Kumbah Mela – India – 2013. Photography opportunity of a lifetime.

For those of you who read this blog you will know that I have a photography love affair with India. You can see the results of the last couple of trips on my photography website.

I thought it would be worth posting about the trip I am planning next year to the Maha Kumbah Mela in India.  I have wanted to do this for years because as a photography trip and a life experience it will be like no other.  This is the major Hindu festival in India which happens once every 4 years.  This one is special as the Maha Kumbah only happens each 144 years.  This is where all the Sadhu’s in India come together which is like nothing else.  Over the month some 60 million visit this place.  I will be there on the two bathing days that matter, the most important being on Feb 10.  I am also going to have a day and a night in Varanasi because it is an amazing place and then a day and night in Delhi because photographing in the old part of the city is also an amazing experience. 

I am putting together a small group of photographers who want to join this once in a lifetime experience. The catch is that hotel rooms in Allahabad need to be booked now because they will quickly sell out.  My agent is holding a few rooms but I will need to confirm by the middle of February this year.

If anyone is interested, contact me immediately for details.  The trip itinerary is below. 


Itinerary :


Date Day Itinerary City Hotel


Sat Arrive Delhi, transfer to hotel Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico


Sun Fly to Varanasi (SpiceJet SG 116 – 09:35  10:50), arrive Varanasi and transfer to Allahabad (2hrs). Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Mon At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Tue At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Wed At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Thu At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Fri At the Kumbh Allahabad Kanha Shyam


Sat Drive to Varanasi.  Afternoon sightseeing and prayer ceremony. Varanasi Radisson


Sun Dawn boat ride on the river, sightseeing and fly to Delhi (SpiceJet SG 119 -16:15  17:40). Evening at leisure Delhi Ashtan Sarovar Portico


Mon Delhi sightseeing and fly out End NA


Groundbreaking camera lets you shoot now, focus later

This new camera technology  is going to revolutionise the way we take photos.  Spend the time to work through the photo examples and click on new photo areas. 

Lytro allows post-shot refocusing by taking advantage of something that conventional cameras cannot: the light field. The light field consists of all of the light rays in a scene, meaning every single light ray traveling in every direction through every point in space.

Scientists have fantasized about light-field cameras for a century, but previous experiments in creating one required the equivalent of 100 digital cameras connected to a supercomputer.

The Lytro takes that 100-digital-cameras-plus-supercomputer capability and stuffs it into a regular-sized point-and-shoot.

The company does this with an innovative sensor called a light field sensor. The light field sensor takes in three pieces of data about each ray of light: its color, intensity and direction. Conventional camera sensors just add up all the light rays and record them as one amount of light instead of recording information about each ray.

Kolkata – Burning Ghat

Left the hotel at 6.30pm and we made our way to the burning ghat beside the Ganges.  Malini told me that here it is ok to take photos which is definitely not the case in Varanasi.  Arriving there it was clear that there were no burnings, in fact there was no evidence of burnings have taken place.  Apparently everyone is now opting for cremation in an electric oven.  Standing in the outside area we were covered in palls of smoke being vented from the crematorium that was adjacent to the ghat.  I realized that breathing this smoke was probably not a very clever move, but it was everywhere.  So we headed around the corner and went inside.  There is a large holding area where there were the bodies of 5 people tied to simple wooden frames, wrapped in colored cloth but their faces, arms and feet all visible.  They were being attended to by their relatives as they waited their turn.  This is a large crematorium with multiple furnaces and operates 24 hour a day.  Each cremation takes 45 minutes and is much cheaper than burning a body with wood.  It is clear that unless you are a complete arsehole, photographing these corpses whilst the relatives all watch you would be an understatement in insensitivity.  As the next body was being lifted up to be carried to the oven one of the women relatives became almost hysterical and then collapsed.  This of course drew everyone’s attention allowing me to get two shots.  My Nikon is actually quite quiet and I was using the f1.4 50mm prime lens so it was fast and no flash.

Kolkata – Cemetery and multiple beheadings

Out the door at 6.15am with Ifte who owns Calcutta Walks.  Decided yesterday to go on his ‘Convergence of Cultures’ walking tour.  I love getting out early in the morning in India to experience the city waking up.  Ifte is great.  Fantastic sense of humor and a genuine passion for sharing his city.  I am going to suggest to him that he renames it “Ifte’s extended breakfast tour” because it is abundantly clear that he loves to snack his way through some really interesting parts of old Calcutta.  Started with chai (tea) from the street corner, then hot puri (I think), then fresh coconut juice from the nut (good for my stomach I believe), then a cold yoghurt lassie (also good for my stomach) and then deep fried something (cant remember) eaten with chilli and green mango.  All of it was excellent.  Interspersed with this was the opportunity to go through some of the early English areas where I found out about ‘sleeping dictionaries’, a Christian area, Armenian church, a synagogue and the Chinese area.  Ifte introduced me to a number of locals including Stella who is the last in her family to run a small Chinese shop started by her grandfather 76 years ago.  Outside her shop a morning market was in full swing.  Amongst the fruit and vegetables were the fresh (semi-live) fish on the pavement, where once bought (individually) were de-finned and beheaded with a wooden mallet and a curved upright blade.

Met up with Malini my main guide just before lunch and headed out again.  Walked from the hotel down Park Street to the Park Street South Cemetery, which was full and closed in 1890. Amazing place.  Huge monuments all built by the British when they were here, all trying to outdo each other in design and size.  I couldn’t help but think that is really a collective monument to the vanity of Englishmen.  I found out that when the English lived here they arrived from England and naturally wore the same clothing as they did in England (with the notable exception of ‘Hindu’ Stuart).  Combined with the food, sanitation and heat this resulted in their collective early demise.  I was amazed to see that most of the women buried there all died in their 20’s, including one 20 year old Rose Aylmer who over-ate herself to death with pineapple.

On the metro and travelled to Kalighat, the main Hindu temple in Kolkata.  Went around the outer internal ring of the temple but not into the central part because apparently it is a major hassle where as a foreigner you are “strongly encouraged” to donate an idiotic amount of money “for the poor”.  You can stay and watch the very regular (many times a day) ritual beheading of black goats, should that be of interest.  Should you miss that opportunity you can of course wander through the trail of blood as it’s taken to one side to be further butchered.

By this time it was 2pm and the heat had beaten me.  It was well over 40C (108F) degrees plus very high humidity.  I made a bedraggled retreat back to the hotel and promptly consumed two jugs of lime soda, without having to take pee which warned me that dehydration is something that happens easily if you are not used to this climate.

Kolkata Observations

Interesting to see the difference between Kolkata and Delhi.  I personally think Delhi is much more ‘in your face’ than Kolkata.  The people in Kolkata are much more approachable and much friendlier.  Since being here I have had a lot of enjoyable and funny conversations.  Also the hassle from the beggars is much much less.

Arrived early afternoon after a flight from Delhi and then spent the afternoon, first looking around BBD Bargh, then walking all the way down to Kumortuli.  There is this constant avalanche of impressions and potential shots.  Came across an old lady selling little sweet berries on the side of the road.  She had the most amazing face.   I asked her for a photo but she refused.  I spent some time with her and via my guide I politely asked again, offering to pay, but again she refused.  Such a pity, the most amazing face I have seen in years. 

Finally back to the hotel for a very large jug of fresh sweet lime soda before heading out to Park Street and a very well known local restaurant called ‘Peter Cat’.  Great food.  Entrée and main meal, along with a drink – €8.