I just got back late Friday night—the trip was a birthday present from my wife (for my birthday last year—but this was the first chance we got to take the trip), and we had an absolutely wonderful time!

What an amazing, fascinating place. We were only actually there for four days (with a fifth day of travel back to New Delhi for our return trip), but it was totally worth it! We visited Agra (I always wanted to see, and overshoot, the Taj Mahal), and then we added a trip to Jaipur, which is an amazing city unto itself.

Photo Gear
I traveled very light (as usual for vacations), and I didn’t want to take a bunch of big photo gear that would get a lot of attention, so I took a Nikon D700, removed the battery grip, put black gaffers tape over the make and model (shown above—I know, it still look kinda big), removed my lens hood, and carried it all in a Think Tank Photo “Retrospective 20″ shoulder camera bag (borrowed from RC), which is designed to not look like a camera bag. This isn’t an “India” thing, but smart anytime you’re traveling (there are some places here in the states that I wouldn’t bring a DSLR to, blacked out or not).

I took just two lenses; my go-to travel lens is a Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5 to f/5.6 VR lens, and my second lens was a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8. I also tried out a new travel tripod: the Oben CT-3500 Carbon Fiber four section tripod, which worked perfectly and only weighs 2.3 lbs.

Shooting in Pea Soup
My poor wife—she planned this special trip for me to see the Taj Mahal, and not only did she set it up so I could shoot it at two sunrise shoots, and two sunsets, she arranged for us to have a room only 900 feet from the Taj itself, and she specifically booked a hotel room with a terrace that overlooks the Taj. However, here’s the view at dawn the second day (below). Not only could we not see the Taj, we couldn’t see the swimming pool 30 feet in front of us.

Thanks to unseasonably cold weather, we were socked-in with thick, dense fog. It was absolute pea soup. I still went, and got lots of foggy shots with solid gray skies. This fog soup started the day we got there,and stayed the following morning at dawn, all afternoon, at dusk, and the following morning, too. In fact, I didn’t see fog-less clear skies until we reached Jaipur. My wife was really upset for me, but I was totally cool with it, because I didn’t just want to photograph India—I wanted to see and enjoy it, and man did I ever.

My Photo Book
After a vacation trip, I usually make a photo book of my favorite shots using iPhoto (link to video I did on how to make these in iPhoto) and I’m sharing the whole book (put together in iPhoto) with you here (part one today, and part two tomorrow). However, once this was done, I wanted to see if I could do the same thing (or maybe better) using Lightroom 4 Beta’s new Book Feature, and I have to say it worked brilliantly well, and even allowed me to do things I couldn’t do in iPhoto (I know, I know…Apple fan boys rev-up your engines). Anyway, I’ll be talking about this Wednesday on the Grid at 4:00 pm ET, so catch us live then.

Please click on the photos for a much larger view (they look much better bigger. Also, I made these spread really large—if you’re on a laptop, you may have to enlarge the size of your browser). More details on everything tomorrow. :)

That’s “Part One” of my photo book, and I’ll publish the rest here tomorrow.

One more thing: Why you need a guide when you go shooting
When I knew I would be traveling to India, I called my buddy Vincent Versace (who had run photo workshops there) and he turned me on to Travel Scope India, which provides very reasonably priced English speaking guides, and they were absolutely fantastic!

We learned so much about the Indian people (and their wonderful spirit), and they were really accommodating and helpful when it came to me finding locations to shoot. Here’s an link to an article I read last night at Lightstalking.com about why photographers should hire a guide (not a photo fixer, but a guide) and it’s worth a read (and right on the money!).

Anyway, Travel Scope India are highly recommended, and if you have plans of visiting India, you’ve got to contact Dinesh at TravelScopeIndia.com (they totally rock, and can find you guides in cities all over India). Can’t say enough things about how helpful they were.

Hope to see you back here tomorrow for Part 2, with more photos and more details. :)