I've recently returned from an 8 day trip to India visiting New Delhi, Agra, and Hyderabad. This was primarily a business trip but I did manage to find some time for photography.
Our first stop was New Delhi where we stayed over night after our flight into the country. On my first morning in India, I received a treat. I opened my blinds in the hotel room at sunrise and there was at least 30 Steppe Eagles flying and perched in trees. I stayed at the Oberi which overlooks the New Delhi Golf Club. Make sure you ask for a room that overlooks the golf club as the Eagles looked like they were feeding on something in the fairways. Photos can also be taken of the New Delhi skyline from this view. Make sure to turn off the lights in your hotel room to avoid a reflection.
My favorite photography subjects during the trip to India were the people and the culture. Each area has it's own unique culture and attractions. The five hour drive from Delhi to Agra was one of the most entertaining and interesting drives (and a bit scary) in my life. There does not appear to be any rules of the road and honking the horn seems to be a signal that a driver is coming through. 2 lane roads are often stretched to 3+ lanes.
Keep your camera handy during the drive and make sure you hire a good, reputable driver. All kinds of vehicles can be seen on the road, including two cylinder auto rickshaws, cattle drawn carts, and entire families on motorcycles. There are also quite a few villages along the route that provide photo opportunities of shops, people, and roadside vendors.
It's best to take photos from within the vehicle unless you want to be surrounded by people selling souvenirs and trinkets, and also people looking for handout. A large DSLR is a sign that you are a good target for these people. Several times our driver stopped for a break and within a minutes people were at our car windows attempting to sell us their trinkets. This also includes young boys who are Cobra snake charmers. If you do photograph these young snake charmers, you may want to give them some cash as this is how they earn money for the families.
The places to visit and photograph in Agra are the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. Try to get to the Taj Mahal early before the crowds arrive. Here too, you will be approached by individuals selling their wares in your short walk from the tram to the entrance to the Taj Mahal. Also, beware of pick pockets in this tourist area. Keep your purse secure and your wallet in your front pocket.
The Taj Mahal itself is beautiful. There are plenty of good photo ops at the Taj Mahal but expect plenty of people. There is no photography allowed inside of the Taj Mahal itself and you must remove you shoes or wear booties over your shoes when you walk on the marble of the Taj Mahal.
Agra Fort is a large structure that is partially still in use today by Indian military. It's red stone provides for good photo opportunities. You can also take pictures of the Taj Mahal from Agra Fort.
Make sure to bring a circular polarizer to darken the blue skies and reduce glare. Also, tripods are not allowed in the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. The ITC Muhgal is a nice 5-star hotel in Agra.
We hired a guide for the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort. As a photographer, it limited my creative roaming. However, he also pointed out good (classic) compositions and took pictures of us. He also took us to an artisan that imbeds semi-precious stones into marble. This is all done by hand. A single flower inlaid in a marble table takes 1.5 days to create. This is the same technique used in the Taj Mahal. I was able to capture photos of these artisans at work.
Hyderabad is a city that is growing quickly due to the outsourcing industry. All the major consulting firms have offices in Hyderabad, and large IT firms such as Google and Microsoft also have campuses in Hyderabad.
There are forts, Hindu Temples and open air markets to photograph in Hyderabad. I found the Hindu Temple fascinating. However, no photography is allowed inside the temple and you must remove your shoes to enter the temple. I watched a lady use a small natural broom to sweep the entrance of the temple – a perfect opportunity to photograph the culture and people of this interesting country.
To see more of my photographs of India, visit my Indian Gallery at martinbelan.com.
Visit my photo destinations page for more great photography locations