A Day Out In Delhi

Sweeping leaves at the Red Fort

Sweeping the Red Fort

I’ve always wanted to visit India and finally got my chance to go to Delhi at the end of October. I’m absolutely loving it here, the post monsoon weather is cooler than usual, about the temperature of a hot summer day in the UK which is bearable. Tomorrow I’m going to the markets in Old Delhi to try and capture some of the hustle and bustle of this extraordinary town. It will be my last chance because I’m flying down to Bangalore in the evening.

I thought I’d offer some sage advice at this stage to anyone thinking of visiting Delhi with an expensive camera. Delhi makes a big impression. I walked out of the airport at 5am local time to be confronted with a sea of faces, taxi drivers touting for trade. The noise and the smell struck me like a wall. Pollution is a major problem and the air is heavy with it. The modus operandi of drivers in Delhi is to ignore the concept of lanes, right of way, personal safety etc and go hell for leather into any possible gap. Oh yes, the horn is used all the time. It’s bedlam out there!

I’ve come to the conclusion that the best, even only, way to photograph any city is to walk. There’s no getting around it, you have to be on the ground to see the opportunities. Delhi is huge, and some areas, trust me, you just don’t want to visit, so walking is difficult because the ‘must see’ sites are pretty distributed. There is a bus service, though god knows where it goes and why. The subway is a good option, cheap and much calmer than the streets, but coverage is incomplete. I decided, on the back of my time being substantially reduced, to hire a driver with a car. The cost was less than £20 a day. Watch out though, the hotel tried to charge me £40.

A car cannot navigate the back streets of old Delhi, so I arranged to meet my driver at various spots. He would drive me to where I wanted to go, I’d go off for a couple of hours and take pictures, phone him and he’d come and pick me up. Worked like a dream. The only downside was that hanging around makes you a sitting target for touts, beggars and thieves. Watch your personal space and ignore the beggars!

The other tips I’d mention are equipment related. I use a Kata 3n1 bag to carry my kit. They are tough, pretty secure and can be worn at front or back, sling style or rucksack. Easy for you to get at the camera, not so easy for anyone else. Tripods are not allowed at some locations, I had to use all my powers of persuasion to get into Humayun’s Tomb, and because of the pollution the sky is a uniform grey colour. Not much point taking ND Filters, there are no clouds visible.

For all this, Delhi is by some distance the most exciting city I’ve ever visited – the squalor, the ramshackle buildings – people flying around on motorbikes and scooters, the noise is unbelievable! And quite intimidating at first – give it a go, its an essential, life affirming experience.

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