Monkey Temple in Jaipur





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Behind The Lens

The Galtaji Temple is situated slightly off the beaten track, 10 km away from Jaipur. It consists of a series of temple constructions built into a gorge amongst a lush green landscape. Due to its remoteness and the time less popular among pilgrims and tourists, the site was almost empty of people (which is rare for India). Conversely, this was the time when over 200 mischievous monkeys living in the temple came out to play (which was exactly what I needed).
The position of the sun and the direction of light are crucial in landscape photography. Before going out for shooting landscapes I always try to make research not only on the location, but also on the sun direction, sunrise/sunset hours and the weather. After going through some guides and checking websites, I knew that the best time to visit the temple is around dusk when the temple is "bathed in golden light". I was there in February, when the sun goes down completely at about 9pm. The temple complex closes at 9pm too. So I chose to arrive there between 7 and 8pm – to have enough time for exploring the site and finding the best position in terms of light.
Monkeys are very fast and impetuous, so I wanted to keep my shutter speed as fast as possible having my ISO as low as possible. In order to avoid noise my ISO couldn't go higher than 400. It was in the evening, and in order to get enough light, my shutter speed had to be lower than 1/80 sec. It was quite tricky while shooting a moving object, but luckily, my hands were steady and the monkey froze for a few seconds.
I took my Canon EOS M5 with me – lightweight and compact. No tripod, no flash, no lens blend – in a word, I stuck to the minimum, because unusual or shiny objects may have caused unwanted attention from the monkeys and they could have broken/snatched the equipment. As I wanted to take landscapes, I opted for my wide angle lens. With my 11-22mm lens, I had to come quite close to the monkey to capture it in a reasonable size.
Compositionally, I wanted to convey the relationship between the animals (nature) and the temple (construction). My visual story is about two opposed objects rather than a single distinct hero. I wanted to switch viewer's attention between the foreground temple pavilion and the animal. The focus is driven by leading lines (of the railing with the monkey to the domed pavilion, of the step from the farther pavilion to the monkey, of the hill slopes – bigger slope to smaller monkey and smaller slope to bigger pavilion). The composition highlights contrasting sizes and intersecting zigzags, while the big dome is echoed by multiple small domes and the big monkey in the foreground is supported by a couple of tiny ones far afield. This is what I was considering when choosing the angle of shooting. I just waited for the right moment to snap. The monkey was moving all around and when it turned its head as if posing – that was it!
RAW is raw plus landscape photos normally require post-processing to find colour and light balance between the sky and the ground. I also wanted to highlight the monkey as one of my main heroes. Highlights up, Shadows down – to "extend" exposure. Whites up, Blacks down – to control contrast. Extended exposure makes colours more saturated, so I had to slide Saturation a bit down. And the monkey was slightly brushed for clarity.
In my camera bag
I like Canon EOS M5, because it's small and compact. It's cropped, but gives decent quality – ideal for travelling. I don't claim to be a superpro, yet some day I believe I will switch to one of Canon's Marks or Rs (when I'm ready to spend a fortune on bodies and lenses). With the M5 body, I always take an EF-M11-22mm wide angle lens for landscapes and layered long distances. Additionally I keep an EF-M55-200mm lens in case I need to zoom in. Quite often I take a Gorilla tripod with me – just in case I want a long exposure.
If you like to shoot animals, don't be scared to come closer to them with a wide angle lens – unless you come too close to a rhino or an African elephant. It will give you a much more expressive shot (sometimes even funny). Always think of the composition around the animal, it will give a context and help create a full story. Sometimes it's worth finding a composition, taking a clever position (or an ambush if you are at a distance) and waiting till the object comes into your frame. Easy-peasy when you happen to be in the colourful India among ubiquitous lively macaques!

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