The Taj Mahal, wonder of the world, ode to love. Well an ode to his 3rd wife. Not sure how first 2 felt when he embarked on this 25 year building spree to remember her.

None the less, one of the “must sees” when in India.

Our first glimpse was from down the river. It was a little bit hazy, but luckily not foggy and the sun was coming out. (Config: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28-300mm f/3.5 USM).

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Once past the gates you come to the large entrance – effectively called “The great gate”

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Our first peek at the Taj Mahal.

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As we walked through the gate it came into full view. It was quite a unique experience.

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Even thought it was an official holiday, it was not as busy as I had expected. But there were a lot of Indians. With the recent collapse of the rupee there has been a sharp decline in travel abroad as Indians looked to more affordable travel within the country.

Unfortunately, this means that if you are a local, you can expect a very, very long line. Fortunately, as foreigners we were able to skip the lines. The lines wrapped around the Taj Mahal multiple times.

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And on that note, what else is there to say? It is the Taj Mahal. A spectacular monument that you simply stand back and soak in.

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A unique Christmas day.


When we went to India over the Christmas break we did not realize that we were taking such a risk. When I say risk I am not talking about safety. I am talking about weather.

Little did we know – it was a terrible time to go to India. In the evenings it gets cold and that causes fog. Lots of fog. According to our guide he went to places like the Taj Mahal many times and all they saw was fog. How terrible would that be?

With this new insight we made a plan as we traveled from Delhi to Agra; the weather would dictate where we would go when and Anu would pick when we went to the Taj Mahal.

It turns out, we were very lucky. According to our guide .. very, very lucky.

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Before I get into the Taj Mahal, I need to backtrack. The experience is an interesting one. You stop off at the tourist arrival area where you board electric buses to head to the Taj. This is in an apparent effort to reduce pollution. 

They also provide you with some clear guidelines on what you should not do. I am very glad I left behind my nife, colors and helmate.

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Very glad because the Ministry of Defense was ready to jump into action in their very intimidating car.

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You get dropped off and have to walk to the entrance – through stalls, craftsmen and tourist hawkers. Oh yes, we also had to stop for water buffalo. They were crossing .. near the Taj Mahal.

They came up from the river bank onto the road and back down .. a normal day in the life of a water buffalo, passing through thousands of tourists.

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It has to make you smile. On your way to the Taj Mahal, and you get stopped by a herd of buffalo. Incredible India. I expected the sights below, not the water buffalo.

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In moments we arrived. This ticket got us past the long local lines and in to see one of the wonders of the world.

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The Taj Mahal.

AMATUER’S REVIEW: CANON 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM

I spent months trying to decide if I was going to buy this lens.

When I first learned about the lens it struck me as perfect for travel; 28mm for that wide shot to 300mm for the close-up. Not having to switch between my 28-70mm and my 70-200mm was very appealing.


The problem is that the reviews of the Canon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM left me confused. I read every other review I could get my eyes on; you can read a few of my favorite reviews  here, here, here and here by professionals who are much more qualified than myself.

In the end, it seemed to come down to 2 things:

Pro:  Versatile lengths

Con:  Super heavy.

I emailed one expert and he said “versatile lens but you don’t need it, too heavy, try the Tamron”. The problem with the Tamron? I have been disappointed with non-Canon lens before (50mm).

After months of thinking about it .. I decided to make the purchase. I picked it up prior to our trip to India and after a few weeks of heavy use, I present this amateur’s review (Spoiler alert: best lens I have ever bought):


  • Weight: The reviews are right – this is a heavy lens. I cannot fathom carrying it around with the traditional neck strap that comes with my camera (it is .6lbs heavier than the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8). I have been thinking that I need to get a new strap anyway so I overcame this issue with the BlackRapid Sport.  I spent 10 days traveling around with the lens and did not feel the weight. Plus, I wish I would have bought this strap a LONG time ago.
  • Dust:  The push pull lens will result in dust inside the lens over time. My view? Spend a couple hundred getting it professionally cleaned 2 or 3 years from now. Not an issue for me.
  • Chromatic Aberration:  There is definitely aberration around the edges so I have added that lens correction to the workflow in Lightroom (along with sharpen 100). Works great as the lens profile is available in Lightroom.
  • People noticing the lens:  Yes, it is the white lens and I found myself draping my hand over it as I walked to make it less noticeable. At least the change in strap has eliminated broadcasting the camera body type.
  • Expensive: Yes. My Leica friend just laughed at me when I mentioned that.
    Now the only real big con in my opinion – the button placement. It is on the left side of the lens and with a push pull zoom, your hand is moving a lot and my thumb/palm was constantly hitting the buttons. More than a few times I accidentally flipped off the image stabilization or slipped into manual focus. I bought the lensband to see if that can fix the problem.


I love this lens.

I will never travel without this lens in the future and probably leave all of the other lenses behind; selling off my Canon 28-70mm f/2.8 USM. The quality is superb.

All of the aforementioned cons are massively outweighed by the convenience. I will keep the 28-70mm for around the house, but other than that – it will be this lens.

A convenience example: Below is a wide 28mm shot …. (note the black specks above the arch at the Taj Mahal entrance – those are parrots)

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My next shot was a zoom in to snap the parrots in flight. Amazing.

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In the end, best lens purchase I have ever made and worth every penny.

Just make sure you change your strap (The under-the-arm 2nd strap for the BlackRapid Sport makes all the difference). I also stopped carrying my camera backpack. Instead I ended up putting a filter, extra battery, a few cards and a lens wipe in a small Tumi bag with my wallet.

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Without my backpack, this is actually lighter.