Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Film-Flam Man

T Is For Taj Mahal

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


In 2003, during a family holiday to Hong Kong, Thailand and India, we made the decision to take the Australian-born Authobloglets to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Mrs Authorblog had already made two trips to the Taj, but I must confess that despite growing up in India and spending my first few years of journalism traveling around the country , I never took the trouble to visit Agra.

So when we were working out the itinerary for our 2003 trip, we realised we would be in New Delhi for a few days and Mrs Authorblog announced that we could make a day trip to Agra so that our children could have the privilege of seeing one of the wonders of the world.

This was a few months before I bought my first digital camera. I had two cameras with me on the trip – a 35mm Yashica that was an old favourite, and a little Ricoh point-and-shoot Instamatic. I had stocked up on film before I left Australia, and had several rolls of Kodak film, 100 ASA for bright conditions and 400 ASA for low light shots. But I was worried about running out of film at the Taj.

So the day before we took an early-morning train to Agra, I went to a well-known Delhi market to buy some books. While I was there I saw a store that sold film, so I ducked in to the shop, bought a 36-exposure roll of Kodak film and put it in my camera bag.

The next day, I finished the roll that was in the 35mm Yashica and replaced it with the roll I had bought at the Delhi market. It was a random decision, but it would have major consequences later. I shot several frames of the Taj from various unusual vantage points.

For the next couple of hours, perspiring in the fierce heat, I photographed one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen. Unfortunately, it was a hazy sky, with little perceptible colour, so I had to work hard on the angles and the composition to compensate for this.

Among the many nuggets of information we were told by our guide was a really interesting piece of trivia about the four towers that surround the main building. Each of the towers was designed to lean slightly away from the building, rather than being exactly perpendicular to the ground.

The reason? Simple. If the tower was to collapse, it would collapse away from the main structure. You can actually see the distinct angle in the photo at the bottom of this post.

Just before we left, my son and I took the cameras and went in search of some more unusual angles. I rubbed my hands with glee when I found this courtyard with ornate, open doorways. My son gave me the thumbs-up, because he could see what I was doing.

I went beyond the doorway, deep into the shadow, to frame the Taj against the beautiful doorway. I shot a couple of frames with the Yashica, and just before we walked away, my son suggested that I should duplicate the shot on the Ricoh Instamatic. It was good advice. It was very good advice.

When we returned to Australia at the end of a wonderful trip, I took all my rolls of film to the Kodak shop where the staff always treated me like royalty. I told them proudly about the trip to Agra and how I had captured so many wonderful shots on the Yashica.

The next day, when I went back to pick up the prints, they told me there was a problem. The entire spool of film that I had bought in New Delhi and placed in the Yashica was blank. There was not a single image of the Taj.

The only shots I had were the ones taken as backup on the Instamatic.



For the home of ABC Wednesday, go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

43 comments:

Musings said...

That's a gorgeous frame for the Taj Mahal. I've never been to India. My son says it was not his favorite place but he was truly amazed by the Taj Mahal. He didn't like the crowding and hectic atmosphere there, I understand.

How painful about the blank film. That is truly aggravating!!! Now you can always say those shots were like the fish that got away. Perfect and incredible...and nobody can prove otherwise. If it's anything like this one, however, I'm sure they were.

Daryl said...

Oh I feel your pain ... someone gave me a roll of 35mm w/o telling me it was ENDS (ends off motion picture camera film which has to be processed differently). I shot some wonderful stuff and when I picked up the prints every thing was BLUE .. sigh ... ever see an alligator seeming to climb up out of the water at you but BLUE?

At least you had a back up ....

:-Daryl

Akelamalu said...

I love the two shots you posted David but what a terrible shame about the blank roll of film. You must have been gutted!

Mima said...

What a disaster, you must have been devastated, all those wonderful shots, I can't imagine it. I have never been to India, but am loving the virtual tour that you give us!!

San said...

David, you work wonders with an Instamatic.

Craver Vii said...

D'aaaaaaaarghh.....

Do you hear that? That is the sound of ultimate suffering. That is the sound my heart made when the six-fingered man killed my father.


The man from Australian Authorblog makes that sound now...

RuneE said...

That is a T that is hard to beat!

Pity about the loss of pictures. I know the feeling - I once lost a roll of Kodachrome almost exclusively containing pictures of The Golden Gate Bridge.

PS Thank you for the nice comments. The carpentry was not mine - you'll see more of it later...

Petunia said...

Oh no!
Been there - done that:/

Hilary said...

How Agra-vating..

Sounds like you have a very wise son. Dad must have taught him well. Great shots, David. And very interesting about the leaning towers.. which do show quite clearly now that you've pointed it out.

polona said...

i love the doorway shot. at least you had back-up for this one...
i know how frustrating losing a roll of stunning photos can be...

Andrée said...

What a story. You had a great day tho, but to lose all those shots! It must've taken a long time to get over the frustration. It's a beautiful photograph. How hot was it there anyhow?

KaiBlueCreations said...

Wow oh wow, what a tantalizing picture of the Taj David.
I visited there in the 1960's and it is the most amazing, serene and beautiful places on earth..
PEace, Kai

leslie said...

Regardless, David, you managed to get some great shots even on an instamatic. However, you must have been so disappointed! Love the framing through the doorway.

Jennifer H said...

Ouch. I know that feeling. One time, at Glacier National Park, I stupidly put an exposed roll of film back into my camera (not sure how I managed that), and took two sets of photos on the same roll. I was so disappointed.

Such great advice your son gave you. The photos are wonderful.

Texas Travelers said...

That's what great about digital. You know that the film wound. I didn't know about the towers leaning out. Great informative post.
Thanks for sharing the story and photos.

The Tide has Turned in Texas.
Come visit,
Troy and Martha

Lana Gramlich said...

The top photo is awesome! I feel your pain on the loss of your photos, though. Out of 10 rolls my friends & I shot on a road trip to Arizona (Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, Sedona, etc.,) about 16 shots actually came out. We didn't realize the camera wasn't working properly until the last day of our trip. <:(

Sandpiper said...

Oh, heartbreak! I know the feeling so well. I went to Africa, shot 17 rolls of film. They wouldn't let me pass the film through manually, swearing up and down that it was safe. Seven of the rolls ended up being blank. I was sick.

The pictures you posted here are wonderful though.

Judy said...

Oh that's a shame. Thank goodness for the back up.

Katney said...

I hate when that happens!

When I went to India in 2000, my group did some mission work during the week and sightseeing during the weekends. It was a wonderful experience, but we never got out of Tamil Nadu, so missed most of the major tourist sites.

Kim said...

It's so beautiful. I love how you framed it too. I'm sorry about your lost pictures, good thing we have digital now.

CrazyCath said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

What a good bit of advice from the young one! I have done this - I have not got the fill caught properly on the spool, and shot and entire 36 shots, only to later discover that they were all blank. I have done it that many times, I now can tell in an instant on rewinding the film if I have done it again or not. I took to wasting the first 2-3 frames of every spool to open the case slightly and ensure it was winding on.

So I can feel your pain. And I am so glad you got these ones, which incidentally are still good - especially considering they were on an instamatic. Bog standard camera or not, you still have an eye for detail and the shot framed in the archway is art itself.

My ABC is up now.

Dave Coulter said...

I would love to visit there one day :)

Lew said...

Great photo and story! I have been fascinated by Taj Mahal since I was a kid and saw pictures, probably in National Geographic. The beauty and wealth of Taj just did not fit with my preconceived images of India (poor and crowded). I've not been to India, but know that those early impressions are only part of the story. There is beauty everywhere and not only created by wealth.

alicesg said...

This is a lovely shot of the Taj Mahal. Dont you love the digital world of today. One could snap as many pictures and deleted those blur pictures. I love the inventor...lol

Brenda said...

I feel your pain. (Have felt it before.) Even if it has subsided a little, I know it's there.

But the pictures you got are incredible. Makes me want to hop on a flight right now and go. The top one especially is stunning with the dull sky background.

Neva said...

Some things were just not meant to be! Good thing we have something called digital now.......hmmmmm .... I think.
ine is up here and here.

Sandi McBride said...

And it's still the most gorgeous tomb in the world...to beautiful to associate with death...lovely shots...
Sandi

Seamus said...

Beautiful shots despite the loss of the other film!

Picturing of Life said...

gorgeous....

My T post in here Thanks

Max-e said...

That's enough to make a grown man cry David. Sounds like the Taj Mahal is an amazing place.
We also have a monument to a former Governor's wife in Port Elizabeth - but not on the same grand scale. Sir Rufane Donkin built a pyramid in memory of his wife Elizabeth who died young in India. The city was also named after her.

BritGal' Sarah said...

One place I have always wanted to visit but probably never will now I am in the USA. My bff went on her honeymoon and said it was awe-inspiring. I have also always loved the very evocative piccie of Princess Di sat on the bench there

Gary said...

Terrible about the 'spoilt' film, but you did manage some great shots off the other roll. Fantastic images of the Taj.

Gary
Bodge's Bulletin

Maggie May said...

That is SO annoying & upsetting! I know how I would have felt.
The pictures you did get are excellent. I love usinf archways as a frame!

Shrinky said...

Oh my goodness, how disappointing that would have been were it not for the wise advice your clever lad gave. These are wonderful shots David, instamatic camera or not. I am envious, I would so love to see the Taj Mahal up close.

Dragonstar said...

That happened to me once, way back in 1963. I can still see one of the most perfect shots I've ever taken .....
I love the doorway photo.

reader Wil said...

Such a pity that your shots of the Tah Mahal should be spoiled. Interesting what you wrote about the towers which lean slightly away from the building!

willow said...

Your framing of the Taj was perfect in that shot, David. I would love to visit...someday!

I hear you. I've had similar film frustrations.

Christine said...

How heartbreatking! But how wonderful that your perfectly framed shot was ok- and came out so beautifully!

ga.farmgirl said...

What a great photo. I understand about the film. In the 70's I was a teenager and went to Europe. I took 3 rolls of film. When I went to pick the printed photos up, I had one pack of my pictures and 2 packs of someone else's. I never did get my photos and regret it to this day. Oh, the store did give me 2 free rolls of film, but not a trip back to take more photos.lol..
Love your pictures.
Have a great day!

imac said...

David you always have a perfect post, great photos and a story in great detail.

Come and visit my Tree House.

Lynette said...

Great photos, great story--thanks for sharing. Our children do come up with brilliant ideas now and then, don't they? It must be the fine example we set for them, don't you think?

Granny Smith said...

That beautifully framed Taj Mahal photo proves that it's the photographer and not the camera that creates a masterpiece. Congratulations!

John said...

Nice shots and what a great story.
That happened to me last summer with a Kodak B/W film. I think that was the last time i used my Nikon F50 35mm.
Have a nice day David!