Today i've spent part of the day updating photography archives and all that tedious admin stuff that goes along with cataloguing both all my commercial and real estate photography work as well as my travel stuff.
This led down that rabbit hole, revisiting some of my past collections of travel collections. When i stumbled across what is probably my all time favourite travel portrait. This shy boy was taken during my trip through India back in 2011 and originally i processed it in black and white. The finished result was a gritty high contrast image that was in my opinion quite a moody powerful portrait. Looking at this image today though i thought i'd strip back any post-production to the bare-minimum and show a softer side to the image that probably reflects his quiet nature shy nature a little better.
This image was taken at a road stop where I'd rest and have some Masala tea on the way to Ranthambore Wildlife Reserve. As the saying goes Life is about the journey not the destination and the types of people I met along the way surpassed seeing all the wild animals in the nature reserve once i'd reached my destination.
Images like this are also another reminder of that you never know when a photographic opportunity will arise. This fleeting stop at a tea-hut lasted all of ten minutes but had i decided not to bring the camera with me, this opportunity to get one of my favourite travel images would of passed me by.
_Prior to visiting India for the first time, i met someone who said to me visiting India is "an assault on all your senses from the moment you get off the plane". That quote has stuck with me and i can't think of a better way to sum up my experience in one sentence.
From the moment i stepped foot on Indian soil i was overwhelmed with initially the noise, congestion and heat - And the time was just past midnight. I hadn't been outside the airport terminal doors for 3 minutes before i was being scammed (unsuccessfully) that my hotel was full and i had to go with another man to his hotel.
However 3 days in and you adjust to the pace of this country, its inefficiencies and more importantly the true beauty of the landscape, people and cultures that make it one of the most remarkable countries i've visited.
Once you've acclimatised you find that your senses are still under assault every day, though in a good way. Sure the smell of sewage is still a smell that is hard to acclimatise to regardless of the longevity of your visit. And the seemingly endless and piercing sounds of car horns that do not stop day or night can take some adjusting to (especially when trying to sleep) but these are small inconveniences when compared to the overall experience you can get from sub continent.
The Indian cuisine is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Flavours, intense and powerful with specialties in each region. I particularly like the Northern Indian cuisine with influences from Tibet and other himalayan areas.
Equally impressive and diverse as the food is the Indian scenery. From sun-drenched palm dotted beaches of the south, to desolate and sparse desert regions such as Rajasthan and snow capped mountainous regions such as Lakdah make India a true photographers paradise.
I can't recommend this country enough as a place to visit and experience for yourself. Like me i believe you will leave disappointed you didn't allow yourself more time to immerse yourself in a culture like no other.
These three portrait images are part of my initial portrait series from Rajasthan, India. All three a worthy shots on their own accord but i have just started to play around with the HDR Efex Pro photoshop plugin by Nik Software. I've been blown away by the power of this program and its capabilities to enhance photographs.
The control you have over the Nik software settings is astounding. You can easily add control points to alter small sections / tones of an image. You have mirco adjustment control over exposure / contrast / blacks / whites and other standard settings you'd see in Adobe Photoshop Raw. But then you also have a series of presets down the left hand side that make editing a very quick and easy process to achieve stunning photographic results.
As these three shots were of elderly men, i wanted a very raw and contrasty finish that really amplified the textures and wrinkles in the faces. Below is an example of the Nik Software HDR Efex Pro interface.
The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful, inspiring and indeed photographed buildings or monuments in all of India if not the world. It is a truly inspiring structure not just in its attention to detail and shear scale but also in the story behind its construction.
For those unaware the Taj Mahal was built between 1632-48 by Mugal emperor Shah Jahan as an offering to his his third wife Mumtaz Mahal who died during child birth.
So what do you expect when you visit the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. The first thing to realise is that it’s one of the most visited monuments in the world with over 2.5 million visitors each year. So it’s a given that you’ll need to prepare for crowds.
The best time to visit is at sunrise where crowds are lower (but still in abundance) and the light is softer. An amazing feature about the Taj Mahal is it’s ability to change colour depending on the light. As marble has both some translucent and reflective properties its colour is dependent on the colour temperature of the light bouncing off it.
It changes from a cool grey at first light into a warm yellow as the sun rises. This offers a range of opportunities to take photos from the same view point at different times through the day with remarkable differences.
The key position “The Postcard Shot” as i like to refer to it as is dead centre looking down the water channel with the line of fountains lining up directly with the centre tear drop roof of the Taj Mahal. This vantage point is very congested especially just through the main gate as every tourist is huddled around the centre waiting for their photo to be taken. My suggestion is to bypass the first series of fountains and move closer until your just past the half way point of the gardens. As the distance is considerable from the first view point through the gate and the Taj itself looks very small in relation to the foreground in between.
Instead take some time to look for alternative view points to photograph from. Searching for view points or different perspectives on famous landmarks one of the great challenges and enjoying parts of photography.
If you get the chance there are some great photographs to be taken from the reverse side of the Taj Mahal on the other side of the Yamuna River. It runs dry during the tourist (cool) season but there are still good photographic opportunities.
My trip to Ranthambore National Park was an incredible experience. Though i unfortunately missed seeing any wild Tigers i got to see a number of other wild animals in their natural habitat. Due to weight restrictions i opted against taking my large telephoto as i couldn't justify the significant weight for limited use.
Getting the right balance of photography gear vs versatility is a challenge. The other challenge i faced on this trip was that i had been suffering from some significant lower back pain in the weeks leading up to this trip around Rajasthan so i made a choice to travel as light as i could with just the one DSLR body and three lenses. The lense I ended up using for about 70% of my shots was the 50mm F1.4 which is an incredible lense. The other two lenses i brought on the trip was my 14mm aspherical fish-eye and a versatile 28-70mm F2.8 Sigma EX series zoom.
This shot of a mother and her young offspring was taken on the 50mm as the Monkeys stayed remarkably still as the Canter bus rolled alongside.
Chris Bishop professional commercial, landscape & travel photographer based in Perth, Western Australia.