We’re in beautiful Agra and the usual sunrise location that I bring guests on these charter jet trips is a viewpoint behind the Taj. From here you can usually find a camel wallah and get a nice sunrise view like the one above.
But, times change, security concerns grow, and access is restricted. In the last couple of years, it seems, the whole back side of the Taj is fenced off and there are security towers lining the river. So what used to be a cool photo location is now off limits. Like they say in Maine, “you cain’t get they-ah from he-ah.”
Those are the new realities of 21st century travel, and I’m glad I was able to travel here before these restrictions set in (there has to be some consolation for being this old, eh?). But it does make you wistful.
I remember, on another of these charter jet trips, standing in line with several hundred people at 5: 45am at Machu Pichu, waiting for the site to open, along with the famous Geographic archeologist Johan Reinhard. Joe was remembering that when he did his research there in the 60’s, they camped right in the site! No tickets, no lines.
My touchstone for the Taj is my friend Ian Lloyd’s book on the subject, which he shot well back in the film age. To me, it is the definitive work on this great monument. Of course, Ian’s a great shooter and an old Asia hand, and he shot the Taj from every conceivable viewpoint. But even a prodigious talent like his has to have access, and I bet he’s glad he shot that book when he did.
Ah yes, I hate to sound like the old fart that I am, but them was the good old days.
I did, however, manage a nice pre-dawn view from the Taj itself below. It was a very gray twilight, so I set my camera to Vivid, and my white balance to Fluorescent, and that’s what I came up with.
Next stop, Bhutan….or maybe not. It’s a story full of suspense, and I promise I’ll keep you posted.
This Post Has 17 Comments
Jeffrey Chapman1 Apr 2010
When the soldier pointed his riffle at me and began yelling, I realized that I wasn’t getting beyond that new(ish) fence that keeps one away from the back of the Taj.
Bob1 Apr 2010
Jeff: Yes an AK 47 pointed at you is the universal language saying “get your ass outta here!” Bob
Igor1 Apr 2010
As someone who has recently traveled through Agra… yeah Taj Mahal is beautiful (though I have my reservations with regard to the motivations of the Shah), but Agra … the central part is a polluted disgusting garbage dump with the most annoying bunch of shills and rickshaw drivers in all the Northern India. BTW our local group leader, whose home state is UP, was of similar opinion.
Bob1 Apr 2010
Hmnn….India is not for everybody! You either love it or hate it. BK
Igor2 Apr 2010
For what it’s worth I have mixed feelings, not “either or”. I found Northern India very interesting, people mostly nice (when they are not trying to sell you something) and don’t regret the time spent, but I won’t go there again. At least not w/o an oxygen mask :-).
Street photography was very satisfying – people mostly love to be photographed.
Bob2 Apr 2010
Igor: India is definitely a love/hate thing….I find myself doing both; simultaneously at times! Bob
Sara C.1 Apr 2010
Maybe we’re thinking of two different spots, but I was able to shoot from about the location of the top photo (with the camel) when I was in Agra in 2008. It’s a local park called Metabh Bagh, where all the local teenagers congregate.
Do you know when these supposed restrictions went into effect? It seems odd that they’d shut down a well-used city park on the off chance that there could be a terrorist threat – especially in India, where safety precautions are thin on the ground in general.
Bob1 Apr 2010
Sara: Could be the same place, I’m not sure, but you can’t get anywhere on the riverbed behind the Taj, even from the park (I never saw teens there) because there’s a huge fence along the riverbank and there are watch towers every 200 yards up and down the river. You can stand in the park and shoot over the fence, but that makes it hard to do reflections and limits your compositional choices. According to my sources, it started about 1.5 years ago. B
John Batdorff6 Apr 2010
Thanks for this. Wonderful images. I’m traveling to Agra in a few weeks and was unaware of the new security measures around the Taj. I’m curious if you have any photos of the fences? I tried to search for some on Google but no luck… I’d like to get a sense of what I’ll be up against.
Bob7 Apr 2010
John: I have no images of the fences, but if you want another good sunrise location, go over in front of the Red Fort with a long lens and get the sunrise over the Taj….you can still do that. BK
Lars7 Apr 2010
First of all, the first picture is amazing.
I went to Agra in the middle of 2009 and didn’t have any problems reaching the riverbed. It was done on two occasions. I took a tuktuk to the other side, walked down to the first watch tower and asked them if I could open the gate and take a couple of pictures from the river. Their response were positive. Another day I walked along the fence of the Taj down to the river and a boat man took me to the other side of the river.
As you said, talking a photo from the park is not the same as standing by the river it self. Hopefully you will have more luck next time you visit.
Bob7 Apr 2010
Hi Lars: I think you’ve hit on one of the reasons that traveling solo may make it easier to circumvent regulations than traveling with a group….BK
Justin1 Apr 2010
Thanks for the heads up on your camera settings. These are fantastic images. Are these the .jpgs right from the camera w/o and post?
Thanks again Bob!
mk1 Apr 2010
I feel what you’re saying Bob. Everyday it seems there are more and more restrictions at public places. And being harassed or harried by the ‘constables,’ where ever one is, is simply to be expected and tolerated nowadays. I used to shoot aerials over DC… no more. Too many hassles trying to get a waiver.
Not everyone is rude, mind you, but being stopped and questioned even in the nicest of tones rankles.
(Of course, I’ve experienced nothing like many photographers have in Britain! “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist!”)
Anyway, nice shots… enjoying the updates.
And thanks for everything! ;^}
Tim3 Apr 2010
Ok Bob you peaked my interest, Hows the trip going so far? Bhutan is on my wish list.
So whats the deal with maybe ?
mike a3 Apr 2010
the top one is my favorite…beautiful
Ravi R12 Dec 2011
Lovely picture. I heard the four columns surrounding the Taj are actually built tilting outside a bit so they appear straight from a distance. The builders took into account the perspective !