Taj Mahal in Monsoon Season

in photofeed •  4 months ago

When I visited the opulent work of art that is the Taj Mahal, it was the beginning of monsoon season – hot, muggy and soaking wet. A more discerning traveler might've held off until another day, but we were on a tight schedule.

I'd been invited by a guy named Zach whom I'd met on my flight from SF to Delhi, just a few days earlier. He was beginning a quick, 2 week trip, had already paid for most of it and had room for a friend to tag along. I said yes simply because it was easy, and I had no plans of my own.

I hadn't yet figured out that my spirit isn't well-suited to nor interested in the typical tourist itinerary.

After a full day of temple visits during intermittent, torrential downpours, we'd arrived in Agra the evening prior. We had just this one day to visit the Taj before heading off towards Rajasthan's Pink City.

Once inside the gate, I set off on my own to explore the 42 acre complex.


Perhaps it wasn't the sparkling white architectural splendor I'd always seen in pictures, yet it was no less majestic and awe-inspiring.

While the marble didn't reflect as it would've on a clear, sunny day, its striated patterns and texture were more visible, making it far more interesting to my eye. In the overcast light, I could more easily see the imperfections – the natural character of the stone.



I was struck by the craftsmanship of the carefully chosen embellishments gracing the exterior; the impeccably carved floral motifs, stone inlay, geometric patterns and Arabic calligraphy.



Visually, the rain made for a wonderfully rich experience, deepening the contrast between the ivory-white marble of the mausoleum and the red sandstone of the pathways and courtyards surrounding it.


Even the stone beneath my feet was placed with careful intention, with geometric shapes and decorative features to match the nearby buildings.



Though I did venture inside, I didn't stay long as it was quite dark and rather dreary. Still, the attention given to the inner space was no less impressive than that which I'd observed outside.


I was equally impressed by the two structures that flanked it as I was by the mausoleum itself. Constructed of marble and red sandstone, these buildings mirror each other – like sentries, guarding the tomb.




The weather actually made it easier to photograph – both because of the narrower dynamic range (fewer glaring reflections flanked by dark shadows) but also because it was markedly lacking in visitors.

Besides myself, a few caretakers and a small handful of other 'tourists', the grounds were primarily visited by locals that day.




As it turned out, many of them seemed more interested in me than the Taj Mahal. As I would come to appreciate about the people of India, there's simply no pretense in their gaze; they made no attempts to conceal their curiosity.



It was rather unnerving at first – I wasn't accustomed to being stared at with such intensity. Even the monkeys were staring me down.


I didn't yet know even the most basic Hindi, so I responded with the only thing I could then offer; that universally recognized expression that transcends language – a smile.

They responded, in kind – grinning with such delighted warmth – clearly amused as we snapped photos of each-other.



The children, however – were not quite so easily convinced. They regarded me with cautious uncertainty, more than a bit wary of my unfamiliar appearance.

Though they were a harder sell, I did manage to draw a lovely smile from one of the boys, while his sister eagerly showed me her freshly henna'd palms.



I made my way back towards the entrance, choosing a quiet a path that lead through lush trees and well-tended gardens.



Wondering what it was they'd found so fascinating, I turned the camera on myself.

I laughed as I realized what a truly strange creature I must've been to them; green eyes – pale, freckled skin – fine, dyed hair (extra wild due to the humidity) – skinny blue jeans, fitted black top and feather earrings.

I had so obviously just landed.


Though I've shared this image before, this post simply wouldn't be complete without it. After all, it's the single photo that most resembles the pristine idea I'd held of this place for so long.


While I enjoyed experiencing the Taj Mahal and was happy to cross that off my proverbial bucket list, it was the unexpected human interactions that made the most lasting impression and, ultimately, changed the course of my journey.

The following day would find me sending Zach on his way, opting to stay in Agra for a while – to slowly walk down all those bustling streets we'd flown past in an air-conditioned car. Three days was more than enough for me to know – that pace and focus wasn't at all how I wanted to travel.

I had a long trip ahead of me, though I didn't know that yet. In this moment, the coming days held seemingly infinite possibilities – each step pivoting on the one that preceded it; unplanned and untethered.

Specs: Canon EOS 5D Markii • Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
35mmf1.4L Prime • ISO50 - f21.4 - various shutter speeds • 5 October 2009



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Wow these photos are amazing! Random question: Did you bring bug repellent?

I appreciate how you embraced the culture even though, at first, it was a bit “unnerving”. It’s kida funny how we’re all observers, and some will conceal more than others.

And, did I mention these photos!? I did, but I will again. You’ve beautifully displayed all the womderful details that otherwise are hidden to the naked eye

Keep up the great work 🤙


Thanks! and LOL! My friend – this was the first week of a year-long journey. You can rest assured I'd covered all the bases, yet I also flew with carry-on only, *including camera gear!

It's a bit hard to remember allll the details of what was in my pack now, but I'm pretty sure I eventually just grew accustomed to the bugs. ;)

This is an AWESOME post! I have seen so many pictures of the Taj Mahal before but never as in depth or up close like these. I love to travel and meet new people that are so different from me and yet we are all so similar. Thanks for sharing your adventures!


Yay! I'm loving how much everyone is appreciating the details as much as I did. Truly – that is what delighted me the most about the structure itself. :)


How could you not enjoy the detail? It's incredible! Its awesome that you chose to share this. I love seeing photos of people's travels and you have a wonderful eye for detail in all of your shots. Love it!


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Everything about this post is amazing. I have been a fan of your photography since I came across it in juliank's daily photocontests when I first joined Steemit. Your way of photographing people and being able to bring out their spirit is truly a gift.

These landscapes are also spectacular. I am looking forward to traveling to India in the future and these shots of the Taj Mahal have gotten me even more excited for it. If you were getting stares, I wonder how they are going to react to me, a large bearded man covered in tattoos walking around snapping pictures of things. Especially when I put my macro lens on and spend time getting up close with flowers and bugs, lol. Great job on this post.


I sincerely appreciate the support and encouragement you've always given me – pretty much from day one, when we were both piddly little planktons!

You already know, yet it bears repeating – I admire and respect your work in equal measure.

I'll look forward to your images of this special place. ;) I'm sure they'll be spectacular.

Thank you so much for sharing this post @zipporah! I've never been to the Taj Mahal but of course believed it to be beautiful from photos that I have seen, but your post, writing and photos, has created something entirely different for me!! The photos of the faces, the feet on the stairs, the quiet path on the way back, and of course you! All so awesome. And this,

so I responded with the only thing I could then offer; that universally recognized expression that transcends language – a smile.

You really made my heart smile today! Thank you :)


Thank you @lynncoyle1!

It's funny; I started this post aaages ago, but was only going to share a handful of photos. As I was about to post, I realized it felt kinda flat and didn't really honor that day's significance. So – I decided to evolve it into a 'travel with me' sort of piece. As this was the beginning, I may just continue sharing chronological glimpses of my year-long trip

I'm glad to know it spoke to you! <3


You're most welcome! And I for one am so pleased that you changed courses and went with this. I look forward to glimpses of the rest of your trip:)


There are already so many single photo glimpses on my blog, but – this was fun (even if a lot of work), so I suspect I'll be doing more like it! :)


I'll have to check those out @zipporah, but work aside, I hope you do 😅

These are breathtaking pictures with awesome background details. Can you please tell me the camera you used for the photographs? Thanks for sharing.


Glad you appreciate them, @greenrun! I always include that info at the bottom of my posts, yet I'm happy to repeat here; this set was shot with a Canon 5D Markii and 35mm f1.4, L-Series prime lens. (I'm admittedly a prime lens snob – I've only photographed with the highest quality, 'fast' glass for a decade now, always shooting 'wide-open'.

I so enjoyed revisiting this day as I drafted this post – I'm feeling inspired to begin sharing the rest of my journey in similar fashion, beginning with a bit of a rewind to the few days that preceded this one.

stay tuned! ;)



Oh, my bad. I missed it. Wow, those were wonderful DSLR cameras. I own a cropped frame Nikon D3300 :)


Nothing bad about asking! I was just letting you know for future reference, that you can usually find that info at the end of my photo posts. ;)

Wow! And just Wow!

All the pictures are beautiful but the ones with the people I just LOVE! That grouping with the people on the stairs and people sweeping - the colors and feel are just amazing.

Your storytelling of the adventure is just as awesome as the pictures.

I hope another post is coming with the next stop on your travels!



Yes, dear Tamala! As I mentioned above, I'd only intended to share a small handful of images – as I usually do. But it felt important, somehow, to invest a bit more into this one.

I love your enthusiast appreciation and support! <3 xo!

What a beautiful post, @zipporah <3 I love how the photos, i love how you write, i love how you brought me with you on this journey :> Thank you for sharing this !

The part where you managed to bridge a connection without language was very charming <3 A smile :> and they smiled back * ___ *

So wonderful !

Very lovely post, it really brightens my day <3


Beaming a huge smile atcha, @veryspider! It's true – it was a sincerely heart-warming moment for me. I felt all at once like an alien and and old friend. Isn't it funny how that works?hugs!


yes ! that wonderful feeling of connectedness and of people are people and people are good <3 this is what your post made me feel <3 <3 <3


you are a truly warm spirit!

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Much gratitude @travelfeed! :)

Wowsers! Truly spectacular story, pics, people and, of course, the place itself!
I was wondering about the lack of touristy people in the photos, I mean, it is India after all, and then I read your description of why.
I'm glad you pushed through to finish this post. It was a beautiful journey to be taken on...

Blissful blessings and smiles

in joy




Yep! I'm fairly certain I would not have enjoyed it had the grounds been crawling with tourists. And now, in some small way, you've been there with me! ;)


Oh definitely! And you also inadvertently gave a great travel tip - Go to the Taj Mahal during wet weather! Mental note taken... Thanks so much...


Glad to be of service! ;)

@zipporah wow, wow wow... this is such a beautiful post.. i love how you have shown the life and architecture, people and the craftmanship..its simply amazing..i loved this .. <3 been here many times and i cant wait to go back again!! love from India


Awesome! Especially as you've been there before, which I suspect most people here can't say – I'm grateful for your appreciation. I do so miss Mama India...please kiss her for me! ;)

These are breathtaking photos. Humbling. Enchanting. Thank you for showing me this place I will probably never travel to myself, and showing me more than the usual postcard photo, but the details that make the experience that much more rich and vibrant.


You're most welcome, dearest Katrina. <3 I'm so glad I stopped myself from only posting a few – there was clearly much about that day worth sharing. Thanks for joining me there.

Sweet shot of the reflection in the pool, that's an award winner there, for something at least. Looks like @curie noticed too :)


Thanks, Engine! :) I do like that shot. It was surprisingly difficult to get, for various reasons. As someone who is clearly a portrait photographer, I enjoy the challenge of making 'portraits' of buildings and other inanimate objects. :)


It's just so clear, can even see the clouds from the sky in it better than in the sky itself! Well done on the portrait :)

Absolutely exquisite photos and a superb account of this marvelous journey of yours! I can only barely imagine how your heart lept and how fulfilled it was with your travels. I am so loving these snippets into your adventures! 🤗


Glad you enjoyed it, KittyGirl! I'll admit that much of my trip was incredibly challenging, but I don't regret one second of it. • Stay tuned – I'm inspired to begin sharing the whole trip, chronologically. ;)

My wife has wanted to jump over to India for years. I've never been to interested to be honest, but as time goes on the idea grows on me... I used to assume all of India would be like Mumbai or Delhi. But your pictures just show how uneducated I was, it truly looks beautiful.


Oh, trust me – there was much about it that was very hard to witness. To some degree, I think it should be a prerequisite to being human to experience a place like India – to truly understand what 'poverty' means. The chasm between the 'haves' and 'have nots' is strikingly vast in the subcontinent. Experiencing that – in more than just a passive, peripheral, 'postcard' sense – forever changes you.

And yet...there is an ancient, untouchable beauty there, unlike anywhere else I've been. The spectrum is vast – as I'm sure is true of any place with such a rich, lengthy history. I sincerely miss being there.


Yeah Cambodia is beautiful like that.... But even living here we meet so many travelers who constantly say India is one of their favorite places for a holiday.

Wow fantastic photos!! The Taj Mahal is on my bucket list as well. So cool you discovered such incredible human interactions. hahaha love the monkey pic. He was like, "Hey, what are you doing..." haha


Right?!? That monkeys stare looked almost exactly like the stares the locals were giving me. LOL! • You really should go someday! :)


hahaha awesome! So many places on my bucket list! Need to find the time and money to go to all of them! LOL :)


Well – if you never make it – at least I've done my best to show you the most magnificent parts. ;)


hahaha for sure! And a very good job you did! :)

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You get any Henna ink over there?


Excellent question and YES! Only once, in the days that followed this one as I settled into Agra for a minute. I'll be sharing more photos from that week eventually!

Here's how the henna looked. <3


The textures, themotifs, the people, the colours... the angles...It really shows it's not a polished postcard but "through your eyes". I have never seen it... but thanks for having such a delicate soul for "details".


Glad to be able to intimately 'bring you along'! Indeed, I was so surprised by how incredibly intricate the mausoleum is. I had no idea! It really is a magnificently beautiful structure. :)

Hiya, just swinging by to let you know that this post made the Honorable mentions list in the Travel Digest #264.

Please drop by to check out all the rest of today's great posts and consider upvoting the Travel Digest if you like what we're doing.

Never seen it up close and personal like this. Pretty amazingly cool. I have to say.


Glad you agree, dear! It really was the attention to detail so clearly given during its creation that most impressed me. <3

the detail of the photos are amazing!


Thank you, Skip! ;)

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Big thanks for this sweet acknowledgement! <3

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Awesome! I've no good excuse for why it's taken me so very long to hop onto the 'worldmap' wagon! Thanks to @derangedvisions for giving me the nudge I needed. :)

wow! Well done, Zip!
Well done.


Cheers, Bluefin! ;) Thanks for stopping by!

@zipporah very nice blog indeed, now I can say that I know more about The Taj Mahal than before, excellent pictures, congratulations.


Thanks @ladyfont! Then my job is done here. ;)

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wow incredible nice photos. really love your work. I haven´t been there and will probably never be, but thanks to your images I can imagine how it is to be there.

Wonderful photos!


Thank you! :)

I am your newest follower. I saw your photo on @derangedvision 's post. Omg you must tell me more about that American Indian (I am assuming american) photo.
Also I love the Taj Mahal. My husband and I went there like 35 yrs ago and got some photos. Back then they limited how much film (digital did not exist, yet) you could bring in the country. I remember all the shoes at the front door.

The fact the guy built the building out of love, I am trying to get my husband to build me a tiny home.

I am also @rebeccabe so I have to sign in as her to tip you because your photography is bringing back great memories for me.


@photobe sent me Tip! .50


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I messed up and will redo..sorry the account with tipu is through rebeccabe I will set one up through photobe my new account and send you a tip. I need to make sure which one is open in the future.

Done I sent the tip as a reply on a separate comment to be sure it works.. again great photography!

Absolutely stunning and beautiful photos. I agree, the muted light seems to really bring out something rather ethereal about the stone work and other particulars that make up the grounds. Such a contrast to the people photos, and you really captured them well. I suppose no matter where you go, people are people, and we are all so much the same at heart. I love that they just stared at you with such rapt fascination and wonder, and absolutely no pretense.

I haven't traveled as much as you, but when I have, the pace of letting the visit and sense of place determine direction and time, seems to me to be the best way. So glad you discovered that early on in your trip. There is SO much to see, and truly experience with the people that make up the place, and the only way to fully realize it is through full immersion. I so love that part of travel.

I spent time in NZ, and hanging with the locals and some travel pals, watching the busloads of 'jump out, snap a group photo, jump back on and get to spot #127, ASAP' was a fun way to spend the day. Not that there is anything WRONG with that way of travel, just think one misses so much of the real destination you are visiting. No plan, is the best plan, and any new direction, the most fun and direct. I look forward to seeing more of your journey. I'm catching up on things I've missed, just discovering your blog. Hope the rest of Sunday is a nice one.

Some wonderful images and descriptions @zipporah!

I spent a fair bit of time in Agra, despite it being mostly a shithole. I spent most of my time walking the narrow alleys of markets and shops, where I wouldn't see another westerner all day for days in a row. And you've captured the locals so well in these images. That slightly intense look/stare from that guy with the pen in his pocket is so classic India. An ability to almost stare right through you without any self-consciousness at all.

Again, great blog post, and I'm following you to see more like this. :)

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Such a great write up. Actually those are the first pictures I have seen of the Taj Mahal that weren't the iconic front facade. I actually like those red sandstone structures a lot more than the mausoleum! (pretty funny how you became the main attraction for everyone even the monkey lol)

You've been curated by Revo! :)

These photos are incredible! Glad you went while it was not too crowded. And I loved how everyone was staring at you curiously. 😊

Great photos! I wish I could travel the world like that.

I just saw your message to me from 15 days ago. I just want you to know that I'm still here. Been going through a bit of blah lately. I will try to get back on board soon! I promise.

You take absolutely beautiful photos!
The way the buildings are made are just gorgeous with all the details. I dream of going to places like this. What a true blessing that is. I hope you enjoyed yourself. Looks like you had a wonderful time.