India, Here I Come Again!

I’ve been fascinated by India for a long time, and in March of 2007 I made a 12-day trip to Delhi, Jaipur, Agra and Varanasi. I’ve never been much of a backpacker, so I joined a tour group. The trip was very well organized, but being part of a group was a mixed blessing. I never had to care about how to get around, where to sleep or what to eat and the fixed schedule allowed me to see many things in a short time. But it also meant that someone else decided when and for how long I will be at a certain place. In order to have enough time for photography I usually got up early or separated myself from the group, but I still had to be in the bus when the group was leaving. And those prearranged meals and hotels sure were hygienic, quiet and comfortable, but too bland and sterile for my taste.

Woman in Lal Quila

Anyhow, the trip in 2007 was great and I came back with several good images, but for my next trip I wanted a different experience. Ideally I wanted to go together with another photographer, have a more relaxed schedule and travel by car some of the time so that we could decide where to drive and when to make a stop. Trains might be faster and more comfortable, but the roads in India are absolutely fascinating and a traffic congestion is the best thing that can happen to a people-photographer (which I’m not, but want to be — at least while in India).

Two Men in Orchha

I tried to inspire a few of my photographer-friends to come along, but in the end no one had the time or inspiration, so I’ll be going alone. I am not thrilled about having to master all the logistics on my own, but I’m nonetheless very happy and excited!

Camel Rider

Now I have a thousand things to think about and three weeks to prepare everything, but at least I’m not totally unexperienced. Here is what I learned from my first trip:

  • Have enough memory cards at hand. In 2007 I had 8 GB and in the end it was enough, but during the first days I had my doubts, even after constantly erasing all bad images.
  • Shoot only RAW. During my last trip I shot JPGs for 2 days because I feared that I won’t have enough memory cards. As a result I now have a few great images without RAW “negatives” (for example the “Camel Rider” directly above).
  • Bring a backup medium. In 2007 I didn’t make any backups and still didn’t lose any images, but I was worried all the time, so extra for this trip I’ve bought a backup drive. That’s a good thing of course, but now I have one more device to take care of and one more battery charger to lug around. 😦

Woman with Child in Orchha

Here are some tough decisions that I still have to make:

  • Which equipment should I take? A Canon 30D, 17-40/4, 50/1.8, 70-200/4 and a 420EX flash are my standard tools, but what about a wider wide-angle, a longer tele, or a macro? I could probably borrow such lenses from my friends.
  • How about a tripod? I won’t need it much, but maybe it’s worth having it around anyway?
  • Should I buy a 5D and 24-105/4 IS before the trip? It’s way too much money, but having one IS lens that covers extreme wide-angle to moderate-tele all in one means sharper images, no lens swapping, faster handling and less dust on the sensor. I’m tempted, but I guess I won’t do it…
  • How many memory cards should I take? Right now I’m thinking 10-12 GB should be enough (1110–1332 RAW images), as I will be erasing bad images daily. I’m going to have to have to borrow a few cards.
  • What’s my backup strategy? I plan on having enough memory cards so that I don’t have to erase any good images. Every night I’ll be copying the cards from that day onto a Hyperdrive Colorspace, and this will be my backup. I guess I’ll carry the cards in the camera bag all the time and have the hard-drive in my suitcase back in the hotel. Whenever I get a chance, I’ll try to burn my images on a DVD in some internet cafe.
  • Should I borrow a back-up body? Last year I borrowed a Canon 300D, which I never needed, but it was good having it with me. But since it has a different battery, I had to carry one more battery charger with me. This is where the 5D becomes attractive again: a 5D with 24-105 and a 30D with 70-200/4, four batteries and just one charger make very much sense, but I don’t want to carry so much weight all the time.
  • What other batteries, chargers, cables and power adapters will I need?
  • Which camera bag should I take? I have two: one for one body, three lenses and a flash, and another one for one body, four medium-sized and one larger lens. I think I’ll bring both and each morning choose which one fits better for that day.

Boy, and these are only the photography-related questions… 🙄

Man in Varanasi

PS: Don’t forget — you can click on any image to enlarge it.