“This is India; the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a thousand nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition...” - Mark Twain, Following the Equator, 1897
In many ways, not much has changed since Mark Twain's visit over a century ago. India is still a land of contrasts, carved by deep rivers of spirituality and history. In other ways, however, change dominates every aspect of Indian society today. Fully exploring, much less understanding this vast nation in a brief visit is impossible, but we will catch authentic glimpses of the India of yesterday and today throughout our image making adventure. Our itinerary covers the best of the must-see monuments including, the incomparable Taj Mahal, but we veer off the beaten path early and often in search of more genuine visions of Indian life.
Ken will be with you each step of the way to help you make the most of these opportunities. We'll work together in groups and one-to-one to help you better understand your equipment, master new techniques, and expand your creative vision. Ken’s specialty is teaching practical ways to develop your 'photographer's eye', but he's happy to work with you on any aspect of the image making process.
HOLI FESTIVAL OF COLORS
Holi, India's Festival of Colors, is a riotous celebration of the arrival of Spring. Enthusiastic revelers 'play Holi' with handfuls of colored powders that are thrown, rubbed, and smeared over everything and everyone. Participation is mandatory. Rich, poor, tourist or local, no one is exempt. But it's all in the spirit of celebration and good fun. In fact, another name for Holi is the Festival of Sharing Love.
No matter what you call it, it's an amazing spectacle to see and even more so to photograph. Precautions must be taken to protect cameras and lenses, but Holi is an event no photographer should pass up. Our itinerary is crafted so that we experience Holi celebrations in several times and places including a very special version of the festivities known as Lathmar Holi, where the women of one village, armed with sticks, beat back the advances of the men from the neighboring village in a mock reenactment of an ancient legend.
THE MAGNIFICENT TAJ
Known as the World's Greatest Monument to Love, the story behind the Taj is almost as inspiring as the marble masterpiece itself. This icon deserves the time to be carefully considered with our cameras and we will pay it proper homage with multiple opportunities to photograph the Taj Mahal from various vantage points and in different lighting conditions including sunrise and sunset. You will have your opportunity to make the classic reflecting pool photo, but we will also look for more unique perspectives including some not usually available to tourists.
On the banks of the Ganges River, the holy city of Varanasi is India's spiritual capital, and one of the world's oldest continuously inhabited cities. It's also my favorite place to photograph in India. Early morning on the historic stone ghats (terraces) that line the river bank is a magical experience. Mist filtered sunrise light bathes young monks practicing yoga in warmth as the first pilgrims of the day arrive seeking blessings in the waters of Hinduism's holiest river. But Varanasi has even more to offer. Poignant scenes of everyday life await discovery in its winding streets and markets. Varanasi is also the center of India's silk weaving industry and much of the work is done in the surrounding villages by hand using traditional equipment and techniques. We will get a taste of rural life in India as we visit with and photograph these master artisans at work. Be prepared to be mobbed by curious children who may have never seen a foreigner.
Sprawling Delhi is India's capital and the beginning and end point of our journey. Nowhere is the clash of old and new more apparent, with its 25 million inhabitants living amidst luxury townhomes, the remnants of colonial rule, and ruins dating back millennia. Here we can find a bit of everything: the serenity and self-reflection of locals practicing meditation and yoga at sunrise in the gardens of Humayun's Tomb; commerce and chaos in the maze of Old Delhi's crooked narrow lanes; compassion embodied in a Sikh temple that serves 10,000 free meals daily; tradition and craftsmanship in the Kumhar Gram, a potters colony reputed to be the world's largest but largely unknown even among locals.
JODHPUR, THE BLUE CITY
Jodhpur exudes an incredibly relaxing vibe that makes you want to do nothing but park yourself on a rooftop terrace with a cool beverage and stare at massive Mehrangarh Fort dominating the skyline. The only problem is that there is so much to explore and photograph here as well. The once ubiquitous blue facades of the old city are slowly disappearing but still make striking backdrops for scenes of everyday life. Early morning is a great time to visit Jaswant Thada, an ornate monument to a former Maharaja carved from white marble. Later, as the sun and temperatures climb, is an ideal time to explore the interior of hilltop Mehrangarh Fort from which fantastically wealthy rulers once surveyed their domain. Bustling Sadar market underneath the old city's historic clocktower is an experience to remember and photograph. With so much to see, maybe the relaxing will have to wait.
Wake up to sunrise over beautiful Gadissar lake in the remote outpost of Jaisalmer Fort and then ride into the Thar desert atop a camel for sunset and a star filled night in the sand dunes.
- Price $5800
- Duration 6+ days
- Group Size 5+
- Date 02/03/2020
- Date 15/03/2020
- The Holi Festival of Colors – in all its joy, madness and vibrancy. We’ll be at the best locations and times to capture the colors and chaos of this ancient celebration.
- Sunrise at the Taj Mahal – this wonder of the ancient world is even more captivating than at first light. We’ll be inside, waiting for the first rays to kiss its central dome.
- Ancient Varanasi – Hinduism’s holiest city on the banks of the Ganges is Ken’s favorite place to photograph in India. Find out why.
- Thar Desert Camel Safari – trek the dunes atop a camel and photograph the interplay of light and shadows at golden hour.
Day 1 (Mar 2) Arrival in Delhi – Welcome to India! Your adventure begins when our representative meets you upon arrival at Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL), transports you to our hotel and assists with check in. Relax and recover from your travels until 4 pm when our program begins with an introduction and orientation meeting followed by a group dinner.
Please note, hotel check in time is 2pm. If you will be arriving much earlier, please let us know and we will arrange an extra night’s booking (fee applies).
Day 2 (Mar 3) Delhi - Vrindavan – Our first shooting day is a big one, starting bright and early with a sunrise shooting session at Humayun’s Tomb. Early morning is the perfect time to explore the architecture and gardens of this UN World Heritage site, both for the beautiful light and because this vast complex is popular with locals who come to practice yoga and meditation in the cool morning stillness.
After breakfast, we move on to the Jama Masjid, Delhi’s largest Muslim mosque, where you can climb the narrow spiral staircase of a minaret for a breathtaking view of the sprawl of new and old Delhi. In the afternoon we visit the kitchen at Bangla Sahib Gurudwara, a historic Sikh shrine that serves over 10,000 free meals each day to the less fortunate of the community. Then it’s off to the narrow, winding streets of Old Delhi and the chaos of Chadni Chowk market.
We depart for Vrindavan in the afternoon so we will be on scene to observe, photograph and participate in the Holi Festival celebrations from the very beginning.
Throughout the day and the remainder of our adventure, Ken will be there to help you better understand which camera settings make sense for various situations, how to identify and approach subjects and ways to become more aware of light and backgrounds.
Days 3/4 (Mar 4/5) Vrindavan – our base for the Holi celebration in the villages of Barsana and Nandgoan where a unique version of Holi, known as Lathmar Holi, is practiced..
Nandgoan is Lord Krishna’s birthplace and Barsana is Radha’s (his beloved). The Radha-Krishna love-story is one of the most famous in Hindu mythology. Over the centuries a tradition developed where the men of Nandgoan come to celebrate Holi with the women of Barsana, but are greeted by a pummeling with sticks (laths). The men now come prepared with padded shields and clothing.
This is also the opportunity to create your own versions of the impossibly colorful images we’ve all seen on the internet. We’ll show you how to protect your gear and take you to the best vantage points to capture the action. Be advised that you’re bound to end up wearing some of Holi’s colors as well as photographing them. Dress accordingly.
Days 5/6 (Mar 6/7) Agra - and its most famous attraction, the Taj Mahal, is our next stop. Words and even pictures can’t convey the magnificence of this monument so you will just have to experience it for yourself. We will pay the Taj proper homage by scheduling several shooting sessions from various vantage points and lighting situations highlighted by sunrise from inside the Taj complex.
We’ll also make time to explore Agra’s other attractions such as the Red Fort and Itimad ud Daulah, aka ‘Baby Taj.’
Days 7/8 (Mar 8/9) Jodhpur – from Agra, we drive back to Delhi to catch the short flight to Jodhpur. Known as the Blue City, at one time it was decreed that all its buildings should be painted a striking Cerulean blue. That tradition is fading but the first thing you notice about Jodhpur won’t be its color but giant Meherangarh Fort, which sits atop the central plateau and absolutely dominates its skyline. Jodhpur exudes such a relaxing vibe that it will be difficult to choose between photographing its many attractions or just sit in the rooftop café of our Haveli (converted mansion) hotel, sip cool drinks and stare at that huge fort.
If you opt to explore, our scheduled outings include an early morning shoot at Jaswant Thada, an ornate royal cenotaph carved from white marble, a stroll through Jodhpur’s old city and, of course, an exploration of Meherangarh Fort. Jodhpur’s Sadar (clock tower) market is also an excellent place to make images of a traditional Indian marketplace where vendors sell all manner of fresh and prepared foods as well as a dizzying array of clothing and goods. Finally, this will be our second opportunity to capture the colors of Holi on its traditional celebration date.
So, shoot or relax? Both will be inviting at this point in the journey. The choice is up to you… maybe, a little of both?
Days 9/10 (Mar 10/11) Jaisalmer & Thar Desert – the desert citadel of Jaisalmer Fort rises like a mirage from the golden sands of the Thar desert. Highlights of our stay here include photographing sunrise over beautiful Gadissar Lake. The pavilion forming tiny islands make a lovely foreground for the pink sky reflecting in the still lake waters.
The fort is a maze of winding lanes and home to over 3000 inhabitants who operate shops, restaurants and havelis (guesthouses). We’ll stay overnight in this unique community and spend the following morning exploring with our cameras before heading out to the Thar desert for an overnight camel safari with luxurious tent accommodations. Sunset and sunrise among the sand dunes is a magical experience and for those interested in night photography, this is the perfect opportunity to make that Milky Way or Star Trails image that will leave your family and friends in awe. Ken will help you with the planning and settings to make the most of your night photo experience.
Day 11 (Mar 12) Jaisalmer – Varanasi -- we travel by air to Varanasi on the Ganges, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities on earth and the holiest place in the Hindu world. We'll arrive in time to wander its back alleys which offer amazing street photography opportunities. We'll make our way to the stone ghats for sunset where we are just as likely to encounter wandering holy cows as holy men.
Day 12/13 (Mar 13/14) Varanasi - is otherworldly. While Jodhpur’s vibe is relaxing, Varanasi envelops you in a thick cloak of spirituality and mysticism. Millions of devout Hindus make the pilgrimage to their most holy city every year to experience spiritual rejuvenation in the sacred waters of the Ganges. Photo opportunities in Varanasi are everywhere. The pilgrims, along with the wandering Sadhus and Aghoris (religious ascetics) are powerful subjects for environmental portraits. The ghats (stone terraces) lining the riverbank are bustling with activity any time of day and it’s a mistake to dismiss the nightly Aarti ceremony as a tourist attraction.
Varanasi also happens to be the center of India’s silk weaving industry and most of the work is still done in outlying villages on traditional hand looms. We will visit these master craftsmen and photograph them and their handiwork. Be prepared to be mobbed by curious young children who may have never seen a foreign face.
Day 14 (Mar 15) Varanasi -- Delhi -- our journey ends upon arrival at the airport in Delhi. For those wishing to stay on in Delhi, let us know if you need any assistance making lodging arrangements. Otherwise, we will arrive early afternoon, in time to catch most outbound international flights.