Taj Mahal question

Discussion in 'Travel' started by david_gardner|6, Jan 8, 2013.

  1. I am in receipt of an e-mail from the Ministry of Antiquities telling me the "no professional camera equipment is allowed on the Taj grounds." Surely this cannot be true. am I facing a language barrier here? Are they telling me, perhaps, that they don't allow filming or something like that?
     
  2. David, I can tell you for certain that tripods are not permitted in any area controlled by the Archaeological Survey of India. About cameras, I am not sure: but I think a small charge has to be paid for an SLR. The expression "professional camera equipment" is imprecise and can be interpreted in any way one likes. Just who sent you the e-mail? I ask because there is, to my knowledge, no Ministry of Antiquities.
     
  3. Semi related, but the story of this outfit's successful effort to take aerial panoramas of the Taj Majal is worth reading. Their panoramas are stunning.
    http://www.airpano.com/360Degree-VirtualTour.php?3D=Taj-Mahal-India
     
  4. "Photography is strictly prohibited inside the mausoleum.

    "Any kind of gadgets starting from Tripods, laptops, MP3, mobile chargers, music systems or other electronic goods with exception to
    video cameras are not allowed to be carried inside the Taj complex.

    "Video cameras and ordinary cameras are allowed at the entry gates and till the red sand stone platform which is at the main entrance of
    the Taj complex. There is a nominal charge at the entrance of Rs.25/- for every video camera that guests wish to carry inside the Taj
    compound. (...)"

    Source: http://www.roseindia.net/travel/india/agra/tajmahal/rules-and-regulations-taj-mahal.shtml
     
  5. Mukul - I've been through a chain of e-mails, like one would face with any bureaucracy. I could swear I started off with a contact in a Ministry of Antiquities, but I might well be wrong. I'll double-check the source of the last response and post it tomorrow.

    Ben - I had seen the item about no photography in the mausoleum. I had assumed (incorrectly?) that that meant in the interior of the building, not the grounds.

    So I guess my question is this: if no cameras are allows in the grounds, where do all these beautiful Taj shots come from? Are there tons of people smuggling cameras inside? Are people shooting from nearby with huge telephone lenses? (and if so, how are they stabilizing the cameras?) Seriously, this doesn't seem to make sense.
     
  6. "Photography is strictly prohibited inside the mausoleum.​
    When I visited the Taj Mahal (1997, things may have changed since then) photography was stricly forbidden inside the main building where Mumtaz Mahal is buried, this is the main room in the domed building. The inner courtyard and the outside of the mausoleum could be photographed. There was strict control of photograpy, not of the type of camera, SLRs were no problem.
     
  7. Just as a general principle--as true in the USA or Germany, as in India, there is a strong argument for never asking any official whether or not you can do something.
    If you ask, that forces a bureaucrat to think on the matter, and they will normally take the safest path, which is usually to say "no", to be on the safe side.
    And for heaven's sake, never ask at the site itself, for the same reason. Walk in, knowing exactly what you are doing (in appearance). If you are stopped, politely indicate that you are a mere amateur of the lowest degree, and that no possible "professional" character could be attributed to your modest and puny equipment.
    Of course, this latter advice becomes harder to pull off if you are carrying a vast number of large white lenses and two or three large bodies (camera, that is). It also helps to carry your camera equipment inside a bag that does not look like a camera bag.
    I might add, that the problem is not altogether different than photography in public places these days, anywhere.
     
  8. As JDM says, don't ask. Professional is Hasselblad and up, not a humble Canon or Nikon DSLR :).
    But don't try to take a picture inside the mausoleum, don't even think of it. Taj Mahal is the only place I have been in India where the "no photography message" is strictly enforced.
     
  9. However, I had an interesting experience there in 1999 when I attempted to enter with my pocket knife. They regulate many items because they are quite concerned about a terrorist attack. Knives being one of those. I figured I could ignore that restriction.
    When I went to pass by the guard he immediately hit the knife in my pant pocket with his hand and told me I could not enter with it. They had a spot where you can leave banned items, and pick those up later.
    They never once peered into, or even looked at my camera bag. I didn't think of taking a tripod though, likely because the sun was out. Because of that unerring, uncanny ability to identify my pocket knife, I am convinced the guard would have looked into the camera bag, had the knife been in there instead.
    It was a bit of an effort to get to Agra which I would not have gone to if I had been traveling by myself, but I found the visit quite worth it, inspiring and informative. So I went back again the next day.
    It was good I did so, and started another roll of film, because on the way out through Singapore, airport security switched my first roll of shots there with another passenger's. So I lost almost every photo I did at Agra.
     
  10. Hmmm, Richard, I can see how that could be very agra-vating.
    [sorry, don't know what came over me......]
     
  11. David, cameras are allowed on the grounds outside the building (as noted in my earlier post):

    "... cameras are allowed [from] the entry gates [up to] the red sand stone platform [located] at the main entrance of the Taj
    complex."
     
  12. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    David. I think you are misunderstanding. I photographed the Taj Mahal extensively last February. Here's how I understand it.
    • There are no tripods allowed. It is in theory possible to get a permit from the Ministy of Archaeology (I think) to get permission to use a tripod at a particular site and date but it might well take a bit of time. Otherwise the ban extends to not being able to access the sites carrying a tripod. Promising not to use it doesn't work, so leave it at your hotel/with your driver.
    • I had no problems using professional dslr and big white lenses at the Taj Mahal or anywhere else in India, carried in what is obviously a camera bag. Most of the sites make a charge for cameras, and it may be more for big cameras than small ones, though it isn't prohibitive anywhere. It is certainly more for video cameras- though they didn't spot the fact that my 5Dii will take video- and indeed I took no video. Back in my medium format days I got a lot of questions about whether it was a video camera because it was big.
    • You can't take phoytographs inside the Taj Mahal, but you can take photographs inside most other olaces- if your camera settings allow you since its pretty dark.
    • You can ( and I did, along with hundreds of others ) photograph right up to the main mausoleum itself. Just don't photograph inside it.
    I took c 2500 shots in India early last year and I reckon that well under 10% were with tripod. Either on historical sites, or on the street where there might not be room for tripods and certainly no time to erect one for the opportunities are transient.
    00bDcN-512933584.jpg
     
  13. How about monopods? Though, I had one experience in the U.S. where a monopod was interpreted as being a tripod and I was required to leave it behind at the entrance.
     
  14. Thanks for all the feedback.
    @JDM von Weinberg & Jos van Eekelen
    Just as a general principle--as true in the USA or Germany, as in India, there is a strong argument for never asking any official whether or not you can do something.
    Typically I’m in favor of the “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” school. However, my research for this trip revealed that people who try to bring in forbidden items are sent back to the back of the security check-in line. Since I’d like to arrange to be there for first light, I wanted to avoid that scenario.
    For the record, since a lot of folks seem to assume that I was asking about tripods, I was not. Knowing that tripods and monopods are forbidden, I was asking about something like a Cotton Carrier that wouldn’t touch anything but me.
    @Ben Evans & David Henderson
    Thanks for the info. I guess what I’m not understanding, then, is what and where is the “red stone platform”? When it says “at the entrance to the complex” it sounds to me like it’s a significant distance, say, hundreds of feet at the least, from any of the buildings. Is this not the case?
    @Bill De Jager
    I love monopods, but I’ve had too many instances even in the US when I’ve heard people asking “Is that guy carrying a gun?” J
     
  15. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I can only speak of my experience. However that experience is recent (less than a year ago) and multiple (several admissions over a few days).
    • I have no idea what is this stuff about a "red sandstone plinth". As far as I can see you can take photographs quite happily and without interference right up to the base of the mausoleum itself. The photograph I posted above indicates that the plinth on which the mausoleum sits is marble not red sandstone, and if you can see the tiny people up on that plinth in front of the mausoleum itself, well you can photograph from up there. Seriously so long as you are prepared to work hand-held, and refrain from photography inside the mausoleum, you can take pictures anywhere, and people do, in droves. I've attached another picture to show how close you can photograph.
    • Your biggest barrier to photography in there is your fellow guest. The Taj is busy. Don't assume that by getting there a half hour before opening you'll have the place to yourself. The queue to buy tickets is followed by a short electric bus trip which is followed by a big security line even before it opens. The place does look different at different times of day, and is by repute even busier on Sundays. I found the lines shortest mid-afternoon.
    00bDnR-513063584.jpg
     
  16. "However, I had an interesting experience there in 1999 when I attempted to enter with my pocket knife. They regulate many items because they are quite concerned about a terrorist attack. Knives being one of those. I figured I could ignore that restriction.
    When I went to pass by the guard he immediately hit the knife in my pant pocket with his hand and told me I could not enter with it. They had a spot where you can leave banned items, and pick those up later."
    Most emphatically, yes. This should be the main concern of anyone wanting to avoid unnecessary hassle at the security checks. It applies not only to pocket knifes but also to scissors (including small ones), nail files, etc - everything with a sharp point. Security personnel are on the watch for these items, not for professional cameras. It has nothing to do with terrorism; rather, they want to be really sure that no *E#* idiot will scratch his name on the Taj's walls.
     
  17. Well most likely that is the actual case. But the reason I was given back ~14 years ago is what I stated.
    And just as a data point, India was actually at war with Pakistan back then. But it still was a big surprise to me when they mentioned in the office their concern about missiles which could be sent down their way from there.
    And the red sandstone which is mentioned above, is referring to the massive wall which surrounds the site, and that entrance opens to a 'platform' on the inside. You need to get to the other side of the wall to photograph the Taj up close by passing though security.
     
  18. Well, all I can do is take the camera and hope for the best :) I'll take my phone as a back-up, I guess. For those who were successful getting a camera inside, did you have more than one lens?
     
  19. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I do believe that your concerns are not real. In my case several lenses, including one big white one.
     
  20. Right your concerns are not validated by our experience. Like I said above the guard never checked my camera bag the three times I went through the security line. Nor was there any interest in them doing so.
    And I would never travel nor carry only one lens, excepting for my phone.
     
  21. David Gardner, thanks for your response. The idea of having my monopod mistaken for a gun had not occurred to me and I have not had that particular problem... yet. However the implications are scary, especially after recent incidents of gun violence. It would not be good to be mistaken for a gunman, especially by a security guard or law enforcement officer. I'll make it a point to be careful in how I hold and move my monopod in public. So far I have nearly always used it in natural areas where it seems to be regarded as a kind of tripod.
     
  22. Thanks again for all the responses. In general, I think those of you say I'm over-reacting may be right. Historically though, if there's a way to find trouble, I will find it :)
     
  23. I have never personally used this trick, but: on various occasions in places around the world where tripods or even monopods are forbidded, I have seen people using a surrogate in the form of a thick/strong strip of tissue of appropriate length, attached to the usual female thread in the bottom plate of the camera. You place your foot firmly on the other end of the strip and pull the camera up while leaning slightly backward - and if the strip has been cut to the right leght (this requires some experimenting) the camera will come up to your eye, while being kept reasonably steady by your hands and the strip.
     
  24. I'm happy to report that the trip is complete and I had no problems whatsoever. Walked right in, no checks at all, and considering the very small amount of time I had there, I got some OK shots.
     
  25. "Photography is strictly prohibited inside the mausoleum. Any kind of gadgets starting from Tripods, laptops, MP3, mobile chargers, music systems or other electronic goods with exception to video cameras are not allowed to be carried inside the Taj complex" So, Don't even think of it..
    By the way, I've made a video on Taj Mahal. Check it out from here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HFRvu1on6w
    Thank You
     

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