Luminous India Photo Tour Workshop + Holi Festival

Luminous India was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever done!! The trip was awesome and as always (this was my third Luminous Journeys photo tour) I had a lot of fun with David Lazar and the group.”
— Paul D’, Switzerland

India for the uninitiated is an unimaginable, almost kaleidoscopic feast for the senses. Even if you’ve been before and can imagine it, it’s still an almost kaleidoscopic feast for the senses! From a photographer’s perspective, most especially those interested in people and culture in exotic settings, there is nowhere else in the known galaxy that offers such an incredible diversity of photographic possibilities. See highlights section and itinerary brief below.


Enter Luminous India + Holi Festival! – A photo tour workshop adventure designed and led by world renowned travel photographer David Lazar:


“India offers amazing and unique photo opportunities with its rich culture and history, and some of the most friendly and outgoing people in the world. The itinerary has been carefully planned and researched on the ground, and is focused on capturing the essence of the culture through striking image making. There will be a plentiful mix of free and arranged photo shoots to help ensure that we accomplish our aim. By experiencing the subcontinent both through the lens and through the exuberance of its people during the most colorful festival of the year, we will be getting India at her very best.”


As always, David will be offering his expertise in the field on an ongoing basis, as well as image review and Photoshop/Lightroom instruction to those interested. You’ll get the chance to photograph in places you’d never find on your own, and overall you’ll be the beneficiary of an extraordinary number of impact image making opportunities. In short – a world class photography tour experience.


Both David and his award winning teammate Swarup Chatterjee, are among those rare photo tour leaders who actually care that their guests become better photographers during the tour. They will do everything in their power to make it so. Swarup joins the tour with 8 paricipants or more.



So – are you ready to take your photography to new heights in incredible India? To invest in your yourself as a “mad keen photographer”, as the great Sam Abell puts it?


Please Note: In the past we have had a few participants who felt that Holi might be a bit too exuberant for them. We’ve never had a problem, (unless you count the indelible smiles!), but we do understand that some might prefer more relaxed options. Therefore we offer alternative photo excursions away from the festival which have been very much enjoyed. One is to an excellent bird sanctuary, another to a famous Moghul palace.

Photo Tour Leaders

Photographer-David-LazarDavid Lazar is a renowned photographer & contributor to myriad publications, including National Geographic. Practical Photography has called David “…one of the world’s foremost travel photographers”. David’s Gallery.

Photographer-David-LazarSwarup Chatterjee is an award winning Indian photographer & painter. It’s this blending of two visions that allows him to see differently, and it shows in his distinct, evocative images. His warm & gregarious nature make him an ideal photo tour leader. Swarup’s Gallery.


Old Delhi & Chandi Chowk
The Magnificent Taj Mahal – Creative Angles
Colorful & Joyous Holi Festival!

Thar Desert Photo Safari
Legendary Jaisalmer
The Blue City of Jodhpur

Ascetics, Sadhus & Babas
Ancient City of Varanasi on the Holy Ganges
The Wonderful People of India!

Itinerary Brief

Luminous India Photo Tour Workshop

Jama Masjid old Delhi IndiaDay 1 – Old Delhi – Orientation Slideshow & First Shoot
A Luminous Journeys representative will greet you at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to get you situated and delivered safely to the hotel. The program begins at 2:30 pm with an orientation and slideshow presentation by David Lazar and Swarup Chatterjee. Bring your gear, as at approximately 3:15 pm they will take you out for your first official tour shoot on the mind blowing streets of the old city and Chandi Chowk market.

Holi festival photo tour in India
Day 2 – Delhi – Jaisalmer – The Stuff of Legend
Early flight to legendary Jaisalmer, the oasis city on the great Thar Desert. Afternoon shoot is planned for a small schoolhouse full of delightful young ethnic ladies for culture, fun and portrait making. We will have gifts for you to give out to the girls as well. Then to the very best unencumbered position to photograph the fairy tale Jaisalmer Fort as the sun sinks into the desert sands…

Camels on sand dunes at sunset taken during India photo tourDay 3 – Jaisalmer – Thar Desert – Tribal Beauties & a Camel Safari
Photograph the fascinating Jaisalmer Fort from the inside this morning. There are exquisitely stone carved haveli facades and balconies where David has arranged for some local models in colorful Rajasthani style saris to model. After lunch it‘s time to head out into the Thar Desert to photograph camels and camel drivers. As darkness settles in and the stars rise, dinner will be cooked over a crackling fire while men in white wearing bright turbans play ancient Rajasthani ragas. Overnight private desert camp.

Stepwell with ladies in saris on India photo tour with Luminous JourneysDay 4 – Jaisalmer – Jodhpur – Desert Dawn to the Blue City
Sunrise on the desert is often breathtakingly beautiful. Morning shoot with local women in tradional garb, plus our trusty camels. After a delicious desert breakfast return to Jaislamer before heading north for the magnifienct blue city of Jodhpur. Arrive in time for an afternoon street shoot in the old city. Dinner is at our favorite rooftop restaurant with fantastic night views of the fort. Bring your tripod!

Rajasthan India photo tour fort image at sunrise in Jodhpur
Day 5 – Jodhpur – Blue Streets and a Bad Fort Looming
Mehrangarh Fort, called by Rudyard Kipling the “work of giants”, dominates the skyline. You might recognize it as the massive structure from which Christian Bale emerges in The Dark Knight Rises. Early morning will find us shooting in the narrow lanes below the fort, with its cool rich backgrounds and brilliantly color clad people effortlessly expressing their Rajasthani culture. Other options include Jaswant Thara cenotaphs and Mandore Gardens.

Boy at nightwith candle on the Ganges River at Varanasi.Day 6 – Jodhpur – Varanasi – Journey to the Holy City
Morning shoot in the blue alleys with great angles on Mehrangarh Fort, breakfast and flight to Varanasi via Delhi. Varanasi, built on the west bank of the Ganges River, is widely considered the holiest city in this most holy of countries, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Varanasi is the main stop on the wandering ascetic trail, so there are usually quite a number of assorted Sadhus about.

Sadhu with gulls in Varanasi during India photo tourDay 7 – Varanasi – Ancient City by the River Goddess
Varanasi is considered the holiest city in India, dating back some 3,500 years. Lord Shiva himself is said to have dwelled here during his earthly sojorne. For photographers, it’s also a godsend! From thousands of Hindus ritual bathing in the golden light of dawn, to the surreal cremation ghats where the souls of the deceased are released to the heavens; to the hundreds of colorful wandering ascetics who make pilgrimage, Varanasi is a place of endless fascination and impact image making opportunity.

Varanasi Burning GhatsDay 8 – Varanasi – Of Sadhus and Wrestlers
It’s Photographers Choice today! Either go off on your own or w/ David or Swarup, whose styles & methods are quite different. You can even switch after lunch. Options include another chance at that perfect bathing ghat capture; free and arranged shoots with holy men/women; sunken temple and boat-scapes. Afternoon options include crossing the Ganges to visit Sadhu camps that are often present; a rare opportunity to shoot at a warrior ascetic wrestling akhara; and more.

Boy jumping near Taj Mahal
Day 9 – Varanasi – Agra Last Chance Sundance & Taj Mahal
Either sleep in or take advantage of another sunrise on the Ganges. After breakfast it’s back to the airport for the flight to Agra and the resplendence of the Taj Mahal. Check-in to our fantastic Mughal style hotel and take a break before today’s photography starts from across the Yamuna River, behind the Taj. There are a few different angles to explore and even a place to cross the river on small rowboats. We’ll use the Taj as both subject and background. If the direct flight to Agra does not operate, we go via Delhi.

Krishna boy face painted in blue taken on India photo tour workshop in Varanasi
Day 10 – Agra – Vrindavan– Sunrise Taj to the Braj
The moment you walk through the entry archway where Taj seems to fill up the sky is one you will never forget. This is a prime example of where even the greatest photographs cannot do a subject this beautiful justice. But we’ll give it our best shot! Continue exploring & photographing the Taj Mahal at your leisure. Later we’ll make the 70 mile drive to Vrindavan where Krishna grew up, then meet to prepare our gear for the most colorful & vibrant spring festival on the planet.

Holi India photo tour Eunuchs dancing the day away
Day 11 – Vrindavan – Barsana - Holi Laddoo!
With your equipment safely protected this morning, it’s time to take our first trip out to the most famous of all Holi locations, the village of Barsana. Today will be spent mostly with street photography as the village celebrates Laddoo, the commemoration of Krishna’s courtship of his favorite consort, Radha. This is almost too much fun one should be allowed with a camera in your hand!

Holi festival in Barsana, IndiaDay 12 – Vrindavan – Barsana Holi Lathmar!
Lathmar Holi is where the women of Barsana and Nandgoan put on a great show of venting a year’s worth of frustration by whacking the men with big sticks! The men have shields to take the most direct blows, but are not always 100% successful! We have a fantastic private location to photograph and stay above the fray. This is just a warm up for the apex Samaj tomorrow!

Day 13 – Vrindavan – Barsana - Holi Samaj!
Holi, back in the Braj village of Barsana, might be called the holy of Holi’s, in that the joyful mayhem reaches its most colorful peak, with all the bright powdery colors of the rainbow being tossed and rubbed and otherwise partaken of. We will have a relatively un-powdered high vantage point wherever possible, but beyond that we will have you well prepared. Nothing to fear!

Day 14 – Vrindavan – Delhi - Free Expression & a Farewell Feast
Free time this morning to relax before the drive back to Delhi. More free time or optional street shoot before your amazing farewell dinner and drinks at a neo-classic Delhi restaurant.

5. Swarup-Chatterjee_Trance-Varanasi

Day 15 – Delhi – HomeSafe Journey & a Fond Farewell!
There is no scheduled photography for today, as people will have differently scheduled departure flights. If you have a later flight out consider it free time, and if you need any assistance we will be there for you. You’ll be driven to the airport according to your departure time and given a fond farewell… Off to relative peace and tranquility you go, but you will miss this incredible, incredible country!

* Please note the above itinerary is a close sample only and is subject to change in the daily shooting schedule. A fully detailed itinerary and 30-page information kit concerning traveling for photography in India and the Holi Festival will be sent to all registered participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.

“Holi Kits” for camera protection while shooting the festival will be made available, along with our expert assistance. Your cameras will be safe from powder damage, no worries. There is an extra charge of about $85 for the kits, but no markup. Of course if you prefer to purchase the same items at home that’s fine. The Holi Kit list of items will be included with your Trip Notes.

** Image review is available on an ongoing basis by request. For those interested, David will offer Photoshop/Lightroom instruction sessions as time allows.

“Oh my feet haven’t really touched the ground since returning from India. It was such a fantastic trip and I am still on a high. I so appreciated having been on another Luminous Journeys trip where everything was well organised and all I needed to do was focus on photography. It is also great to spend time with like minded people who are just as enthusiastic to get up early in the morning and stay out after sunset … and we had a lot of fun!” – Rosalyn Johnson, New Zealand

What’s Included in the Price of Your India Photo Tour?


 Photographer fees and top English speaking guide

 All accommodation

 In-country flights, airport & ground transport

  All meals from Day 1 dinner through Day 15 breakfast

 Ample bottle water and refresh towels throughout

 All entrance, zone and camera fees

 Local model donations


 International airfare

 Drinks @ lunches & dinners

 Personal purchases

 Trip cancellation or medical insurance

 Medical expenses

 Gratuities for hotel porters, local guides & drivers

 India visa fees

 End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leader

Getting Cultural

More Knowledge – Better Pictures


Sannyasi, Sadhus & Naga Babas

Sannyasi, in general terms, are advanced stage holy men who have been given a title such as Swami by a guru. A sadhu, Sanskrit for ‘holy man’, is a more broadly used term for those who practice the spiritual discipline of “sadhana”, and whose goal is to achieve liberation from samsara and the ties of karma and rebirth. It should be noted that phony sadhus are more common than true ones, but in a country as vast and poor as India, offers the fake fakir a decent way to make a living. Naked sadhus, (sky-clad), are known as Naga Babas. They descend from a class of warrior ascetics who served as security forces for the Moghuls of old. Many still carry battle axes, swords, spears or tridents today, along with a fierce attitude. Approach with caution.

Extreme practices called tapasya include standing/sleeping on one leg for years; holding one arm in the air continuously for years; meditating in extreme heat with cow dung burning on top of the head; sleeping on a bed of thorns; lifting heavy weights off the ground with the penis; pushing knives or other sharp objects througb various parts of the body; hermitism and etxremely long periods of meditation; and in the case of extreme Aghori sects, even the eating of human flesh! The best places to see and photograph various tapasya being performed are Varanasi and at various festivals.

The Eternal Fires of Moksha

Varanasi, or Kashi, is one of the oldest inhabited cities on earth, and the oldest and most sacred in India, dating back some 3,500 years. The inextinguishable cremation grounds of Manikarnika are also the oldest and most sacred on the subcontinent. Manikarnika is Hindi for “ear jewel”. Legend has it that the goddess Sati sacrificed herself for Lord Shiva here, with one of her earrings having fallen on the spot. Along with being situated on the banks of Mother Ganga (which has recently been legally declared a living being), explains its ‘most sacred’ status. Hindus believe that to be cremated here is to attain moksha, or liberation, from the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.

And so for any Hindu who can afford the wood of the funeral pyres, (the wood monopoly is controlled by a class of very wealthy “untouchables” known as Doms), Varanasi at Manikarnika is the best onward ticket available.

In terms of photography at the burning ghats, it is not allowed. So approach with caution when on your own, or prepared to be shouted at or even forced away. If with LJ, we have our inside contacts and you will have no worries!

David Lazar - India 2008 (12)