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Posted on 24th March, 2012

India trip,

to Bhuj, Jaisalmer, Delhi, Haridwar, and Amritsar.


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It's late March 2012 now, and I'm well aware that I've neglected this photo website, the Guardian Camera Club, and Twitter for far too long. I should add however that in my opinion there are mitigating circumstances, although I doubt all would see it like that. My excuse is that I've been to India for the whole of February, which resulted from a relatively late go-ahead decision in mid-December. Six weeks in advance is definitely too short a time to book such a trip, as it needs lots of careful preparation and planning to get good value from your time. For instance, a big problem is that trains are often fully-booked 2 months in advance, leaving an unsatisfactory choice of airline, or, if you are brave / stupid enough, road. Anyway, I thought that if I missed this winter, my passport would be too close to expiring for a winter 2012/13 trip to be possible. I therefore decided to book the British Airways flight, and to visit Bhuj, Jaisalmer, Haridwar and Amritsar to take people pics. I then had no choice but to make the best of it.


Eating a green chilli in Kutch, Gujarat, India


As it turned out, it was not the best of trips. I caught the obligatory Delhi Belly, suffered from chest / throat / head congestion as a result of the terrible air pollution, had the aching limbs that typify a dose of flu for several days, had very bad acid indigestion on a couple of occasions, and managed to get sciatica in my left leg. This was all in addition to the painful lower right leg that had been troubling me for months, and the painful right shoulder that heavy camera bags had given me in recent months. All in all then, I could have been the perfect specimen for Indian GP's to practise on.


I know it could sound odd to say that I may have had flu in India, but it's surprising just how cold it was after sundown in Bhuj and Jaisalmer. Being in or near the Thar Desert, temperatures vary from one extreme to the other, depending on whether it's day or night. I had been warned about the coldness of the desert, but I assumed that it meant rural parts, not within the cities of the desert themselves. After all, when it's absolutely freezing in Essex (eg), London can still be bearable. The acid indigestion probably resulted from downing too much spiced food after my Delhi Belly had cleared, and, the sciatica started I think when I went for a shave / haircut on my last afternoon in the city of Bhuj. The chair that the barber used hadn't any vertical adjustment, and as the barber was not too tall, I had to slouch down: a perfect way to get sciatica. Still, what's another problem when you're already worn out? Worn out I was too, to the extent that I abandoned my plans to go to Haridwar and Amritsar, and instead saw out the last third of the month in Delhi.


Regarding the main purpose of the trip, ie: photography, it was also a disappointment unfortunately. I took approx 1600 pics. However, many were spoilt by camera shake, subject movement, poor exposure, kids fighting each other in the background to try to get into the shot, eyes blinking, faces looking away, dismembered arms, legs and heads flying into the frame, etc, etc. In addition, many images were very similar, as I often took multiple shots just to ensure that I had at least one that would make a decent enlargement. Even that approach didn't work too well though, as there was always the battle with extremes of contrast. I did use flash on some shoots, but as that kills the atmosphere too much, you're stuck in effect between a rock and a hard place. I also moved subjects into the shade where possible, but you can't do that with the more frail people I wanted to capture. And I know plenty of people will advise shooting in early-morning and late-afternoon light, but we don't all have the means to do everything exactly as we want, do we?


In summary then, I probably have about 100 images that are technically OK to print. Of those though, I wouldn't want to print more than a handful, as there were virtually none that gave me what I desperately want: the expressive look in the eye, or, the decisive moment, that typifies the work of my hero in this area, Steve McCurry. Even so, to see how they come out, I've decided to have several images printed that are not 100% perfect technically, but are of interesting subjects. As these are being produced via Lidl, the cost isn't outrageous by any means, and, because the work is actually done by top printing company Cewe / Photoworld, I know from experience that they will do the best-possible job with them.


So, I'm back in Blighty, and I'm gradually getting back into things: I'll keep you posted. Mind you, it's been so long since I last posted a blog entry, how do I get this onto the website I wonder?


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