photo blog

On the Streets of Varanasi

Along the banks of the historical Ganges River lies Varanasi, one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. It is located in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and is considered to be one of the holiest centres for Hinduism. 

Image source: Wiki Media

Image source: Wiki Media

This unique city is made up of stark contrasts — from death and birth, to indulgence and spirituality. Its vigorous spirit has been the source of inspiration for many people who have set foot in the city, not just travellers, but also artists who were influenced by Varanasi.

Bollywood fans might recognise Varanasi’s many stairs and alleys from various films, such as Neeraj Ghaywan's Masaan. The movie traces the lives and eccentricities of its characters that thrive within the ancient city, which is still just as complex and ever changing. Varanasi’s many dualities haven’t just inspired famous movies, as Indian-inspired games also crop up on celebrated gaming communities with European digital portal Slingo being a great example, hosting titles such as Nirvana and Bollywood Story. These games capture starkly different, yet equally captivating facets of life in the city. But no matter how pop culture tries to do it justice, it pales in comparison to the arresting, chaotic beauty of Varanasi in the flesh. That alone makes it worth the visit, but for photographers, this provides a wealth of opportunities to capture the rich local culture. The entire region is full of colour and eccentricity, so you won’t run out of sights to point your lens at.

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Go down the ghats during sunrise

On your way down to the holy river, you’ll find a series of stairs called ghats. In Varanasi, there are roughly 100 of them around, with each having its own name, history, and purpose. If you head towards the ghats about an hour before sunrise, you’ll be treated to a surreal view of the sun peaking from the waters and slowly bathing the landscape in light. It also happens to be the quietest time in the city, with fewer crowds. But of course, witnessing rituals of life and death are a different experience to be had altogether, so watch out for them but make sure to document them respectfully should you choose to take photos. 

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Explore the Gali

Another unique attraction in Varanasi is their Gali, an extremely narrow alley usually lined with vendors and people passing by. Though you might have to elbow your way through during busy hours, you’ll enjoy the play of light beams and shadows on your walk.

Image source: Wiki Media

Image source: Wiki Media

Make the most of the background noise

Some photographers prefer clean and clutter-free backdrops for their photos, but that’s a bit of a rarity in the constantly bustling metropolis that is Varanasi. Don’t worry though because whatever goes on in the background can only add more colour and life to your shots. Traveling Family Blog notes that Varanasi is not for the faint-hearted. It can get chaotic, but it’s all part of the city's signature vibrancy. When capturing the dynamic Varanasi environment, fix your aperture settings so everything is kept in focus, despite all the movement. Everywhere, you’ll find street cows, street vendors, children, and so much more that will fill up your frames.

Image source: Pixabay

Image source: Pixabay

Visit during festival season

For an even more rewarding trip, you can visit Varanasi during a festival such as Dev Deepawali, also known as the Festival of Lights. It happens every year during the month of November, with thousands of devotees coming together to immerse themselves in the holy Ganges. Most surreal is when they offer lit-up lamps to the Ganga — an act they call Deepdaan. Every single step of the ghats lights up as the sun goes down, which makes for a truly majestic sight.

Image source: Wiki Feed

Image source: Wiki Feed

This was a guest blog written by Gabriella Esposito, a freelance writer. If you are interested in writing a guest blog or other forms of collaboration please send an email to: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com. More of my travel photography can be found on my website, my Instagram, my Facebook Page and my Flickr account.

Travel Portraits by Geraint Rowland

During my travels I often capture people around the world in a candid manner in their natural environment.  As my confidence has grown and my photographic skills have improved I have begun taking more portrait photographs.  These are often what are called 'environmental portraits', a portrait taken in the subject's usual environment and which normally include the surroundings as well as the person.  More recently I have also started taking 'head shot' style portraits, a tighter cropped image where the focus is on the persons face only.  For my head shots I normally ask the person for their permission first.  Click through the slideshow below to view some of my travel portraits:

With the majority of travel portraits above I asked for permission for the image to be taken. Often in touristy areas you are required or asked to pay for such portraits as was the case in Cusco, Peru, and Havana, Cuba.  The image of the Mexican girl in the Day of the Dead makeup and the final image of the Bolivian lady were the exceptions as both were caught candidly.  The beauty of head shots and or tightly cropped portraits is that you minimise the clutter in the background of the image.

All of the portraits were taken using a Canon 5D (Mark 2 or 4) and the majority were with the Canon 50mm 1.4.  Other lenses used were the Canon 85mm 1.8 and the Sigma Art Lens 135mm 1.8.  All of the images were taken using natural light and without the use of a flash.  The images were often taken with a shallow depth of field to create a pleasing background and draw attention to the persons face.  Images of people from around the world fascinate me, I think that they tell you more about a place than a landscape ever can.  In the future I want to focus more on portraits and improve my skills in this area of photography.  

More of my travel photography can be found on my websiteInstagramFacebook Page and my Flickr account.  If you would like any more information about any of my images please send an email to: geraintrowlandphotography@gmail.com.