Photographing in Rajasthan, India

by Reinhard Thomas
June 5, 2017

Left: The Qutb Minar victory tower in Delhi - lens Sigma 10-20mm, f1_3.5, @10mm, 1_125 sec. at f11, ISO 320 Middle: View from the massive Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur - lens_Sigma 10-20 f3.5, @10mm, 1_125 sec at f16, ISO 320 Right: Oasis within the big city of Delhi inside the park around Humayun's Tomb - Canon Lens EF24-70 f2.8 @ 1_125sec., f5.0, 25mm, ISO 100 by Reinhard Thomas ©

Left: The Qutb Minar victory tower in Delhi - lens Sigma 10-20mm, f1_3.5, @10mm, 1_125 sec. at f11, ISO 320 Middle: View from the massive Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur - lens_Sigma 10-20 f3.5, @10mm, 1_125 sec at f16, ISO 320 Right: Oasis within the big city of Delhi inside the park around Humayun's Tomb - Canon Lens EF24-70 f2.8 @ 1_125sec., f5.0, 25mm, ISO 100

We arrived in Delhi, India’s capital and the major gateway to the treasures of this great, interesting country. This city of more than 25 million people is chaotic at best but a better expression may be “mayhem”. Relics of past empires and conquerors, Hindu kings and Muslim sultans dot the landscape in Old Delhi, and it’s never-ending noise, colours and smells bombard the senses and make your head spin.  When the British moved the Indian capital from Calcutta to Delhi  in 1911 they hired the architect Edwin Lutyens who designed and built a new stately city just outside of Old Delhi. They called the new city with modern streets and administrative buildings New Delhi and it became the home of the colonial government.

columns inside the Ranakpur Jain Temple by Rienhard Thomas ©

Beautiful carved columns inside the Ranakpur Jain Temple - lens_ Sigma 10-20mm f1_3.5, @10mm, 1_100 sec. at f8.0, ISO 640

We visited the perfectly proportioned Humayun’s Tomb, built in red sandstone and surrounded by beautiful gardens and combining Persian and Mughal elements that later influenced the design of the Taj Mahal. The building (like many others) follows strict rules of Islamic geometry, with an emphasis on the number 8. This place is an oasis in the turbulent city. Another significant site is the Qutb Minar Complex with its 73 m tall Afghan-style victory tower and minaret built by sultan Qutb-ud-din in 1193 to proclaim his supremacy over the Hindu rulers.

Chital or spotted Deer in in Ranthambore National Park by Reinhard Thomas ©

Chital or spotted Deer in in Ranthambore National Park - lens Sigma 70-200, @70mm, 1_500 sec. at f4.0 ISO 1000

After the mayhem of Delhi, we  flew to Udaipur in the south of Rajasthan province to begin our road trip through this region of lavish Palaces, architectural wonders and majestic forts. It is said that there is more history in Rajasthan than in the rest of India combined. But this region is not all dessert with sand dunes; it also has wild tigers, jungle and a vibrant culture.

Elephant ride up to the huge Amber Fort in Jaipur  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Elephant ride up to the huge Amber Fort in Jaipur - lens_Canon EF24-70 f2.8, @52mm, 1_800 sec. at f10, ISO 500 taken from the back of a moving elephant.

Jogies in Udaipur - lens Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @43mm, 1/125 sec. at f4.0, ISO 320

Udaipur is located at lake Pichola in a picturesque setting and is known as both the City of Sunrise and the City of Lakes. The narrow, colorful streets, the gigantic City Palace and fantastic temples highlight the cities’  charm. The City Palace was built in 1725 and is a maze of richly decorated rooms and halls, with it’s balconies, towers and cupolas towering over the lake. It is the largest palace complex in Rajasthan and the walls of this royal palace stretch over a mile along the lakeshore.

Hawa Mahal in Jaipur - lens Sigma 10-20mm f3.5, @12mm, 1/160sec. at f6.3, ISO 100

Temple wall in Udaipur by Reinhard Thomas ©

Temple wall in Udaipur - lens Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5, @18mm, 1/125sec. at f14, ISO160

The James Bond movie “Octopussy” was filmed here in and around Udaipur. The next day we drive from Udaipur to India’s Blue City of Jodhpur (the colour blue on a home traditionally signified the home of a Brahmin). Along the way we stop for a visit at the magnificent Jain temple complex of Ranakpur. The construction of this temple was started in 1439 and it is built out of light colored marble. It is supported by 1444 marble pillars, differently carved in exquisite detail and no two pillars are the same. Jainism developed around the 6th century BC as a reaction against the caste restraints and rituals of Hinduaism – a belief that liberations can be attained by achieving complete purity of the soul – meaning that no living thing can be harmed. This goes so far as to have a broom to sweep your path to avoid stepping on any insects and tying a piece of cloth over your mouth to avoid the accidental inhalation of bugs.

Fruit bats  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Fruit bats - lens Sigma 70-200, @180mm, 1/160sec at F13, ISO 200

Jodhpur is situated at the edge of the Thar Desert and is the second larges city in Rajasthan. The Meherangarh Fort, a fort of staggering proportions founded in 1459 is located just outside of the city on a 125 m high hill and was one of the largest forts in India. It is an architectural masterpiece.

Food store in local market  India by Reinhard Thomas ©

Food store in local market - lens Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @24mm, 1_60 sec. at f4.0, ISO 400

side streets in Dehli  by Reinhard Thomas ©

One of the many side streets in Dehli - lens Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @32mm, 1/400 sec. at f5.0, ISO 400, taken out of a moving rickshaw.

Walking through the lively local market and the winding medieval streets of Jodhpur, scented by spices, incense and sewers, we meet fabric dyers, puppet makers and spice vendors selling exotic spices that have been known to have not only flavor and aroma but also have magical healing powers.

rigation in rual Rajesthan by Reinhard Thomas ©

Irigation in rural Rajesthan - lens Canon EF24-70, F2.8, @24mm, 1/800 at f4.5, ISO 320

woman are selling feed for the cows in Indian by Reinhard Thomas ©

Street scene where woman are selling feed for the cows - lens_Canon EF 24-7- f2.8, @51mm, 1_800sec. at f5.0, ISO 500.

Pushkar, one of the sacred pilgrimage towns for devout Hindus is our next stop. After visiting some temples, we walk around this small sleepy town and enjoy the view onto the holy lake. Over 500 Hindu temples are situated around this lake with its sacred, mystical water that is believed to cure skin diseases, making this town the Lourdes of the East.

Udaipur city palace by Reinhard Thomas ©

Part of the Udaipur city palace - lens Canon EF24-70mm, f 2.8, @25mm, 1/250 at f11, ISO 125

Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan is also known as the pink city because several buildings such as the Hawa Mahal and the wall that encircles parts of the old inner city are built out of pink sandstone. There are plenty of palaces and forts from yesteryear to visit in Jaipur including the City Palace; a complex of buildings, gardens and courtyards that is not to be missed. The pink building of the Palace of Winds, a honey-combed fairy-tale like building known as the Hawa Mahal was built to allow the sequestered ladies of the court to view the bustling life of the city streets
Jaipur, the city of victory, has of course also an impressive fort. It is located outside of the city in the town of Amber, hence the name Amber Fort. We make our way up to the fort on a back of an elephant that has a beautiful painted/decorated trunk and head. Riding on an elephant feels a little like sitting in a small boat in heavy seas. The fort, like many in the area, is huge, imposing and rugged but the interior is much different here. The inside is ornate, lavish and the walls are covered with detailed murals, frescoes, paintings, mosaic and mirror work, influenced by both Hindu and Muslim styles.

Decorated elephant India by Reinhard Thomas ©

Decorated elephant being fed by his handler - lens_ Canon EF 24-70 f1_2.8, @46mm, 1_800sec at f2.8, ISO 320, taken out of moving bus.

Water palace in lake Pichola  by Reinhard Thomas ©

Water palace in lake Pichola with octopussy movie castle in background on the hill - lens Canon EF 24-70, f2.8 @ 68mm, 1/800 sec. at f5.0, ISO 125.

The next day we drive to the Ranthambore National Park in hopes of seeing rare wild tigers in their natural habitat. This park was the hunting reserve for the Maharaja of Jaipur and declared a game sanctuary 1955. In 1980 the park became a National Park to protect the tigers. We were riding in the back of an open truck and the accompanying naturalist told us that it was the perfect time and place for wildlife photography. However the tigers must have thought differently. On several of our trips at dawn and dusk we heard a tiger but never saw one. We saw different species of deer (including the spotted dear which looks like our local fawns, but the spots are permanent) crocodiles, many birds and spotted antelopes but no tiger. Other guests in our hotel saw and photographed tigers on several occasions. Like all wildlife expeditions, luck is vital, and it unfortunately wasn’t on our side.

Sambar, India's largest deer by Reinhard Thomas ©

Sambar, India's largest deer - lens Sigma 70-200, @180mm, 1/500 sec. at f 4.5, ISO 1250

ural Life is still simple in Rajasthan and Hawk in India by Reinhard Thomas ©

Left: Rural Life is still simple in Rajasthan - lens Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8, @70mm, 1/800sec. at F8.0, ISO 400, taken out of a driving bus. Right: Hawk in Ranthambore National Park - lens_ Sigma 70-200, @200, 1_500sec. at f9.0, ISO 640 taken from the back of a moving truck.

After trying to locate a tiger for two days, we took the train to Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. It took Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan 22 years and 20,000 men to build this monumental memorial for his 3rd wife (and one true love) who died at the age of 39 giving birth to their fourteenth child. He went into mourning for two years and turned away from his business of running an empire and became more involved in his second great love – architecture.

Taj Mahal by Reinhard Thomas ©

Taj Mahal - lens Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @24mm, 1/200sec at f5.6, ISO 320

The white marble for the Taj was quarried 200 miles away and transported by a fleet of 1,000 elephants to the site. This memorial is a fantastic, world known structure and the detailed, exquisite intricate marble inlay work is a feast for your eyes. Coming around the corner to see this world heritage site seemingly rise out of desert dust is a breath-stealing moment, where it’s impossible not be awestruck. It has been described as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity [which made] the sum and moon shed tears from their eyes.”

Street vendors in Jaipur by Reihard Thomas ©

Street vendors in Jaipur - lens Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @35mm, 1/800 sec. at f5.6, ISO 400

Three generations in colorfull dresses India by Reinhard Thomas ©

Three generations in colorfull dresses - lens_Canon EF 24-70 f2.8, @24mm, 1_200sec. at f5.6, ISO 320

After visiting the impressive Red Fort in Agra it was time to move on to Varanasi, a totally different part of India, which I might cover in another article to show the diversity and some of the extremes of this beautiful and interesting country.

Note: All images were taken with a Canon EOS 7D – NO tripod and NO filters were used. Lenses and settings as noted.


Authors Biography & Contact Information

Reinhard Thomas portrait

Reinhard Thomas is a photographer living in Calgary. He specializes in travel photography. Between travels he creates animal and landscape images and has a comprehensive collection of barn and grain elevator pictures.




Previous articles by Reinhard Thomas

Photographing along the Great Ocean Road in Southern Australia
Photographing in the Amazon River Basin
Photographing Peru - Part 2
Photographing Peru - Part I
Photographing around Devil's Island
Photographing Brazil’s Pantanal the Unknown Gem
Photographing in the Western Prairies
Photographing Madagascar
Photographing Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonder 
Photographing the Spice Island of Zanzibar

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