This is #30, in my series 'the making of 40 photographs.
As we go along as landscape photographers, I feel we settle into a way of shooting. In my own case, I have a tendency to restrict myself to shooting in soft light only, but as time has gone on, I’m finding that there is a much more interesting world out there to be found in overcast, dull, rainy days, and of course - foggy days too.
We really have to ‘think outside the box’ as photographers if we want to move on with our imagery, and we have to remove any walls that we have put up over time. This is one of the biggest things I see in students on my workshops: preconceived ideas of what they want to shoot, and a real dislocation when they arrive at a spot and ‘can’t find anything worth shooting’. They have placed a limitation on their own creativity. We must learn to use what is presented to us, rather than force our own will upon our surroundings - it’s very easy to turn up at a special place like the Taj Mahal with a mind already filled with a fixed idea of what we want to capture. That certainly happened to me when I came here in January 2009. It’s hard not to with such an iconic structure. I’m big on visualization, building up a mental picture of how I see the ‘final print’ is an important step, but it can be dangerous to come along to some place I know well from seeing it in many books, and ‘limit’ or close my mind to other opportunities.
When I arrived in Agra on the first morning here, I was initially frustrated at the thick heavy smog. I initially thought it would be useless to try and photograph the Taj Mahal in such low visibility, but once I’d accepted my surroundings, I seemed to get along with the environment and before I knew it, I had made quite a few images of the place which I now see as a very different approach to the Taj Mahal, and I’ve certainly had a lot of correspondence from visitors to my site who share my feelings too.
So here are two pictures taken at the Taj Mahal while the entire complex was shrouded in smog. The first is of the building with a glimpse of a tourist in the middle of the shot.
It’s one of my favourite images of the place now. Walking around with my Mamiya 7, I shot the camera wide open with +1 exposure compensation to compensate for the smog.
The second image was taken in the gardens. I love repeating patterns in images and I felt that the trees were an ‘echo’ falling into the distance. Fog is a great device for isolating subjects, and the extremely soft, diffused, directionless light that it provides can be used to great effect.
Although my initial reactions where those of disappointment at not getting the usual ‘Taj Mahal at sunrise’ shot, I feel that I did eventually ‘get it’ and started to go with the flow - I went with what was presented to me and made the most of it. I now feel extremely proud of these images, as I’m sure it would have been only too easy to put the camera away and think there was nothing there to capture. I could have been so wrong.