On this photoshoot I was using two cameras I hadn’t used extensively before. The mains stills camera was the Sony A6000 interchangeable lens camera with two lenses covering 15-50mm and what is effectively 105-315mm. I was pleased with the results from this camera as even in very low lighting it gives photos with less noise, and on the high end of the telephoto, where stability is normally an issue, the stabilisation feature worked very well.
The second camera is the LG-R105 360° camera, which also performed well, giving good all round views so that people can see the site from all angles. There were a few problems with this: the main one being that when photographing in caves there is normally a bright light source at one end of the cave which would burn out the exposure at that side, and produce a lot of noise in the photo. The two cameras cost around USD $1,000 but gave results which will last, I hope, and when everything is published be of help to others a long time into the future.
Some other problems we faced: at many of the sites we visited they wouldn’t allow camera stands (why this rule is instituted I never worked out), which then required holding the 360° camera on a selfie stick and therefore being in the photo; and, secondly, getting people out of the picture often required cooperation from the guards and cleaners at the sites, although I planned the trip deliberately to be in the off-season, especially at the more popular sites, so we were fortunate in not having too many visitors to move away.
Over the past eight years I have visited and photographed at many historical and pilgrimage sites throughout south and south-east Asia, and one thing I learned very quickly is that it is almost impossible to complete the photography in any larger site, or group of sites, in one trip, it can sometimes be done in two, but often takes more than that: Borobudur – admittedly a large and complex shoot – took around five visits before I was satisfied.
This was the second photoshoot I have made in India since starting this work in 2009. Both trips were very tight on time, and India, being a big country, requires a lot of traveling between sites, which ate into the time I could work.
When planning this trip I had divided the sites up into high-priority and “if-I’m-ables”, and most of the high priority sites do seem to have been covered, though not always as well as I would like. A number of places that should be on the list, like Junnar and Kanheri I never got a real chance. I missed one of the main stupas at Sanchi, and have had to forego photographing the Hindu and Jaina caves at Ellora, and the Hindu temple at Elephanta.
Considering we only had 26 active days, and some of those were spent travelling I think we have done reasonably well, and can at least show how the cave temples developed from simple living structures to complex places of worship over the period of their development. During this shoot I have collected somewhere near 5,000 photographs, although not all of which will be publishable, of course.
It may seem that the major work is over, but in fact up till now I have only been collecting materials, and all the editing, naming, collating, writing up and publishing is to come: I estimate it will take at least a couple of months more work. The trip itself cost around USD $2,000 to finance, and the expenses involved in this work each year have increased greatly.
Given that, and my poor health, I will have to see if I will do any more work in the future on the same scale as I attempted this time. I do have it in mind to travel to China, which I have never visited, for a photoshoot, and have an itinerary worked out. We will have to see how feasible that is in the coming years, but I understand China is even more expensive than India.
I started the trip with three days photography in Bangkok, and I am now returning there, where I have some more photography to do at Wat Pho before returning to my residence at IBC in southern Thailand. It has been a long, tiring and ultimately very rewarding trip this year, and I look forward to working on the materials, and learning more about the sites we visited in the months ahead.