Thursday, March 5, 2020

Photographing the Taj Mahal for the first time - Some different views of this epic site!

Teaching on photo tours has lead me to some really amazing places and given myself and our tour guests a chance to check off some bucket list locations. Visiting the Taj Mahal last month was one of those times that we will never forget.

Sure, we have all seen countless photos of this white marble mausoleum and its reflection pools, but being there is totally different.

In this blog post, I want to take all of you on a photographic tour of the Taj Mahal and show you some perspectives that you may not have seen before.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 55mm, ISO 160, f/8, 1/800 sec)

This is the epic view that is heavily photographed, and with good reason. The reflection pool allows for a beautiful composition, especially when the photo is taken low to the water. We were also lucky enough to have blue skies above the building. The week before we were there, we heard that the skies were smoggy and yellow. We all took turns shooting low from this center position. I was using the Canon 5D Mark IV with a Canon 24-105mm lens. After we were done with this perspective, we then ventured off to see what other views we could capture.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 55mm, ISO 160, f/8, 1/500 sec)

I took this photo just 15 feet to the left of the center shot you saw before. I really liked the pattern of trees and grass on the left and how those worked with the pattern of minarets (and reflections) on the right.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 200mm, ISO 250, f/5, 1/2500 sec)

As we walked closer, I used the Canon 5D Mark IV with the Canon 100-400mm lens to isolate certain parts of the main building.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 200mm, ISO 250, f/5.6, 1/2500 sec)

Shooting in even tighter allowed me to show the intricate pattern of semi precious stones which are inlayed into the marble.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 31mm, ISO 160, f/6.3, 1/800 sec)
We all stepped back into this archway to frame the Taj Mahal. I was showing our guests how, standing in the right position allowed us to fill the archway with the main building. I also wanted everyone to make sure to keep the top of the building in the frame, but leave enough blue sky so that it was not too cramped. We also had to wait until others were not standing directly in front of us, blocking the view. (Photographer's note: I brought this photo into Adobe Photoshop and increased the adjustment to the shadows slider so that more of the archway would be visible.)

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 35mm, ISO 1250, f/4, 1/40 sec)
After I was done photographing through the archway, I turned and saw this lone man praying. I loved how the late afternoon light was hitting his back and the wall in front of him.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 1250, f/4, 1/8000 sec)
We were walking back towards the mausoleum when a pack of monkeys crossed in front of us. I got down low and grabbed this photo.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 97mm, ISO 1000, f/4, 1/1000 sec)

I followed the monkeys over to the wall (near the arch we had been shooting from), and photographed them as they climbed on this historic monument. Our tour guide told us that the monkeys like to lick the salt off the stone.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 100-400mm lens at 312mm, ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/320 sec)

I saw this mother and baby and had to take the shot. I felt like I was back in Africa, except that instead of trees, we were surrounded by red stone and marble.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec)
The sun was about to set, so some of us walked over to the sunny side of the building. There was a small building at the edge of the platform which had 3 or 4 steps going up. I climbed the steps to try and get a straight-on shot of the building. Getting higher causes less distortion. But, of course, there still will be distortion when using a 24-105mm lens at 24mm and being low to the ground. I knew that this could easily be corrected later.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 24mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec)

I brought the same image into Adobe Photoshop and used the "Perspective Warp" tool to straighten everything back up. It still amazes how well this tool works!

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 400, f/8, 1/1600 sec)

We walked around the perimeter of the mausoleum and we watched as the sun was setting. I brought us over to a location where the sun would be right behind this other building within the Taj Mahal grounds.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec)

The next morning, we got up early to watch the sunrise over the Taj Mahal. We were hoping to get a reflection shot over the river, but this area is now closed to visitors. So instead, we stood back and photographed from our vantage point looking over some ruins. I decided to make this bird my subject, with the building slightly out of focus in the background.

(Canon 5D Mark IV, 24-105mm lens at 105mm, ISO 160, f/4, 1/250 sec)
After photographing the Taj Mahal from the river area, we went and toured the fort where the emperor Shah Jahan lived. He commissioned the building of the Taj Mahal to house the tomb of his favorite wife (who had 14 children with him and died on the last childbirth). This was the view from his room. I got down low and shot through the intricate stone carving, which gave me this really cool effect, and something very different than most people have seen before.

I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of the Taj Mahal.

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