My Four Days in India

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 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 (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. :)

  1. Awesome shots Scott. Disregard all the emails I sent (everything taken care of) 8-)
    I love the TT 20 Retro, use it all the time and it works for a personal carry on. Glad you’re back safely!

  2. As always very nice pictures Scott. You have really captured the Indian spirit. Im sad to hear, that you didn’t got a better view of the Taj without fog. I went to India in march last year, and stayed one night in Agra, to see the Taj in afternoon and morning light.

    If you go back to India one day, you should take a few days in Varanasi too, to see people bath in the holi Ganges :)

    You can see my Taj Mahal picture on this webpage

  3. India ! wow. No one knew you were in India. That’s one of the most pathetic thing ever for photography in India.

    I do hope next time you are in the country you let us know. I would have liked to meet you for sure. I am from Mumbai, presently located in Pune.

    By the way amazing, photographs.

    Hope you see you next time when in India.

    1. I don’t get it either. Is India *that* dangerous that someone would steal your camera just because it’s a Nikon DSLR? Seems to me that blacking it out like that would actually draw more attention to it.

  4. Love your captures Scott. Thanks for the links about travelling in India. I’m supposed to leave to this colorful country at the end of February but an unexpected personal matter might keep me away from it. We’ll see.
    take care

  5. Hey Scott! Amazing images! Inspired – thanks. Looking forward to LR4!

    Meanwhile, if you want a Retro (So RC stops complaining you stole his haha) drop me a note… I may know a bloke who knows a bloke….



    1. I got there before they opened in the morning—I was the sixth photographer in line to get in. The other folks all stopped back in the reflecting ponds and were shooting from there. I shot for about two minutes there, too but then I headed right for the Taj itself, and I was the first one up there—-all alone. I was all alone for about 15 or so minutes, so I shot from all four “corners” while I had the chance. I have LOADS of photos from the previous day with lines of people wrapping around the building, so I was thrilled to get there when nobody was there, and I had the place to myself. :)

  6. I think you took great advantage of the fog, the shots of the people and food look absolutely stunning and the architectural shots have a different look to them then what we’re used to seeing. Tell your wife that it was a bit of luck to get to shoot in uncommon light in such a highly photographed city!

  7. Great photobook Scott – my favourite photo is the Champion Barbers Shop, the most natural HDR barbershop!! Although they are all fantastic and I’m sure you could make 10 books from that trip.
    I did wonder, with a place like India and some of the areas you had visited, were people quite happy to have their photo taken or did you have to ‘tip’ many people for a portrait shot ? Look forward to the lowdown on The Grid :)

    1. Hi Dave: Most people were totally cool with it. I usually took a snap, and if they saw me, then I gave them a big smile and waved at them, and they almost always smiled and gave me an even bigger smile back. I did have one guy I shot on the street see me taking a photo of him, he stopped on the street and posed for me, but then after I took five or six shots and took the camera down from eye, he put his hand out, so I gave him a small tip, and he was happy (and let me snap a few more). Outside of that—nobody else I shot while I walked around directly asked for a tip.

      1. I was going to ask that question, thanks Dave. You can see in their eyes that they are happy to have pics taken! I would love to go visit India!
        Scott, the lady with the pot on her head with the Taj in the background is truly CAKB, my favorite!

  8. Scott, you have some very striking photos here people! Did you approach them and ask if you could take their photo or snap them candidly, or a mix of both? Did you find yourself thinking back to your day with Jay Maisel? :)

    If you asked permission, did anyone ever say “no”? If candid, ever get “caught”?

    Thanks for sharing your work!


    1. Hi Jeremy: I snapped them candidly, but I did have one guy on the street spot me shooting me; he paused and posed for me, but then put his hand out afterward for a “tip.” I gave him a small amount, and he let me shoot a few more, but he was the only one that actually asked for a tip after I photographed him. It’s the guy in the final spread (on the right). I got “caught” numerous times, but I would just smile and wave, and they generally smiled and waved right back. The Indian people were very warm and friendly everywhere we went. Even this one guy who looked really serious—I took his photo; he saw me and gave me kind of a snarl, but then I gave him a big smile and wave, and he gave me back an even bigger smile and wave back. I wasn’t expecting that. He had a great smile—I wish I had caught that instead. :)

      1. Weird… Not sure why it says Jeremy… I asked the question.

        Thank for the answer though!


      2. We too found that the case in India. Sometimes if someone caught my eye as I was about to take a photo, I would ask or gesture, it was mainly women who were shy and did not want their photos taken. The Taj was also misty when we went. They said the mist will roll back and the blue skies would come… didn’t happen. I really prefered the streets and countrysides… Amazing, amazing place, can’t wait to go back. Jaisalmer was awesome, as was Shimla, my two favourites out of our trip..

  9. Awesome photos Scott! I’ve always wanted to visit India as well so I was really excited to see the photos you took. Bummer about the weather, but at least you got to see the Taj and more…. first hand!

    Looking forward to your photos tomorrow!

  10. I will be interested to see your comments about the Lightroom 4 Beta Book Module and in comparison to iPhoto. There are a lot of emotions on the Adobe forums especially when people ask, “how do I do this…” and the response is, it does not. Many people believe its going to be a version of InDesign, bundled with LR 4, obviously it is not.

    Would love to read your thoughts. I am a PC user but I also have a Mac. Right now, from what I have seen, the Book module could be easier to use in some aspects but I believe it does iPhoto one better (in many, but not all areas).

    Thanks for the pics!

    1. LR4’s Book Module works a lot like iPhoto’s—it’s all drag and drop, but it’s more flexible than iPhoto (I’ll explain why on this week’s “The Grid” because it’s more than I can type in a comment), but it’s actually pretty darn well designed and thought out. :)

  11. Is it too late to ask Adobe for a defog slider in LR4? Seriously, how do you minimize the impact of fog, rain, snow on your tourist shot other than get as close as possible? There are those tourist times when you ONLY have 15 minutes at a place, and you are shooting at infinity.

    Any chance for a LRb4 correction to “View through the arch” to change the extremes?

  12. …What a thoughtful wife you have, Scott! She sounds like a wonderful tour organizer (I still remember your trip to Italy with the Ferrari job!:).
    Your photos are great, as usual; India is a photographer’s paradise, the colors, the variety of faces, backgrounds and the exoticism of it makes it perfect!! (hopefully you refrained from drinking the local tab water)!!
    Thanks for the tip about Travel Scope India, could come handy in the future!

  13. Thanks, Scott, for these wonderful images. I’m going to Italy this summer with a high school choir on a four stop performance tour. Do you think traveling this light (equipment-wise) would be a recommended approach for this trip?

  14. Namasté and belated Happy Birthday Scott.
    What a wonderful present. Sounds like it might be your first trip to India…people either love it or hate it. Usually the latter comes from getting terribly ill or ripped off. But if neither of those things happen…then it is truly an amazing place to visit, especially for photographers as you have shown by your images you brought back. There are so many colors and people in this country. Hopefully this will be the first of other visits there.
    Look forward to seeing you here in Austin Texas at the end of the month.
    Welcome back. ?
    Boom Shankar!

  15. I would add that not only a guide for a city, but a driving guide is essential. I spent 5 weeks there as well. Very rich, but also VERY rough. It appears you did some traveling well outside of Agra in the time you had.
    If interested, here’s some shots I got from my adventure:

    I took too many lenses and the weight was a real burden sometimes…..but not when the shot was nailed!!!
    Thanks for sharing and inspiring so many Scott. You’ve made a fantastic career for yourself.

  16. Hey, I really enjoyed looking at you images as it brought back fond memories of my trip to India in November. I visited the same places and a few more that I thought were just fantastic. Your story about how you got the Taj shots is exactly what I did too so that made me laugh.

    Fog/pollution seems to be quite a problem in India as I encountered quite a bit too but it adds its own unique element that just fits into everything unique about India!

    If you are thinking of going back I would be happy to let you know the places I visited and in my opinion are of strong photographic interest. You can see some of my photos from India at

    Can’t wait to see part 2 and thanks for sharing.

  17. Great shots as usual and great tips on the candids! I am not too far from you, just south of Orlando and been frustrated by the sunrise fog we have had the past couple of weeks too. Same with a trip to Canada last Sep, 6 out of 7 days were rainy and misty, still came back with some great shots though!

  18. Lovely photos and I’m glad you enjoyed your trip. I tend to love fog, perhaps because it’s so rare around here to get it.

    As for the photo book thing, I’ll look forward to your discussion. I’m an Aperture user and quite pleased, but it looks like the Books module in Lightroom has far more templates and options for layouts than Apple does. I think I read it’s 180 in LR vs about 9 or 10 in Aperture. It’s an area where I wish Apple would open up layouts (books, slides, etc) for 3rd party vendors or users to design their own. While I don’t have the design background to do it, I’d be happy to buy plugin layouts for Aperture (as you can do with iWork products). Maybe next version.

  19. I spent 7 weeks in India a few years ago and found it to be a country of very mixed emotions. Rich & poor, beautiful and disgusting, clinically clean and filthy dirty. It’s a difficult yet rewarding country to travel in, but gets strangely easier as you head south. We has a guide in Rajisthan for 2 weeks and he was an absolute life saver, definitely recommended. Beautiful pictures too Scott

  20. Great shots and a fantastic journey – you are a very lucky man with a very thoughtful lady wife.
    I am coming over your way next month – four days in New Orleans – would you be comfortable with a DSLR and associated kit wandering the French quarter etc. Security and safety is always an issue when travelling to new destinations.
    What do you recommend ?

  21. Great photos as always Scott. You seem to nail these travel shots everytime. Pea Souper! Fantastic, didn’t realise that was a international phrase, I’ve only ever heard my mates in the North of England say that before. p.s. how do you manage to get the most amazing b’day presents!

  22. Great shots Scott. Sounds and looks like an experience of a lifetime. I especially love the first image in the book. I would love to see a tutorial sometime on the post for that image. It exudes so much drama for me and tells a great story.

  23. OMG , you were in India !!! I am a serious amateur photographer and consider you as my photography Guru since my early photography days. Whenever I used go through your website , FB page and other sites .. I used to always feel like asking you about when would you plan a trip to India and you came here !!

    Great work Scott ! my country looks magical through your lens ! but there is lot to see here . Next time do let me know when you plan a trip to India , I can tell you loads of unexplored places which you would love to capture.

    Thanks ,
    Shilpa Pradhan

    PS : I am a subscriber of Kelby Training and go through the training videos everyday. No need to say that they are awesome and really helpful !!

  24. Great travel pics! BTW, you mentioned fog as unseasonal – honestly Dec, Jan & perhaps early Feb are the only months when you would have thick fog in the Northern plains of India. Generally, Holi (March timeframe) or Diwali (Oct-Nov timeframe) are the best time to travel to North India.

  25. Hi Scott,

    I still don’t understand why you taped over the Nikon name in India? It is still a DSLR.

    Also, where are some of the places, in your opinion, in the US that you would not carry DSLR?

    Thanks so much, Hal

  26. The pictures are beautiful and very insightful. One correction to your captions. You label as “Hindu goddesses” an image of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, the divine love story that animates Vaishnava religious devotion in north India.

  27. Last summer my freind was in India with a D3s , 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm without blacked his gear. First day he said he was a little afraid but next days it was ok. Don’t afraid too much.

  28. Scott you are the best!
    I’m still young, but I try to always learn as much as possible from you!
    I hope to see you in Italy, but here is the worst time, economically and socially …
    see you soon!

  29. I don’t see any smiles, which tells me this is a very unrealistic look at India. There are already millions of stereotypically photos of India like this.

  30. Hey Scott, I have the Oben Tripod 3500 and I’m traveling to Paris for Christmas. I noticed on your Kelby Training travel video that you were shooting with what looked like the 3520?

    I’m very worried that the 3500 will be too short for the window cutouts on the top of the tour Montparnasse. Can you offer any insight?


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Part Two: “My Four Days in India”