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Author Topic: Photographic tripods in Tamil Nadu, India  (Read 4905 times)
shadowblade
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« on: October 24, 2012, 06:12:47 PM »
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I will be travelling around South India in December and, since I'm a stickler for sharpness and like to photograph in fading light, will be using a tripod as much as possible.

From previous experience, some monuments - Mysore Palace, for example - allow tripod photography on their grounds, while others, such as Fatehpur Sikri, and others under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India, do not.

Does anyone know if you can bring/use tripods in the following locations:

Meenakshi Amman temple, Madurai (especially in the Thousand Pillar Hall)
Brahadhiswara temple, Thanjavur (outdoors, but within the temple grounds)
Sri Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameshwaram
Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Kanyakumari

Failing that, I will be bringing a small beanbag (with attached quick-release plate) to use as a camera rest in places where tripods aren't allowed, so all is not lost...
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Praki
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2012, 10:21:11 PM »
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If the equipment is not very obvious, then especially around dawn and dusk there may not be any problem. Will there be a local person with you? That may make it easier especially regarding the language etc. I doubt whether non-Hindus can get access to the Meenakshi temple and the Brihadeeshwara temple without prior arrangement.  I will be in South India in December (first week) also, but in Mysore, Coorg, Belur, Halebid etc. in Karnataka then we leave for the Himalaya. My experience is that it all depends on the local authorities (there is usually an office and a fee usually for cameras will have to be paid and sometimes for tripods also) - unfortunately, there is not a uniform policy that is published and followed consistently. The only place where it is forbidden for certain is the Taj Mahal. Even there, the gardener showed me how to get it past the sentries.
I have obtained written permission from the Archaeological Survey of India, which was not accepted in some places but was OK in some others. Some of the local fellows are expecting a handout which I refuse to give. At times I have gone ahead and used a tripod shrugging my shoulders and smiling at the fellow like I did not understand what he was saying. Sony RX 100 and a discreet Gorilla pod may come to the rescue in these situations. Anyway good luck. Your images are spectacular and I look forward to seeing them on LULA.
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shadowblade
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2012, 05:57:08 AM »
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I'm used to paying to use cameras and tripods, but India seems to be fairly unique in that tripods are prohibited in many places where photography (even flash photography) is still allowed. And you can never really tell where you can and can't use them, so you never know whether to carry it or not - some places won't even let you bring a tripod in, even if you don't use it, so carrying it on your pack isn't an option.
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2012, 06:14:43 AM »
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The no-tripod rules seem rather silly. My tripods have rubber feet. With a camera & lens attached, even with the weight concentrated on the small surface area of those feet, the downward pressure is less than that generated by my body's weight on my feet. I'd suspect that a few people do far more damage than a multitude of tripods ever would. So why the bans?
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shadowblade
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« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2012, 08:21:58 AM »
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The no-tripod rules seem rather silly. My tripods have rubber feet. With a camera & lens attached, even with the weight concentrated on the small surface area of those feet, the downward pressure is less than that generated by my body's weight on my feet. I'd suspect that a few people do far more damage than a multitude of tripods ever would. So why the bans?

Because 'professional' photographers use tripods, and the Archaeological Survey of India doesn't want pros shooting at their sites (which seem to encompass half of India) and selling the images. To use a tripod, you need to apply for a special permit for each site you intend to visit (at a hefty fee); in practice, though, these permits never come through, due to labyrinthine bureaucracy, even if you apply months in advance.

You're more than welcome to use a Phase One medium-format camera handheld, but just don't you dare stick that point-and-shoot on a tripod!
« Last Edit: October 28, 2012, 08:23:50 AM by shadowblade » Logged
Praki
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« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2012, 10:12:14 AM »
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I was told that the tripod photographers were "holding things up" in crowded sites. So it apparently has nothing to do with damage. Last year when I was in India, at Dhola Vira, an Indus Valley civilization site that has been ignored by the Archaeological Survey of India since 1992, where there were pottery shards from 2500 BC on the ground and my party of three were the only people for miles around, I was asked not use a tripod! In India because of such arcane and useless rules, the locals have a term called Jugad or some such word which essentially means creative ways of breaking the rules or basically one upmanship.
So if it is not a big deal, do take the tripod ... I set it up and pretend I don't know what is being said. Works in about 80% of the cases.
In the temples, I ask permission at the temple office and say that the images are for artistic purposes only and not used for any purpose to bring disrepute and they have cooperated in most cases.
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shadowblade
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« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2012, 10:57:30 AM »
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I was told that the tripod photographers were "holding things up" in crowded sites. So it apparently has nothing to do with damage. Last year when I was in India, at Dhola Vira, an Indus Valley civilization site that has been ignored by the Archaeological Survey of India since 1992, where there were pottery shards from 2500 BC on the ground and my party of three were the only people for miles around, I was asked not use a tripod! In India because of such arcane and useless rules, the locals have a term called Jugad or some such word which essentially means creative ways of breaking the rules or basically one upmanship.
So if it is not a big deal, do take the tripod ... I set it up and pretend I don't know what is being said. Works in about 80% of the cases.
In the temples, I ask permission at the temple office and say that the images are for artistic purposes only and not used for any purpose to bring disrepute and they have cooperated in most cases.

I hope a Pod with an attached quick-release plate doesn't count as a tripod?
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shadowblade
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2012, 07:43:10 AM »
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Just got through Tamil Nadu, and let me say that the temples there are very photographer-unfriendly if you don't look Indian or white. Even if you've already paid for a camera ticket and have ASI permission to take photos and use a tripod. Even if you're not using a tripod, but just have a big lens and camera. I managed to get shots, but, in the process, also sustained multiple cuts requiring sutures, two broken bones and a concussion in a series of assaults in temples. Some Japanese-Canadian photographers I spoke to in a hotel reported similar intimidation. Meanwhile, others (people who look Indian, as well as those of Caucasian background) who were taking photos, often using flash and with large DSLRs (including at least one 1Dx) and without even buying a camera ticket, seemed to be left unmolested. My partner (who is Australian, but of Indian background) was similarly unmolested when taking photos using my cameras, even though she does not speak a word of Tamil!

Will post some photos when I get home in a month or so.
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Praki
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« Reply #8 on: December 26, 2012, 10:18:40 PM »
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Very sorry to hear about  physical assaults in temples.That is unusual, especially those causing injuries - verbal assaults though unnecessary, are more common.  Did you complain to the tourism authorities or the police? I hope you are better. I finished my enjoyable tour without incident in Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh with a tripod used most of the time. Look forward to seeing your images.
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shadowblade
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« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2013, 04:12:40 AM »
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The police and guards were worse than useless - they weren't interested in the story, and all they wanted was for me to give them tips of ever-increasing amounts!
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Rajan Parrikar
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« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2013, 03:09:09 PM »
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shadowblade,

I hear you.  Which is why India (minus my homeland of Goa) to me is an unpleasant place in which to do photography.  There are some (especially Westerners and Indians who live in the West) who find romance in the travails India presents at every step.  Not moi.
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chandsa
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« Reply #11 on: January 12, 2013, 03:06:10 PM »
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The no-tripod rules seem rather silly. My tripods have rubber feet. With a camera & lens attached, even with the weight concentrated on the small surface area of those feet, the downward pressure is less than that generated by my body's weight on my feet. I'd suspect that a few people do far more damage than a multitude of tripods ever would. So why the bans?

I wonder why you say that the no-tripod rule seems silly. This is similar to what a fan at NFL/NBA games here in the US can go through, where you are not even allowed to take a lens that's longer than 6" because the NFL pro photographers fear that the general public will be "taking business away" from them. And that too after paying several hundreds of dollars in ticketing/service fees. So I don't see anything wrong, especially in places of worship/historical sites, if they seem to have certain restrictions like "no-tripods". Granted that their intention might not be to actually preserve the historical sites, but under the generic term of "policy", anything can be done to suit some entity's agenda, good or bad.

Having said that, most temples in the southern part of India do not allow for photography within the sanctum sanctorum. However, to generate revenue & promote tourism that trend is changing these days. I have found that it always helps to find trustworthy locals (which is often hard), could be a travel agent or a tourism company that can negotiate with the authorities if need be to at least allow tripods/photography on the premises, but not within the deity/prayer area.

Just like churches and other places of religious worship all over the world have restrictions, so do the temples in southern India. I think it is important to embrace the tradition/religious beliefs of the locals while ensuring that you play within their rules and yet get some good shots.

Its not always about the damage to the site, but more about the beliefs of the religion and tradition.

In sharing my views I hope I haven't offended you or anyone else reading this.

Cheers!
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