6 weeks ago and I can already tell that I've lost some weigh since then! Taken outside of a temple in Jaipur:

I love this shot of Joe. Taken at the Jaipur Fort:

I got peer pressured into trying the hookah. Joe is a bad influence! Remember kids... just say no!

Tourist alert! The cobras kind of freaked me out.

And finally, wrapping up back where we started this post at the Taj Mahal:

If you want to see more images, please watch this 6 minute video and you can see over 200 images (shown in the order there were taken). Feel free to share a link to the video when it is done.



Thanks to Triple Scoop Music for providing the tunes for my slideshow and thanks to Smugmug for doing such a great job hosting videos!

Notes for photographers:

I shot all of these images with a Canon 1Ds Mark III and a 50mm/1.2 or a 24mm/1.4 lens. I shot RAW and processed the images in Aperture 3, then tweaked a few of them further in Photoshop CS5 using both Kubota Image Tools and Totally Rad Actions.

Some of the "Street Portraits" and "At Work" series had some off camera flash in the shot thanks to the lessons I learned from my buddy JVS.

If you enjoyed this post would you please consider leaving me a comment, sharing the link on Twitter or liking this on Facebook. Better yet, why not just do all three! Thanks so much for visiting. I look forward to sharing images of my next photo safari that will be taking place in Italy later this month.
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