Taj Mahal

We are about at the midway mark of the India Photo Tour and Workshop.  A brief recap of this first half follows.  A brief night in Delhi and an early morning ride to Agra.  We checked in at the beautiful Taj Gateway Hotel ( A part of the exclusive Taj Group of Hotels).   After an awesome lunch where we were entertained by traditional Rajasthan musicians and puppeteers we departed to see the great Taj Mahal.

The Taj Mahal - Agra

This next one is an image shot by one of the participants of the master puppeteer who supposedly has the second longest moustache – 2 meters long – end-to-end.  Notice how it is wrapped around his ears and then back down his face.

Agra Entertainer - image Dan Charbonnet


It is unfortunate that photographers are not permitted to take tripods into most monuments in India and have to resort to high ISO photography to get enough shutter speed to prevent blurred hand held images.

Here is an image close to sunset.

The Taj Mahal as the sun sets - image Dan Charbonnet

The evening was spent visiting a local art store where we were treated to the craft of marble inlay work.  These skills have been passed down through the generations of the original artists who carved and inlayed precious and semiprecious gems on the walls of the Taj Mahal.

It was planned that we photograph the Taj by moonlight.  Trying to get a good image in the allocated half hour slot that is managed by the security guard at the Taj makes the opportunity very difficult for even a single decent night shot, particularly as you can’t use a tripod or even a monopod inside the secured area of the Taj.   We had arranged to do our photography from the rooftop of a building that overlooks the Taj and where we had access to tripods, and hot masala tea (spiced tea made with ginger, cardamom, and other flavorful spices).

Taj Mahal by Moonlight - image Hal Oliver

We had altered our schedule so as to capture a moonlit image of the Taj but that put us in a predicament for the following mornings sunrise image.  The Taj is closed to the public on Fridays and is open only for prayer at specific times during Friday.  As a result we ventured to Mehtab Gardens for the sunrise.   What worked out even better is that we guided to a beautiful spot across the river that gave us an awesome view of the Taj as the sun rose above the horizon.  It is unfortunate that there is so much smog and pollution in Delhi and in Agra.  This make capturing pristine image a big challenge.


Sunrise - Taj Mahal from across the river - image Hal Oliver
Taj at Dawn

After breakfast we checked out of the hotel and drove to Chambal – a small town situated in a terrain that has an extensive network of ravines and the Chambal River (a tributary of the Yamuna river).  We spent the afternoon photographing numerous species of birds.  The Indian roller, yellow and red wattle lapwings, hoopoe, sandpipers, the Eurasian thick knee, red vented bulbul, white cheeked bulbul, spotted owlets, to name a few.


Spotted Owlet - image Dan Charbonnet
Black Drongo
Restless Flying Fox - image Dan Charbonnet

While we were photographing the birds, etc., opportunities to photograph local village scenes were ever present.  The next two images are by Hal Oliver.

Chambal Sheep #1
Chambal Sheep #2

We had dinner and spent the night in the Chambal Jungle Lodge.  This is a lovely lodge with individual cottages for the guests.  During the night we heard at least three large packs of jackals howling in the vicinity of our cottages.

The following morning a 10-mile drive took us to the river where we boarded our chartered boat for a river safari. A Red Vented Bulbul en route to the safari.

Red Vented Bulbul Eating a Berry - image Monica Verma

In addition to a number of birds, we were able to photograph the Indian Crocodile and the Gharial (a member of the crocodilians but exclusive to India).

Here are a few of the river safari images:

Egyptian Vultures Nesting - image Dan Charbonnet
Garials -image Dan Charbonnet


Post lunch a short drive (few hours) to Bharatpur where we checked in to the Lakshmi Vilas Hotel, which is a converted residential palace of the Maharaja of Bharatpur’s brother.

The following morning was our first safari in Koeladeo National Park.  On entering the park we were greeted by a group of peafowl silhouetted against the rising sun.

Peafowl Greeting

Another image of the same sight.

We spent two and a half days for a total of five safaris in this park.  What and abundance of birds and mammals.  A small representation follows:

A pair of Indian Rollers - image Dan Charbonnet


Crow Deticking Nilgai - image Dan Charbonnet


Rhesus Monkey Cuddle - image Monica Verma


Peacock Ascending - image Dan Charbonnet

Here is an incomplete list of birds and mammals we saw and photographed over the course of the first 1/3 of the trip:

Grey Francolin (Partridge), Indian Peafowl, Lesser Whistling Duck, Bar-Headded Goose,, Ruddy Shell Duck, Comb Duck, Spot Billed Duck, Northern Shoveller, Northern Pintail,  Common Teal, Red Crested Pochard, Common Pochard, Brown Headed Barbet, Indian Grey Hornbill, Common Hoopoe, Indian Roller, Common Kingfisher, White Throated Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Greater Coucal, Rose-tinged Parakeet, Plum-headed Parakeet, Collared Scops Owl, Spotted Owlet, Brown Hawk Owl, Large Tailed Nightjar, Rock Pigeon, Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Oriental Turtle Dove, Laughing Dove, Spotted Dove, Red Collard Dove, Brown Crake, White-breasted Waterhen, Common Moorhen, Common Coot, Purple Gallinule, Marsh Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Dunlin, Eurasian Thick-Knee, Great Thick-Knee, Yellow Wattled Lapwing, River Lapwing, Red Wattled Lapwing, Indian Skimmer, River Tern, Osprey, Black-Shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Egyptian Vulture,  Red Headed Vulture, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Shikra, Little Grebe, Darter, Little Cormornt, Indian Cormorant, Great Cormorant, Little Egret, Intermediate Egret, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, Purple Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Black Crowned Night Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black Headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Painted Stork, Black Necked Stork, Brown Shrike, Long Tailed Shrike, House Crow, Large Billed Crow, Eurasian Golden Oriole, White-browed Fantail (Flycatcher), Black Drongo, Oriental Magpie Robin, Indian Robin, Black Redstart, Common Stonechat, Brahminy Starling, Common Myna, Bank Myna, Wire-Tailed Swallow, White-Eared Bulbul, Red Vented Bulbul, Common Babbler, Jungle Babbler, Large Grey Babbler, Ashy Crowned Sparrow Lark, Purple Sunbird, White Wagtail, Citrine Wagtail, White-browed Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Baya Weaver, Red Avadavat, Indian Silverbill,

The Mammals:  Gharial, Marsh Crocodile, a multitude of Turtles,,Rhesus Monkey, Hanuman Langur, Sambar, Nilgai, Wild Boar, Jackal, Indian Civit, Indian Hre, Five Striped Palm Squirrel, Indian Flying Fox, Shortnosed Fruit Bat.

Next Update – as soon as possible when I can get a good internet connection.

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