Unreal Bhutan Photo Tour
On this Bhutan Photo Tour and together with the festivals we will embark on a journey of epic proportions across the mountains of the Dragon Kingdom. Documenting the day to day lives of people living and working in this small structure set deep into the verdant Phobjikha valley.
What will we do in Bhutan?
As with all Nomad Photo Tours, this week and a half long Bhutan photo tour into the Dragon Kingdom is centered on people to people photography. While the trip has many highlights, from the uncharted, misty landscapes, to the indomitable Tiger’s Nest, the highlight of the trip is without a doubt the whirling, wheeling, color explosion that is in the three “Tshechus” (festivals) that we are visiting.
A tshechu is a religious festival, generally held annually in each dzongkhag (or district) in Bhutan. They are held on the tenth day of any given month of the Tibetan lunar calendar, and the month depends on the place the tshechu is being held.
The capital city is at a standstill for three full days during the festivities – that is, business and daily life is. But the streets are anything but still. Norzin Lam, the main drag, might be closed to traffic but it’s a kaleidoscope of color and people: bodies thronging along the streets eating and laughing, locals and pilgrims giving thanks, tourists getting happily swallowed by the great crowds clad in gold and scarlet. And of course, then, the parades. They erupt down the main thoroughfares; masked monks, shirtless with wild flag like skirts come reeling and rollicking. Capturing them photographically is a big challenge; they are untamable and wild as they move quickly and fluidly, and change direction unpredictably. But when you finally do capture that lucid moment, it will be perfect.
Beyond the Tshechus
On this Bhutan Photo Tour and together with the festivals we will embark on a journey of epic proportions across the mountains of the Dragon Kingdom. On the journey out from Thimphu we will stop at Gangtey Goenpa, a still functioning monastery for a photo session with the monks in action. We’ll have time with them, documenting their day to day lives, chanting mantras, living and working in this small structure set deep into the verdant Phobjikha valley.
Over the course of the next days we will be exploring the life of rural Bhutan. We will have a myriad of opportunities in small villages with farmers and crafters, merchants in the traditional markets. As many of these places are untouched by tourism, it is fair to say that you might not see the level of luxury people are accustomed to in the West. But the tradeoff is authenticity – you will be having photo sessions with real people who are living as the Bhutanese have lived for centuries.
And at the end of the tour of course we could not miss the majesty, the incredible, sometimes literally breathtaking experience of the Tiger’s Nest. Also called the Taktsang Palphug Monastery, this is a Himalayan Buddhist sacred site set high on a cliff side in the Paro Valley. The trek is long but it is well worth the visit photographically speaking. The view of the valley is impressionable; imagine a tableau of green with dots of many colored prayer flags rippling like kite tails in the wind. And the temple itself is iconic in the literal sense. It has become a national icon and also an icon of the Buddhists of that area, and is a once in a life time photographic experience both inside and out.
Photographic opportunities you can’t get anywhere else
This is not a typical photo tour. I’ve said already we’re off the beaten track, but also as I have been a professional travel photographer for so many years, and have worked in Bhutan with solid local guides, each of our excursions, events, and photography sessions have been handpicked by me. I have based this tour specifically around building personal connection with locals, from crafters to farmers to practicing monks, so that you get the best experience with people and travel photography you can have.
Often times you cannot get these opportunities on normal tours because mass market trips have little in the way of these connections. But as with all my photo tours, I and my team have taken time to know the people and places we are visiting, and you will reap the rewards of that hard work.
What you will benefit from is not only the richness of Bhutan’s culture, but also the experience of myself and the guides in approaching your subjects and getting close to them. It is not always easy to approach people in foreign places where you don’t speak the language, so part of our process with this people photography tour will be to learn good approaches and techniques for putting your subject at ease so you can capture that perfect shot.
And of course you will have the rich backdrop of the steppes, mountains, and brilliant green valleys – it is easy to believe these high ridges are the backs of some ancient sleeping dragons, and could not be photographically more enchanting.
Everything revolves around the schedule. Where we sleep, what time we leave, how we get to places.
How much time will there be for photography, both free and structured?
My view of photography is that it is about creating a story, whether it be with just one image or a series. This tour is designed to bring you close to real people in the real Bhutan, not mired in the chintzy normal tourist fare. But that does not mean your schedule will be constantly packed or rigid.
I encourage time dedicated to each photographer’s personal story of Bhutan, so you are not always expected to stay with the group. We do have a planned schedule oriented around people photography, but also scheduled time that is more flexible, so that you can adhere or not adhere to what we provide, if you find something of interest to do on your own.
Planned photo sessions will not drag on for hours. They can be anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour and a half, and are not planned for every day.
All our events and options are designed so as to give you a photographic opportunity. Of course there will be time to also experience the local culture, eat, relax. But primarily, we are here to capture the unimaginable with our cameras, so that is what the itinerary is designed to do!
We work on how to tell the story we see in front of our eyes, and how to convey an emotion through our pictures.