Incredible India Photo Tour Workshop

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." - Rosalyn Johnson, New Zealand

Photographer-David-LazarTaking an India photo tour 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,  there is nowhere else in the world that offers such a remarkable array of photo opportunities.


Enter Incredible India + Ranthambore Tiger Reserve + Rajasthan Desert Festival + Taj Mahal + Varanasi – An India photo tour workshop adventure designed and led by 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 one of its most colorful festivals of the year, we will be getting India at her very best.”


As always on India photo tour, 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, Canon brand ambassador 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 participants or more.


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


“I took I signed up for the Luminous Journey’s India Tour with great expectations and they were exceeded at every level. The destinations were amazing, the photographic opportunities beyond belief, the leadership and guidance by David Lazar tremendous and the help and assistance of the local guide, Vikas Kumar, made the whole trip seamless. I would definitely travel with Luminous again". –Peter Hickson, Australia

Please Note: The Ranthambore National Park (Tiger Reserve) is the best in India and the world for photographing these magnificent beasts. February is an excellent time to visit, as it's not unbearably hot and the chances of photographing them are extremely high. They are not shy of the jeeps we will be in with our awesome guides, and sometimes get close. The reserve is also home to a wide array of other wildlife, including sloth bear, jackal, fox, mongoose, hyena, and many more. We will spend 3 nights here at the favored hotel of wildlife photographers. OPTION: The safari is optional for new sign ups after Nov. 1. Inquire for details of the alternate itinerary in Rajasthan for those days.


The tiger safari is an exciting, perhaps once in a lifetime experience. Even if you are not keen on wildlife photography, it's still exciting! To secure window seats in the jeeps, please sign up as soon as you possibly can. Ranthambore allows reservations on a first come, first basis only, and requires your passport scan to make them. If you find yourself considering this tour relatively late, please contact us and we will let you know the jeep seat status. A middle seat can be good as well, since you have an even chance on either side with only one person to shoot past.  Actually last year a participant in a middle seat ended up getting the best shots!

Hotels – 4/5 star, one night Thar Desert tent (optional). Includes a 5-star hotel right on the Ganges River in Varanasi

Tour Type – India photo tour workshop, 4/5 participant minimum, 10 maximum.* See T&C.

Skill Level – Suitable for ALL skill levels, novice to advanced. Relative beginners will never feel left behind on an LJ trip

Physical Difficulty – Moderate. If you are in reasonable walking shape you'll be fine

Transportation – 3 internal flights, (Delhi to Jaisalmer, Jodhpur to Varanasi, Varanasi to Agra). Vehicles are late model, air conditioned SUV’s or mini-buses w/ plenty of space & bottled water. On the tiger safari we will have open air jeeps.

*Swarup Chatterjee will join the trip should we have 8 participants or more. Tour average over the years is 8


Old Delhi & Chandi Chowk
The Magnificent Taj Mahal – Creative Angles
Legendary Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Rajasthan Thar Desert Photo Safari
Amazing Jaisalmer Desert Festival
The Storied Blue City of Jodhpur

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

Itinerary Brief

Incredible 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. At approximately 3:15 pm they will take you out for your first official India photo tour shoot on the mind blowing streets of the old city and Chandi Chowk market.

Sadhu with gulls in Varanasi during India photo tour
Day 2 – Delhi – Varanasi – Ancient City on the Holy Ganges
Morning flight to perhaps the most fascinating  city on the planet. Built on the west bank of the Ganges River, Varanasi is widely considered the holiest city in India, dating back some 3,500 years. After checking into our 5-star hotel right on the river, we'll venture out to photograph the happenings along the various "ghats". We'll see all manner of colorful sadhus, or holy men, as well as snake charmers, chai wallahs, "untouchables" manning cremation ghats, etc.

Boy at nightwith candle on the Ganges River at Varanasi.Day 3 – Varanasi – Sunrise on the Ganges, Winding Alleys, Night Puja
We’ll be on the Mother Ganga (recently declared a living being by the government) in small boats before dawn. Photograph locals and pilgrims as they bathe and perform puja rituals illuminated by the first rays of sun breaking across the water. After breakfast there will be a free shoot in Varanasi’s fascinating alleys. An endless array of scenes arrange themselves in shaded frames quite naturally, as if waiting for a photographer! The highlight of the early evening blue hour will be the famous night puja ceremonies.

Varanasi Burning Ghats India Photo TourDay 4 – Varanasi – Sadhus, Bathers, Wrestlers and Burning Ghats 
Beyond puja bathing on the river, morning and afternoon options include crossing the Ganges to visit Sadhu camps that are often present; free and arranged shoots with holy men and naga babas, sunken temple and boat-scapes, blue Krishna portrait session, and a rare opportunity to photograph at a warrior ascetic wrestling akhara. Later afternoon into the evening will find us on the river again, this time at the largest and most ancient cremation ghat of Manikarnika. It is said the fires here have been burning ceaslessly for millennia...

Taj Mahal India photo tour
Day 5 – Varanasi - Agra - Ganges Morning and a Taj Mahal Afternoon
In Varanasi we have time for another early morning free shoot or guided free shoot, giving you the opportunity to test your street skills on now familiar ground. Early mornings along the Ganges are always fascinating. After breakfast we return to the airport. With a bit of bureaucratic luck the long promised direct flight to Agra will be scheduled this year. But if not we'll go via Delhi. Afternoon check in to our impressive Moghul style hotel before photographing the Taj Mahal from various angles across the Yamuna River.

Classic Tajmahal India Photo TourDay 6 – Agra - Ranthambore – Sunrise Taj to a Legendary Tiger Reserve
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! Later we’ll drive into eastern Rajasthan and the legendary Ranthambore Tiger Reserve. Here we will get an introduction to the two photo safari days to follow. Ranthambore is justifiably famous for both its number of tigers, and the tiger’s photo accessibility compared to other reserves.

cubs Ranthambore Fenella Ignatiev India photo tourDay 7 – Ranthambore National Park – On Tiger Safari 
Once the hunting grounds of Jaipur Maharajas of Jaipur, Ranthambore National Park is perhaps the best place on the planet to photograph tigers in their natural habitat. The terrain is a wide area of jungle scrub set within the rocky ridges and lake dotted plateaus of the Vindhya and Aravalli hills. This habitat, as opposed to a dense one, allows for easier spotting and photographing of tigers and other species. We begin the safari before dawn, take a leisurely break midday with optional image review, and then head out again in the afternoon. Our expert guides are the best in the business at locating tigers, as well as educating us about them. As for long lenses, a 70 – 200 is an excellent choice. If you are so inclined, up to 400mm can also come in handy.

Tigers Ranthambore Katie Garrod India Photo TourDay 8 – Ranthambore National Park - On Tiger Safari, Day Two
Before dawn this morning we head to another area of the park to photograph our star quarry, the magnificent tigers of Ranthambore. But the reserve is much more than just tigers. It’s rich with a wide range of wildlife. They include leopard, sloth bear, sambar, chinkara gazelle, jackal, hyena, langur monkey, and wild boar. In addition, there are more than 300 species of birds and myriad other critters.  One of the many great things about Ranthambore is that the tigers have grown accustomed to the benign human presence and are not shy of the jeeps. The tiger photos on this page were taken by Luminous Journeys guest photographer Katie Garrod and her sister Fenella. We thank them for the image use and for their insight into Ranthambore. Join the tour early to secure side seats in our jeeps.

Day 9 – Ranthambore – Jodhpur Road Trip to the Blue City  
After the early morning thrills of the previous days, this morning provides a nice opportunity to sleep in a bit and enjoy a nice leisurely breakfast. Then we go road tripping through Rajasthan to the fabled Blue City of Jodhpur. The drive in our spacious and comfortable air conditioned vehicles will be broken up by lunch, as well as any interesting photo ops we see along the way. Arrive Jodhpur for an afternoon shoot before dinner with stunning view of the fort. Don't forget to bring your tripod!

India Photo Tour
Day 10 – Jodhpur – Blue Streets and a Bad Fort Looming
Mehrangarh Fort, called by Rudyard Kipling the “work of giants”, dominates the skyline. You might recognize the massive structure from which Christian Bale emerges in The Dark Knight Rises. Morning finds us shooting from a nearby nature reserve. Then we hit the narrow lanes below the fort, with its cool rich backgrounds and brilliant sari colors of of women effortlessly expressing their Rajasthani culture. Finally we find ourselves at the fort itself with its commanding views over the city.

Day 11 – Jodhpur – Jaisalmer - Morning Street Shoot to a Magical City
Morning street shoot in the blue alleys with great angles on Mehrangarh Fort. Later we’ll drive to magical Jaisalmer and the annual desert festival. The drive is about four hours with a stop for lunch along the way. Afternoon check-in at our fantastic haveli hotel in Jaisalmer, before checking out this fairytale city with our senses and through our lenses. This will include the fascinating Jaisalmer Fort from both outside and in. There are exquisitely stone carved haveli facades and balconies where David has arranged for some local models in colorful Rajasthani style saris to model, as if we are on a magazine shoot.

Day 12 – Jaisalmer – Festival of a Thousand Desert Colors 
The Jaisalmer Desert Festival, which began in the 12th century, celebrates uniquely Rajasthani life going back over a thousand years. We’ll have the opportunity to experience and photograph such colorful happenings as camel races, amazing jugglers, spinning dancers and various tribal Peoples in traditional garb, puppet shows, martial arts, musicians, polo matches, and the world’s longest mustache competition! The festival will offer more great portrait opportunities than we can imagine, so this is truly a rare chance to learn from a master portraitist like David as he works this extraordinary scene with you.

India Photo Tour
Day 13 – Jaisalmer – Private Desert Camp - Festival Day 2 & Camel Safari
Day 2 of the festival focuses on the most photographable events of the morning. You are free shoot on your own, with David, or our guides if you have certain subjects in mind that are not on David’s short list. In the afternoon we head out on camel safari to a private and pristine desert location. Spend the afternoon/sunset photographing camels & camel drivers in the stunning Thar Desert dunes. 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.

India Photo tour workshopDay 14 – Jaisalmer – Delhi - Free Expression & a Farewell Feast
Sunrise on the stark desert is often breathtakingly beautiful. Morning shoot with local women in traditional garb, plus our trusty camels. After a glorious Rajasthan breakfast on the dunes  we return to Jaisalmer and the flight back to Delhi. After check-in you'll have free time to relax by the pool and decompress, or keep it rolling with an optional street shoot in the always fascinating streets of the capital. This evening we'll head over to our favorite neo-classic Delhi restaurant for a farewell dinner & drinks to be remembered!

Day 15. 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 India photo tour itinerary is subject to changes in the order of locations visited, but we always start and finish in Delhi. A fully detailed final schedule and 30-page information kit concerning traveling for photography in India will be sent to all registered participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.

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

“Luminous Journeys 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 

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

Personal purchases & adult beverages

 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)