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  • Writer's pictureKanishka Sarangi

Magical Varanasi...

The latest trip that I did was to Varanasi/Benaras India. This trip had been planned multiple times in the past but I could never make it happen until now. For those who dont know me, i am a documentary/street photographer and everything that we discuss here are along those lines. I have had several questions popping up in my social handles, with respect to how is Benaras for street photography, how is the experience shooting daily life, what camera on an so forth. I have tried my best to have this writeup answer all your questions, or atleast give you some idea.

Dasaswamedh Ghat from a boat - Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

The best place to stay at Varanasi, is at Dasashwamedh ghat. One of the most popular and happening ghats. For photographers its always better to stay at the prime location since you can traverse to various other Ghats from this location easily. Also the activity is at its peaks compared to other ghats, so ample stories to shoot with the right eye! At Varanasi, we can shoot primarily at the Ghats and the narrow lanes behind each Ghat. The narrow lanes are pretty popular for interesting compositions, faces, wall arts amidst photographers.

Ganga Ghat - Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

The best time to shoot the Ghats is very early morning. Reach the Ghats just before sunrise, the golden hour is amazing especially with the fog and the colourful boats lined up make up for some amazing frames. I shot at the Ghats until the light went harsh, and then I moved to the narrow lanes. The lanes are an amazing place to be. The moment you enter the lanes, it takes you way to the historical era, since everything around is just the same. I have never seen such old doors and windows anywhere else and still standing strong. The architecture is so intriguing. You shall find some amazing wall arts conveying some interesting messages. The idea is to frame the right person in conjunction with the wall art. It actually doesn't matter sometimes when you don't make any image, just that walking through these lanes has its own charm. If you are a person who loves history, who wants to see a glimpse of the world back then, this is the place to be!

Fuji XT3O - XC35MM f2

Fuji XT30 - XC 35 mm f2

The ghats are one of the most interesting place to be. Honestly just a 360 deg turn shall take you through all the human emotions imaginable. There is a story everywhere. People with their strong religious beliefs are seen expressing their homage to Ma Ganga. The early hours in the winters get very cold, with the water reaching freezing temperatures, people take a holy dip, naked to express their gratitude and free them off their past sins. Thats one of the Hindu beliefs. Sadhus (Saints) are seen all over the ghats. Some are pretentious of their actions just to gather a monetory tip from people with strong religious beliefs, while some pay just to get a selfie! The world runs on Hope and Belief and there is no other place better to witness the same.

Dasaswamedh Ghat - Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

Panchganga Ghat - Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

One thing i must say, one must be prepared to walk atleast 15kms a day. Varanasi is a heaven for photographers, but to make those images, one must be prepared to take the pain. My first day was pretty hectic, since we are not accustomed to a place at the begining. The ghats are interconnected, just that there was a Corridor being constructed by the government while i was there. That broke the link between another sought after ghat the "Manikarnika Ghat" or the burning ghat as they say. However, in the days to come, the link shall resume again once the construction is over.

Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

Fuji XPRO3 - 18-552.8-4

Fuji XT30- XC 35f2

Fuji XT30, XC 35MM F2

Fuji xpro3, 18-55 2.8-4

I carried two cameras with me Fuji XPRO3 with 18-55 2.8-4 lens and Fuji xt30 with xc 35mm f2. These focal length shall have you covered for any situation. You may wat to go wider for shooting landscapes, but for my taste, i was happy with what i had. The narrow lanes shall demand for a wide lens, hence my 18-55 held me well, while for some occasional portraits i used my 35mm xc which is an equivalent of 50mm on a fullframe. There is a need to get cameras with better ISO capabilities, since i was into situations where i was shooting at 1/5th of a sec in 3200 ISO in certain lanes in the early morning. My two cents, dont get two held up carrying many lenses and cameras, since the activity here is too spontaneous. Interesting subjects appear suddenly, in the lanes and if you are caught up changing lenses, you will miss the shot. If you can get one single lens, may be a zoom covering a wide margin of focal lenth, you are better off!

Fuji xpro3, 18-55 2.8-4

Fuji xpro3, 18-55 2.8-4

Varanasi is love for street/documentary photographers, so they say - and i did experience it. This was my first visit, but i look forward to many more. Hope you liked the images. If you have any questions, shoot out a DM on my Instagram handle. Also dont forget to follow the same!

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