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Best spots and times for the Taj Mahal

Patrick P , Oct 31, 2007; 06:14 p.m.


I'm going to travel through Rajasthan in November for 2.5 weeks. I was hoping to get some tips on the best places and times to shoot in the region. I'm going to be in Agra for one night, so will have only one sunrise and sunset at the Taj Mahal. Here are my questions.

I've heard shooting across the river is a good location. Where is the best spot (Northwest or Northeast)? Is it better sunrise or sunset? How do I cross the river (boat or taxi)?

Are there any good rooftops to shoot from? With my limited time is it worth it?

Any other shooting locations were I can get some real life in the foreground such as boats, trains, people or anything except tourists?

Thanks for the help, Patrick


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Louie Powell , Oct 31, 2007; 07:37 p.m.

My recollection is that the area across the river is pretty inaccessable.

But I think you can get a nice view from Agra fort.

One of my favorite views is from inside the compound itself. There is a large, formal gate on axis with the front of the Taj Mahal and its reflecting pool. That is a great vantage point, but as you might suspect, it will be hard to find a time when it isn't overrun with tourists. Perhaps if you got there when they first opened the gate in the morning you might have a five minute window to work in.

But if you walk through the gate, and look to your left, you will see a series of arcades. Walk 50 ft or so in that direction, and you will find spots where you can frame the Taj Mahal with trees in the foreground to hide the tourists.

Gabriel Shaw , Oct 31, 2007; 09:34 p.m.

Sunrise and sunset

David Henderson , Oct 31, 2007; 10:31 p.m.

TUnless things have deteriorated markedly since I was there five years ago, the area across the river is not inaccessible. You can get there either by walking down the east side of the site from the gate to the river where you're likely to find a boatman who will take you across. Alternatively you can get a taxi to take you across the main bridge in Agra and through a couple of villages to approach the Yamouna from the other bank. You'll need to allow a little time to walk across the sandy floodplain though because the road doesn't extend right to the riverbank. Keep the taxi because there's no chance of finding another over there when you're done. Make sure you organise a taxi in advance if you need one very early in the morning. You're possibly going to get hassled by camel owners who like to have their animals featured in your Taj photographs- for a fee of course.

Be aware that dense morning fogs are not uncommon at that time of year and the river might well be narrower than you think which can make it tough to get a complete reflection in the water without including the near bank. The boat will get you to the NE so fine for morning. The taxi will drop you closer to the NW and so fine for late sun on the monument, assuming that pollution doesn't remove direct light well before actual sunset that is.

With one day I wouldn't waste time on distant views - I'd spend one session across the river and one in the monument itself-no tripods. Despite the fact that the Taj Mahal is pretty busy even very early there are plenty of opportunities to photograph inside. Its worth getting really close because the detail is incredible. Agra Fort is great in itself (much better than the equivalent in Delhi) but the view of the Taj is quite distant.

Alex Lofquist , Oct 31, 2007; 11:26 p.m.

Response to Best spots and times for the Taj Mahal.

Get a guide inside the Taj. They can be very helpful in explaining the various points of interest. Be sure to go to the lower level where the true tombs are located. Photograph the pietra dura. As I write this I am looking up at a photo on the wall I took of the Taj in 1981. It is straight-on, without any attempt to compose to the "rule of thirds". It is one of the very few subjects that still looks great this way. Dawn is still the best time to photograph it. It used to be possible to stay all night in the gardens. I believe that it is still allowed during the full moon.

Neville Bulsara , Oct 31, 2007; 11:58 p.m.

Across the river is definetely accesible, by boat would be the best option as David has pointed out. Late afternoon would be a good time for that, though you could flip that over on it's head and make a silhoutte from there in the early morning too.

Neville Bulsara

James Kirkikis , Nov 01, 2007; 12:52 p.m.

I have never been there, but I know someone who was. They were at the gate before sunrise, but a guard would not let them in. He gave the guard a "tip" that amounted to $5, tio which the guard responded "enjoy the Taj Majal" as he opened the gate for him. He got wonderful shots with no tourists.

Granted, this was before 9/11 and security may not be as lax (or cheap) anymore, but it is something to consider.

Bonsignore Ezio , Nov 02, 2007; 11:10 a.m.

As regards security: pls be aware that your bags will be searched at the entrance, and if there is anything vaguely resembling a knife or scissors this would cost you at least all chances of running ahead of the pack. You must assume the same level of hysteria than Western arlines, and more. This is not related to terrorism but rather to the real risk that some idiot would want to scratch his name on the walls.

A limited number of people is being admitted during full moon nights, but 1) this is quite expensive, and 2) all tickets are booked by hotels and travel agencies years in advance. If you are staying in a top-class hotel they will most probably be able to help you, otherwise you would need much luck.

Peter S , Nov 11, 2007; 06:26 a.m.

I posted a longish discussion of this in the following thread:


KALIM BHATTI , Nov 12, 2007; 03:13 p.m.

I'm sure as captivating and photogenic as the Taj is, with that one sunrise and sunset will easily afford you beautiful images. I was there 2 years ago but only had an hour or so there and would love to have a whole day that you've got planned! You wont go wrong.

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