You have this idea of being "at one" with an amazing site, and having the time and space to soak it all in. In reality, you're deploying your elbows, and manoeuvring into position ready for combat.
This was how I experienced the Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
My first battle with the Taj Mahal crowds came before I even got in the front gate.
In hindsight, the lengthy entrance queue where everyone is frisked and bags checked gave me a taste of what was in store. It seemed as though all of India and half of the rest of the world had turned out this afternoon to visit the icon (I also realise that I am part of the problem here).
|Waiting in line gives you plenty of people-watching opportunities|
|The occasional cow also passes by while you wait|
Once inside, everyone is funnelled through a single-arched gate to enter the Taj Mahal grounds.
|Heading in through the main gate|
This creates one of the most impressive reveals you're ever likely to experience. The archway frames the Taj Mahal in the distance, and you pass through the dark gateway before emerging into the dazzling light to see the building in all its glory.
|The gate frames the Taj Mahal perfectly|
This is just the first of many photo bottlenecks I'll encounter here as everyone snaps away in the quest for the perfect shot.
|Entering the main grounds|
Once inside the main grounds there is space to spread out and momentarily escape the crowds. It's these little moments when you can step out from behind the camera and actually appreciate the building and its riverbank setting.
|Lady sits quietly on the Taj Mahal forecourt|
But if you're wanting that great shot of just you and the Taj Mahal, perhaps making use of the pretty reflective pools, you need to be prepared to wait and negotiate with the throngs of others trying to achieve the same thing.
|Taj Mahal, you and a few others|
Regardless of who you are and where you come from, it's clear we all want a photo of ourselves in front of the Taj Mahal, preferably with no one else in shot so we can pretend we had the place to ourselves.
So does the Taj Mahal live up to expectations? Surprisingly, it does.
It is a stunning building, and the detail and symmetry can be admired from all directions. Even the crowds don't dent its appeal.
|The afternoon sun against the Taj Mahal|
|The line to get inside the mausoleum|
|Waiting time gives you time to appreciate the building's finer details|
|The Taj Mahal changing colour as sunset approaches|
People will argue whether the morning or afternoon is the best time to see the Taj Mahal. Either way, the changing light of the day transforms the white marble. As sunset approaches and the mausoleum takes on a yellow hue, everyone knows the game is over and it's time to leave.
As the crowds thin, there's still time for one last shot before it becomes too dark.
Despite taking more than 100 photos of the building already, it seems I can't take enough. On some level, I know that all the photos in the world still won't do the Taj justice when I get back home.