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Best View Of The Taj Mahal






The white mausoleum of the Taj Mahal, with its two adjacent red sandstone mosques, beautifully reflected in the Yamuna River.

Intro: After arriving at the Taj Mahal before sunrise to capture some people-free shots, our tour guide led us a little off-the-beaten path to get a totally different perspective from the Yamuna River.

After visiting the Taj Mahal during sunset, Charlene and I had plans to visit it again the following morning at sunrise. As a travel photographer, I was not very happy with the shots that I took the day before and wanted to get some more with the right lighting and composition. Having said that, we decided to arrive at the Taj Mahal before the gates opened for visitors at 6AM. But surprisingly, when we reached the entrance around 5:45AM, there were already a good amount of inquisitive visitors like us, waiting to get in.

When it came to photographing the Taj Mahal, I didn’t just want conventional, touristy shots, but sought to find a different perspective. I am a great admirer of the photos that travel photographer Peter Adams took of the Taj Mahal from its backside along the Yamuna River, and I had a vision to create something similar. Not the same frames that Adams did, but something that offered a local and alternative perspective.

When the main entrance gates to the Taj Mahal finally opened, Charlene and I went inside and I didn’t waste any time in grabbing some photos. But as the site quickly filled up, it was nearly impossible to get photos without people blocking the view or walking into the frame.

The small, dusty laneways behind the Taj Mahal are a world away from the grand elegance of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I had conveyed to our tour guide Shankar that I wanted to capture the Taj Mahal from a more authentic perspective, and as he could see me getting frustrated trying to photograph inside the complex, he led us out to see a completely different side of this historic complex. We exited and began to walk around the structure, eventually ending up on its backside. As we got away from the hectic crowds and started to experience a more local vibe, I felt excited about the photographic opportunities that might arise.

Renovation work taking place on the backside of one of the Taj Mahal’s red sandstone mosques.

At the backside of the Taj Mahal was an elderly man, with aged and endearing eyes, who seemed a little perplexed to see us on this side of the complex. When I saw his boat moored on the edge of the Yamuna River, I knew immediately what I wanted to do.

A boat man empties his vessel of water before taking us on a boat ride along the Yamuna River.

Charlene, who knew how important it was for me to capture the Taj Mahal photos I had envisioned, was happily willing to accompany me on the boat. When we expressed our desire to Shankar, he spoke with the boat man and managed to convince him to take us for a 15-20 minute ride in his boat, for a fee of around $20USD.

After the boat man agreed, he took out a bucket and began to empty the water from his boat, which seemed quite dilapidated. After seeing the condition of the boat, I was bit apprehensive as to whether it would even stay afloat, and given the fact that I’m thirty-two years old now and still can’t swim, I felt even more nervous than usual. Regardless of that, I knew I had to take a chance if I wanted to capture the photos I had envisioned, so Charlene, Shankar, and myself got inside the boat.

A perfect reflection of Agra’s Taj Mahal during our early morning boat ride along Agra’s Yamuna River.

As the boat man rowed us into the middle of the Yamuna River, we looked back across at the magnificent view of the Taj Mahal, glistening a golden hue. I felt like I could take photos of what lay before my eyes forever! How often in my lifetime was I going to see one of the world’s great wonders, reflected so beautifully in the morning light? By now the sun had come up and completely bathed the Taj Mahal, creating a photographer’s dream, but before I knew it our time was up and we were heading back for the shore.


Our boat man with the Taj Mahal beautifully reflected in the Yamuna River behind.

Regardless of the time constraint, I was very happy with the photos I captured that morning, particularly because I felt it was a very different perspective of the Taj Mahal (both figuratively and literally). While heading back from the Yamuna River to our car, we spotted a very curious monkey hanging out along the village road, as well as two men wrestling each other in which what appeared like an exhibition match. To minimize the amount of walking we had to do and save a bit of time, we hired a rickshaw driver to take us from the river all the way back to the main entrance of the Taj Mahal.


Looking back towards the white mausoleum and a red sandstone mosque of the Taj Mahal from the Yamuna River.

Like with most excursions during our India trip, I had taken two different 5DM3 bodies with me, one with the 24-70mm f/2.8L lens and the other with the 70-200mm f/2.8L IS. Due to security restrictions at the Taj Mahal main entrance gate, I had left my tripod in the car, and it probably wasn’t necessary or useful (certainly while on the boat).

Charlene during our boat ride on the Yamuna River, with the Taj Mahal reflected in the waters behind.

Overall, seeing the Taj Mahal from a completely different perspective was an unforgettable experience for me, and certainly one of the absolute best during our time in India. Sometimes getting off the beaten path at major tourist attractions can result in the most memorable shots (even if it is somewhat not allowed by local regulations). Having a personal tour guide like Shankar and a bit of time (along with an understanding wife) made it possible for me to go on a side excursion and realize my dream of capturing a different side to the Taj Mahal.

Our boat man steers his boat along the shores of the Yamuna River, before our short tour to witness the Taj Mahal from the water.

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