Tag Archives: pictures

Photography Class – Take One…..And Two…

Two weeks ago, I took a photography class with a good friend of mine (we’ll call her Sally – because that’s her name) at the Washington School of Photography (WSP). In fact, it was this class – the Digital SLR Camera Primer with Sam D’Amico. The class’s tag line is “how to get your camera off manual mode”.

It was a marvelouso introduction to the terms aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, and manual mode. The only thing you really need to know before you take this class is whether or not your camera is a DSLR camera (that and maybe how to turn it on). Sam shared a lot of information and broke it all down into layman’s terms so that even I understood (most of) it. I learned so much in those three hours that I felt incredibly smart and incredibly incompetent all at the same time. I learned just enough to screw up my pictures really good. 😉 Seriously though, I took the camera off manual mode and practiced with different settings. And felt comfortable doing that.

Sally and I were inspired to learn more. We felt like we kinda, sorta knew what we were doing but we didn’t always understand why.

So, we contacted Sam for some private lessons. We liked the idea of taking the class together but, after a lady thanked me in the first class for asking so many questions, we figured we I might dominate the session too much.

Very honestly, Sam was expensive. Please know that it’s not that we doubted that Sam would be amazing – it’s just that, short of a contract with National Geographic, we thought maybe we weren’t quite ready to invest so heavily in our training.

I found Kim Seidl. Her workshop info is here.

Amazing.

And yes, I did take that fabulous picture. tee hee

Kim reinforced all that Sam taught us. Sally and I both agreed that we were soooo glad we had taken an intro class first. Apparently, we both learn best by repetition. And that’s not to say we’re slow, mind you – there is just a boat load of info to learn.

And then I came home and took these pictures…in manual mode….with either lots of light

or not so much light….

and of course one of the pooch…

I am especially proud of the one of Pepper because the room was dark and she was moving. Up until yesterday, I would never have even bothered trying to get a picture of her playing. (And just in case you are wondering, that is my son’s arm. He wasn’t willing to donate his face to the Science of my photography.)

Before our session with Kim, part of me was still asking WHY I needed take ever take my camera off of program mode – if the camera is smart enough to figure out what the settings should be, then why not just let it?

Now I understand the answer to that question. In the picture of my daughter in front of the window – the camera would naturally gravitate toward the lightest part of the photo and make her face darker – now my settings certainly are not perfect – but they are focused on her face. Aperture allowed me to make the background blurry and focus on her. In automatic mode, my camera wanted to use the flash and that put too much light on her face.

Kim kept asking us – what is the most important thing in the picture you are about to take? (detail, stopping motion, blurring the background, etc)

Then she would say – now, tell the camera that.

When we were relying on program mode – we allowed the camera to determine what the most important thing is.

The other thing that I will enjoy learning about doing (correctly) is stopping motion.

Now – remember I am an amateur, but here is an example of what I mean. These two pictures were taken within seconds of each other. See how one captures the drops and the other captures the flow? By using manual mode, I was able to tell the camera what was important to me. If I had used program/auto mode, the camera would have decided.


Now, you can see that the lighting is different in both pictures – that was based on settings. The available light did not change.

And if you are still wondering why you should ever take your camera out of its bag, nevermind out of program mode, consider hiring Kim to take pictures for you. She is truly amazing!

Anypic, if you see me with my camera, run the other way. I’ll be taking lots of pictures! 😎

Write/Blog what you know – or not……….

There is a ton of fabulous writing and blogging advice out there. One of the most familiar refrains is “write what you know”. I call BS on that  one. If you write fiction, you kinda sorta gotta write what you don’t know or it’s not really fiction. Hmmmm, right?

Another blogging mantra is “write what other people want to read”. That one frustrates the hell out of me. How are we supposed to know that, right?

The proverbial answer is to look at your stats and see what draws people to your blog. Then give them more of whatever that is.

Yikes. My most popular post ever is this one. It got nearly one thousand hits in one day. The key word that people used to find it was “writing”. Which would all be awesome if this post was anything more than an announcement of a writing contest being hosted somewhere else by someone else. Alas.

The post that consistently gets the most traffic on my blog is this one. It gets hundreds of hits every week and it is well over 3 years old.

Go ahead.

Ask me if it’s about writing….

Or the tremendous individual growth I experienced while living in India…..

Or about parenting….

Or anything else that I really care about….

Or even a tiny little book review…..

Ahem. The answer to any of those would not be yes.

It is simply a post of pictures of flowers I took while traveling throughout India. Most of the plants weren’t even really unique to India.

But.

This blog isn’t about flowers

or gardening

or writing contests

hosted by someone else.

And, you really don’t want my gardening advice. I pinky swear it!

In fact, this is what my very own plant looks like right now. 😎

There are delish but there are lots of brown spots. So I am really, really sorry if you came here for gardening advice.

But if you came here for pictures of flowers, I have been taking some pictures recently. I hope you will enjoy these.

So those are some of the flowers that I have seen along the way. I hope you enjoyed them! 😉

Flowers, flowers everywhere…….

I am not sure why, but I have been so amazed at the bright, colorful, beautiful flowers in India.  Here are some that my friends and I saw on our recent trip…

This guy……………

This guy …..

will give you an amazing tour of Amritsar…

will sell you sunglasses for 200, no 100, okay 50 rupees – but only if you threaten to walk away first.

will get your stuff from one place to another….

is just chill-axin’…

is donating his time for the greater good…..

will kick your arse if you get out of line………..

will give you the most amazing tour of Agra and he will tell you that you are beautiful -what’s not to love!

Simply cannot be bothered – unless you have some snacks….

Will drive you all over India on the correct side of the road – well, at least for the most part…..

caught my eye…………..

did something apparently very important…..

will work his b.u.t.t. off all day long…..

will play the drums…….

will make you dinner…..

will make you some popcorn….

Sometimes I have pictures that just won’t fill an entire blog post but I want to share – and it’s my blog so I get to do what I want 😉 – so I think I am going to start a “this guy” series. Hope you enjoy it – tomorrow I will finish up with the Golden Temple. Cheers.

The people that you meet when you’re walking down the street………..

I find the people of India to be absolutely beautiful. Their faces are so amazing and intricate. Here are some of the faces that captured my attention on my trip with my friends……..

Indian school children seem to find Westerners so fascinating. What they probably don’t realize is that I enjoy meeting them just as much.

This woman’s family wanted a picture of her in front of the Taj Mahal dammit, whether she liked it or not. And no  matter how many times she asked, none of them would sit down with her.

This little boy’s mother very much wanted a picture of Ann with her son – her son was not so much on the same page. 😎

If you love what you do, you will be happy every day of your life. No Kidding!

This guy was sneaky – he coaxed my friends out of an extra 100 rupees on the elephant ride – but they were smart enough not to give him their rupees for his American dollars.

Magnificent!

The doors of Old Delhi……..

I just love the doors of Old Delhi – unfortunately, I do not know their histories – so I will leave it to you to imagine their stories……

The People of Kathmandu, Nepal…………

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This guy looked amazing. He is a holy man. The Holy Men in Kathmandu will gladly pose for you and happily give you a blessing.
Then they will happily accept expect a donation.
Sure it diminishes the blessing a little, but it makes for a great memory!

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This guy will sell you fish. Eat it at your own risk. 😎

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The market stalls in Kathmandu are a little different than those in Delhi. The are contained behind
these fabulous old style doors. It does make more room for the customers on the sidewalk.

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These women were selling fruits and vegetables outside Buddha park.

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Washing laundry in a very dirty river seems slightly counterproductive – but I cast no stones.

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She is washing her hair.

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This looks like hard work. Note to self: “I am thankful for my life, I am thankful for my life.”

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Hello to you too!

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Fascinating!

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This one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip.

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Isn’t it great that childhood is universal – boys will be boys. These guys were having a great time!

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What can I say except that he is just beautiful!

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This little boy was laying on the sidewalk. His parents were sitting next to him with an empty box.
They were hoping for donations. The sign in front of them said that he cannot move his body on his own at all.
The doctors have determined that something is wrong with his brain.
They need help for his medical care. It was heartbreaking.

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Amazing.

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There are flowers everywhere. They are colorful and fragrant. Fabuloso!
I would love to visit the village where all of these were grown. That would be an amazing thing to see.

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Peace Out!

Odd (wo)man out……

I have debated with myself whether or not to honestly share my experiences today. Partly because today was the first day that India has totally overwhelmed me and partly because I do not want to insult my Indian readers. But, it was my day and my experience and my blog, after all. I want to capture the feelings I had – so here goes – no insults intended.

Hubby had to work today. Please remember our flat is little (compared to the living space we are used to). I have 3 children who love to watch t.v. but eventually they actually do get bored by electronics. It is spring break – no school. There is a lot to see in Delhi that we have not yet seen. I needed some blog material.

I also need to remember to be careful what I ask for.

I gave the kids 3 options – the craft museum, the Red Fort, or the zoo. It was unanimous. The zoo.

Our regular driver was not working today – so we had Zaffar. He is a nice man with limited English skills. I asked to go to the zoo. He said, yes ma’am. I showed him the map that had our neighborhood and the zoo on it. Both of them were circled. We want to go from here to there. Yes. Ma’am.

Then he pulls into a gas station. That is fine. Really. I would rather him ask than just drive us around all day. But I can tell he still really is not sure. He asked me for the address. Well, the book does not list the address. There is a map, remember. But not the physical address. So, I called hubby’s assistant. She is so helpful to us. Really, I am very lucky. She explained where we wanted to go.

Ohhhhhh, the zoo? Zarraf just happens to know exactly where that is. Hmmmm. She got back on the phone with me and explained that in India they call it “the zoo”. So he did not know what I meant. Funny thing – in America we call it the “zoo” also. It must be my accent.

Anyzoo, we got there without too much trouble and I took a look around. This is what I saw.

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This picture is not worth a thousand words – because it really does not give the sense of how many people were milling about. There were hundreds of people. There were 3 lines – cubbies to store your bags, tickets, and security.

I saw women in the security line with purses, so we went straight for tickets. I was not sure if you were allowed bags or if the cubbies were just for convenience. I guessed convenience. That line was (ridiculously) long. So we moved on to tickets. There were only men in the ticket line. In the ticket line we get.

Men cut in front of us in line. They cut in line behind us too. I am not a big fan of people cutting in front of me in line. But I quickly decided to let. it. go. The line was crowded. I was (ever so slightly) outnumbered by men. I was manless (for the day). I don’t do the damsel in distress well, but I also do not invite trouble.

The man behind me explained that my children could wait out of the line for me. You know, over there. My kids looked at me and then they looked at him with their best “good luck with that dude” look. Our mom isn’t going to have us wait away from her. Even if it is over there. You’ll just have to deal for a few more minutes.

He was actually very helpful and explained where to get in. But he does not know me. The kids stayed in line with me. They were happy to do that.

So here is the sign that explains ticket prices. Once again we are paying a skin tax. Fine – it’s a whole dollar. We’ll (happily) pay it.

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My dad might laugh that I should have gotten in free – but alas, I am too smart for free admission. (Yes, I miss my dad terribly.) I think it is very nice that India gives its citizens a break on admission prices. America could never do this – it would be a paperwork nightmare. Americans are far too diverse to be able to tell who is from where just by looking. Too bad – I love a discount.

On to security.

Bear was (more than) a little concerned that he might have to go in a separate line. The lines were very long and frankly, I was a little concerned too. Many of our sightseeing adventures have had our family in separate lines – men on one side, women on the other. It is just a matter of logistics – women checking women, men checking men. But I was not going to put Bear in a very long line by himself. Whew. I did not have to.

One of the guards asked if we had any food. I said no.

Well it turns out I did have granola bars. The second security guard spotted them and asked me to take them out. Absolutely no food allowed in the zoo. Even if you promise not to eat it. Water bottles seem to be okay. I think. We did not bring water bottles – so don’t quote me on that. But I highly recommend water bottles. There are several watering holes with free water – but if you are not used to the local water – well, let’s just say there are better souvenirs than montazuma’s revenge.

Oh yes, back to the snacks. Enter language barriers and cultural differences.

We are now holding up the line. This does not make the 100 plus people behind us fans of Americans.

The guard tried to get me to open the granola bars so my children can eat them really fast. Or, I can take them back over to the line of 200 plus people and put them in a cubbie for one rupee. Yes, that is two cents. Well here is my two cents worth. This is where Americans should be embarrassed because we can be (very) wasteful. But seriously, it is just not worth the hassle. My kids don’t happen to be hungry right now. I don’t want to get in the super long line, just to get back in this super long line – just so I don’t have to lose 4 granola bars.

Please just take the granola bars to your family and enjoy them. I will buy more. Can we please just be done here?

Apparently not. Please ma’am, open them and eat them now. Sigh. No thank you. You keep them. Do with them what you will. But ma’am, I might have to throw them away. Yeah, I am good with that. Can we go in now?

Now Angel decided to bring a purse with her also. They did not look inside her purse. But she heard the rule. No food. So, bless her heart, she pulls out a granola bar and gives it to the guard.  Yes, I am proud of her for being honest. But seriously, where are the animals – can we just go now? Do we have to be the main attraction? Then she remembered she actually had two granola bars. You’re killing me sweetie – enough already. Are you sure there isn’t a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you want to turn in?

We finally get in the gate. The zoo is lovely – lots of space – plenty of room for all the people who are there. It does not feel as smooshed inside.

Bear gets out the map. Now, this is interesting. Normally the hubby is in charge of navigation. But here is a chance for Bear to direct traffic. I have failed him in all things Boy Scout, so bring it Bear. Get us where we want to go.

He did a great job.

We saw the giraffes and the sloth bear.

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He did a great job, that is, until he took us behind the exhibit for the sloth bear. It was a path. But it was an empty path. No one else was on it. I did say that I was concerned that no one else was there. Well, except for the two men walking out of the woods. (Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Maybe we should not be here.)

So, I am balancing encouraging Bear to navigate our way through the zoo with the fact that my scare-dar is flashing “danger, will roger, danger”. I decided to let him guide us.

Until…

Until the two men approached another man and started to harass him. I told the kids we needed to turn around and go. NOW.

I realized that we were in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. The two men started to slap the other man. There was a woman standing by with her hands cupped over her mouth.

We exited stage left. Immediately.

Angel said, I don’t think I want to go back there.

Don’t worry, Angel. You won’t be. going. back. there.

So I let Bear keep the map. And I fought every instinct I had to just go home. But I don’t want my kids to be afraid of being in India. There is safety in numbers. We’ll just stay with the crowds.

We continued on to see more animals. Lots and lots of people were watching us. I felt it more today than I ever have.

We saw this rhino trying to get out of the enclosure. I could honestly feel his pain.

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We also saw three white tigers. (Yes, you can still count – there are only two in the picture.)

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And if you know how to use your camera, you can get a great picture of the leopards.

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If you don’t know how to use your camera so well, you might get a great picture of the fence, with some cool (very blurry) leopards in the background. Isn’t this the coolest fence you have ever seen?

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Along the way, many people asked to take pictures of my girls. This is not a new thing. It happens at every tourist spot we go to. Usually they walk away disappointed when I say no. But they seem to understand.

Well today was different. A lot of people clicked pictures with cell phones. There was even one woman who seemed to follow us. It was bizarre. She would bump in to me and laugh. I did not join her in laughing. It got old quick.

Bear was still navigating and we were looking for the hippos. Bear looked at the map and looked at the path. It seemed somewhat empty. He said maybe we can see the hippos next time. Lesson learned.

We head on to see the elephants. They are amazing.

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I did not know this….

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As Flower and Angel are looking at the elephants, Bear notices that a man on the bench is taking a picture with his cell phone of my girls. Bear takes his map and blocks the phone. Honestly, I cannot believe he did it. Two things – one, great job Bear – this is exactly why I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother. Two – holy sh*t,  Bear. Be careful here.

Bear and I had a chat about how extremely proud I was that he was observant and protective of his sisters. And how he is to never. do. that. again. Unless they are in danger,we’ll let some things go.

We all agreed it was time to go home. This is what everyone said as we were leaving.

Bear: I guess we won’t come back here.
(I told him we would – at 9am when the zoo opens and it is less crowded and when Dad can come with us.)

Flower: I like the zoo in the U.S. better because you can drink the water there and nobody stares at us.
(Next time we will bring water bottles and when we are home in the U.S. we will visit the zoo. Maybe we’ll wear crazy clothes so we get stared at there too. Maybe not. We’ll just have to see.)

Angel: I like the zoo in the U.S. better. When can we go home.
(Sweetie, we are home – at least for now.)

So all in all, it turned out to be a good day. Bear got a chance to be in charge. I remembered that instincts kick arse. We got to see some cool animals.

But it was also overwhelming. Frankly, it was very overwhelming. I have not really felt that since I have been here. I was disappointed but it was a reality check that we are not in the U.S. and we have to remember that.

When Pages Come Alive……..

Right before we left the United States, I read an amazing story about the family who built the Taj Mahal. It was Beneath A Marble Sky by John Shors. It’s historical fiction. So he took the facts and filled in the blanks. If you ever think you will visit the Taj Mahal, please read that book first. The pages will come alive.

So, we jumped right in and visited the Taj Mahal this weekend. This will probably be a long one – so go ahead and get yourself a cup of coffee. Or a beer – or whatever.

First – the drive. The Taj Mahal is about a 3-hour drive from Delhi. That is if there is no fog and no traffic. We got both. The fog was so thick that it was like driving through pudding. Vanilla pudding, but pudding none-the-less. Fog should only be an issue in the winter months. In the summer months, it’s the heat. So, pick your poison.

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It took a little much, much longer than expected. But we made it in one piece.

The Taj Mahal is located in a town named Agra. Forget everything you know about towns. Agra is congested and narrow and dirty and, did I mention congested? There are monkeys and cows and goats and people and cars and bikes and buses everywhere.

We hired a guide to take us through the Taj Mahal and its sister monument the Agra Fort. I highly recommend this. He was 500 rupees for the day – which is about $10 – we paid him more than that. It was worth every penny.

For example. He knew that you cannot park near the Taj Mahal. It used to be that you could park right in front of the monument grounds – but they are now worried about pollution. So, you have to park in a lot and either walk, ride a bus, ride an auto-rickshaw, ride a horse drawn carriage, or ride a camel drawn carriage. Which one did we pick? You got it – bring on the camel.

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This was probably the slowest (and smelliest) way to go. But I thought it would be the most authentic. Yes, my son loves me very much for that. Apparently, India has taught him that he is acutely aware of smells. Especially bad ones. This cost 300 rupees – about $6. We paid for both sides of the cart. You do not pay them until the return trip to the car. That way they will wait for you.

I did not take pictures of all the vendors who were literally on top of us as we walked down the street. Our guide told us not to look at them, not to buy anything, and not to talk to them. I guessed pictures might not be the best idea. See that college degree did pay off. I am thinking! I did learn a new word. Nay – I am not sure how you spell it – but you say it like this – Nay, Nay, Nay, NAY, NAAAAAYYYYY. And you walk quickly. And hold your kids hands. It’s not dangerous but you want them to know that no is, in fact, no.

And yes, your kids will probably want most of what they see. So it is helpful to tell them before hand not to even bother asking. Because, it turns out that it is not so helpful to have them asking you for things when you are trying to shoo the vendors away. It’s a little bit of a mixed message and the vendors can smell the want in the kids eyes.

This is the entrance to the Taj Mahal. It cost 750 rupees (about $15) to get in per adult. Children under 15 are free. You have to go through security. Yes, they pat you down. The only electronics allowed are cell phones and cameras. No ipods, MP3, or game boys. Cell phones and cameras. That’s it.

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There are 22 small domes on the entrance representing the 22 years it took to build the Taj Mahal. Another reason for a guide is that he will know just where to take all the good pictures and can shoo away the professional photographers who will charge you money for photos. You are allowed to take your own – you do not have to pay for them.

The Taj Mahal cost 32 million rupees to build. Twenty thousand people worked on it everyday that it was being built. This is what you see when you walk through the entrance. The Taj Mahal was meant to seem like it was floating in air. Job Well Done Shah Jahan. Floating it seems.

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It is very hard to describe how it feels to see the Taj Mahal for the first time. It is overwhelmingly majestic. It looks so soft and when you know the story of the love behind it – well, you can almost melt into its beauty.

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The grounds surrounding the Taj Mahal are beautiful as well.

This might have worked out better with a professional photographer. But it was fun trying. If you do it right, it looks like you are touching the tip of the Taj Mahal.

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The Taj Mahal and its surrounding monuments and temples are all symmetrical. The only thing that is not symmetrical is Shah Jahan’s tomb inside the Taj. His daughter buried him next to her mother after her brother stopped the building of Shah Jahan’s own mausoleum and imprisoned him. She understood their love and knew that they should spend eternity together. Awwww.

The pillars on the Taj Mahal look like they are perpendicular to the ground. They are not – they are bowing out at a 93 degree angle. This is so that from a distance it looks like they are straight up and down. Our guide also laughed that this was so that if the pillars fell, they would not fall on the monument. I am guessing that could be true. How they knew to do that so long ago and how they measured that angle? Maybe there is something to this whole math thing.

This picture was taken on the bench that was built for Princess Diana’s visit. So, I have now sat on the throne of a Princess in the Mausoleum of a King and Queen. Okay, maybe not, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Bring me my crown.

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The decorative flowers in the walls of the Taj Mahal are all semi-precious stones (like lapis lazuli, jade, crystal, turquoise, and amethyst) that that have been laid into the marble. The carvings are in one big slab of marble. So if they made one mistake, they had to start all over. I was amazed that you had to cover your shoes when you walk in the building (or take them off) but you are allowed to touch any part of the walls you want. Shoes not okay – oily, dirty human hands – bring them on. Okay. It was shocking how smoothly the stones fit into the marble.

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The rules said you are not allowed to take pictures inside the Taj Mahal. So I did not. I wish I had. But, rules are rules.

Follow me on to the next post – I am going to continue this so that there aren’t so many pictures for you to load in one post.