1001 Arabian Nights and the Wily Scheherazade

Do you recall this tale?

The Persian king Shahryar got somewhat upset with one of his wives, had her killed, then married a fresh virgin each day. Then he had them beheaded the following day, which was generally bad in form. Then, as the kingdom ran out of women, the vizier’s own daughter, Scheherazade, married the king with a plan… She told him such interesting stories and things night after night (1,001, to be exact), he became endlessly enraptured.

1001 Arabian Nights and the Wily Scheherazade

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Stopping for a snack on the way to Agra

The road between Delhi and Agra is really somthin’ else. If you are not swerving around giant potholes, it could easily be a dead cow, a live cow, or something in between. It’s never good to make fun of the cows with your driver, so that is right out.

I’m adventurous on these things… probably too adventurous. I always like to try new foods, and I’ll eat about anything from street vendors. Usually if it looks thoroughly cooked, it generally won’t get me sick…I’ve developed a tough stomach, although I did end up getting a bit sick in Mumbai… but I think that is because I was dumb and let some mysterious ice melt in my cup.

It was a long drive to Agra, and in little towns, the traffic would slow. I occasionally jumped out of the car to get some little snack (and take photos, of course!). Here is one of an interesting chap that had some food I could not pronounce.

Stopping for a snack on the way to Agra

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Alone and Dejected in a Strange Place

I sensed a profound sadness in him. He was totally alone, seemingly waiting there for someone or something. I’ll never forget it.

His name was Marzouq. He was nice and solemn. As we talked I certainly felt an emptiness there with him. I’m not sure what it was, but it was like there was something wholly unrealized in his life. While we talked, he looked at me strangely at times, a look of not knowing what to think of me and accepting me at the same time. It was comforting, and he was nice to talk to. He created the distinct impression that he was thinking about my questions before answering.

We were there, totally alone, in an unexpected rear corner of a Moghul monument. I always like to go around the backside and try to see the things that are not obvious.

After sitting to rest and talking a bit, he motioned behind him with a quick glance and raised eyebrows, and said cheerfully, “Want to see the bats?”

I said, “Are you kidding? Let’s go.”

Marzouq ducked down about ten feet from a smallish door with hard black shadows shooting inside. He began a near crab walk even while approaching the tiny door. I ducked my head too, which felt strange in the open air. Maybe he was afraid of bats streaming out, which I suddenly realized, causing me to duck down a little more than him.

He made little grunting sounds and kept waving his hand to the side for me to follow. After entering the door, a short walk, and a few turns, we ended up in what felt like a chamber. It could have been darker in there, but I don’t know how. He grunted in a way like “watch this” and he flipped on a flashlight, shining it up into the half-domed room. There were hundreds of bats hanging there, totally silent. It was eerie as heck. I set up my camera but it was way too dark even with a slow shutter speed… and I didn’t feel like light-painting with the flashlight because I thought it might look stupid and not really capture the mood anyway. We sat in there for a while handing the flashlight back and forth and making little grunt sounds. It was very strange, but entirely delightful.

Alone and Dejected in a Strange Place (by Stuck in Customs)

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Alone in the Bhagavad

I feel like I end up walking alone through the epic book of the Bhagavad Gita. These mythical places are made manifest in unexpected ways as I look around. It feels somewhat empty inside, like it needs to be shared with someone. The only devastated remnants I have are these little pictures, which seem a poor substitute.

Alone in the Bhagavad

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Spending Time Inside My Head

I do tend to distract myself, rather than have ample time to sit around and think about things. Why I drive myself to distraction is another matter altogether, but one that usually has delicious complications. And then I come across men like this one, several hundreds of miles north of Delhi in India. He has nothing but time to sit around and think about things. I wonder if he is able to better figure things out.

Spending Time Inside My Head

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The Taj, Framed

I recently gave a few talks here in Austin (one at UT and one at ACC) about photography, this technique, and various other meandering topics on the brain and perception that I hope did not bore the crowd! This is one of the photos that we worked on during the class, so I thought I would upload to share with everyone!

I also provided a link to my tutorial in the class… here it is for those of you that are interested!

The Taj, Framed

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Khamali in the shadows of Moghuls

Khamali sat there smiling at me every time I walked by. I would always smile back at her and nod in a generally friendly way. She didn’t ask me for money or anything, although she seemed to ask others, I noticed.

I passed her a fourth time because I was going back to the temple as the light was changing.

She bobbled her head in a pleasant manner. I stopped to give her some rupees and she quickly secured them in the folds of her saree. I made the international sign for “can I please take your picture”, and she shook excitedly as some nearby boys came over to watch.

Khamali in the shadows of Moghuls

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The Private Entrance

This red-stoned temple had hundreds of tiny rooms scattered all over the grounds. The light streamed in from many angles to light up the walls and carved details. I only wish I was around 1000 years ago with my anachronistic digital camera… that would have been good, except for the no flickr part.

The Private Entrance

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The Red Palacial Tower

Here within the sprawling palace of Akbar, just outside of Agra, is another intricately designed tower. The redness of everything was even hotter in the Indian sun, and the deep textures bled through.

The Red Palacial Tower

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Hindu Daily Offerings

I was at a small temple between Agra and Delhi, and spent some time there, walking around and enjoying the sights and the people. Soon, some of these elders came along to make their daily offerings. I nodded to them with the camera, and I got a happy bobble back, so I followed them around a bit with the camera as they glided around the temple.

Hindu Daily Offerings

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