Luminous Ladakh - Private Photo Tours
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… Swarup was generous sharing his vision and expertise and his enthusiasm is infectious.— Roz Johnson, New Zealand
Our Luminous Ladakh photo tour workshop offers a completely unique and compelling array of image opportunities. Ladakh is a magical land that abounds with otherworldly high mountain landscapes, often punctuated by green oases, crystal blue lakes, and rich, verdant valleys. Exotic ethnic people and portrait ops are also plentiful, including the stunning Perak, with their turquoise stone headdresses. Nomadic Pushmina goat herders roam grazing lands, and Tibetan traders with their two-humped Bactrian camels travel vast dunes and winding trails to their next outposts.
A 90 minute flight from Delhi, Ladakh is surrounded by the two highest mountain ranges in the world – the greater Himalaya and the Karakoram, the collision of which you’ll be able to photograph from Turtuk. Ladakh is often called “Little Tibet”, and is very much reminiscent of the Dalai Lama’s homeland before the Chinese. Thiksey Gompa looks like a smaller Potala Palace in Lhasa. Stunning ancient monasteries adorn hilltops with jagged mountain backdrops. Lamas and young monks wear distinctly Tibetan maroon and yellow robes, and blow those crazy long horns!
Our India Ladakh photo tour begins/ends in Leh, but we use Delhi as our hub. The evening before we fly to Leh, Swarup and our hilarious guide Vikas will hold court in the bar of our Delhi hotel. A formal orientation & slideshow presentation will take place in Leh, where we have to relax and acclimatize the first day anyway. For those of you who have been to India, and for those who have had doubts about going for all the intensity, Ladakh is not that. It’s a completely different world, a veritable Shangri La.
Your fearless leader on this high adventure is award winning photographer and Canon Brand Ambassador, Swarup Chatterjee. Swarup is always great fun to travel and work with, and one of the most creative snappers we know. Check out a very interesting recent article about him on this top photography website.
Extra Good News: David Lazar will join this trip as special guest photographer once we reach a minimum of 6 participants. So tell your friends to join with you!
Otherworldly Mountain Landscapes
VIP Access @ The Hemis Festival
Tibetan Nomads and Bactrian Camels
Exotic Peoples Found Nowhere Else
The Stunning Salt Lake of Tsokar
Ancient Tibetan Monasteries
Pushmina Goats During Sheering Season
Khardung La – World’s Highest Motor Road!
The Warm & Welcoming People of Ladakh!
Luminous Ladakh Photo Tour Workshop
Day 1 – Delhi – Leh, Ladakh – Lost Horizon Welcome
Meet early in the hotel lobby. We will have had an informal get acquainted meeting in the hotel bar last evening, for everyone who arrived in time. If not no worries, Swarup will conduct an orientation meeting in Leh. Depart for the airport and Leh early this morning. The last 10 minutes of this short flight provide a sensational glimpse of the Himalayan mountain range you won’t soon forget! Due to the 11,000 foot altitude and short flight, it is strongly advised to take time to rest and acclimatize.
Orientation and Slideshow will be at the hotel, followed by lunch. Later in the afternoon, for anyone who feels ready, we’ll go out for some very low exertion photography in town. Overnight Leh.
Day 2 – Leh – 16th Century Stupas ,Thiksey & Lamayuru Monasteries
This morning’s main highlight is a visit to the amazing Thiksey Monastery. On the way is a little known group of 16th Century Tibetan stupas. These stupas were erected by convicts as part of their devotional self-cleansing and rehabilitation before release back into society. There is a resident lama we know here who is happy to add a human element for any interested photographers.
Thikse Monastery is a gompa (Tibetan-style monastery) affiliated with the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, 12 miles from Leh.It is noted for its resemblance to the Potala Palace (Dalai Lama’s earlier residence) in Lhasa, Tibet. It’s the largest gompa in central Ladakh, its 12-story complex containing innumerable examples of ancient Buddhist art – statues, thangkas, wall paintings, ornate swords, etc. Lots of wonderful photographic opportunities both inside and out. In the afternoon we drive to a village which is in perfect position to capture Lamayuru Monastery in a classic Ladakh architectural landscape. Overnight Leh.
Day 3 – Hemis – Exhilarating Tibetan Buddhist Festival
Big full day at the Hemis Festival! We have our access place reserved, so there is no need to leave particularly early. Hemis is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the Tse-Chu, Lunar month of the Tibetan Calendar. The 2-day event marks the birth anniversary of the great Guru Padmasambhava. On this day, Hemis Monastery, the largest in Ladakh, is adorned beautifully to host the ceremonies. In attendance will be colourful native peoples dressed in traditional attire from all over the region.
The masked dances also known as ‘Chham Dance’ depict the triumph of good over evil are the ceremonial highlight of the Hemis. We will enjoy a special access area for unencumbered photography. Overnight Leh.
Day 4 – Hemis – Festival 2.0 & Shanti Stupa
Arrive very early at Hemis Monastery to photograph morning prayer inside the central prayer hall. Then we will have access to the performers while donning costumes dressing and making other preparations before making entry into the monastery courtyard. This second day of the festival is similar to the first but with fewer performances. In addition to the main action, we will have innumerable opportunities for candid and environmental portraits of Ladakhi tribes and Tibetans in attendance.
After two busy days of Hemis most people will be looking forward to free time after we return to Leh. Tomorrow starts before sunrise with the road trip to Lake Tsomoriri. However, if anyone is up for more, Swarup and Vikas will take you to Shanti Stupa for late afternoon and Blue Hour when the lights come on. Shanti Stupa is a Buddhist white-domed stupa (chorten) on a hilltop in Chanspa, Leh. It was built in 1991 by Japanese Buddhist Bhikshu,Gyomyo Nakamura as a part of the Peace Pagoda mission. The Shanti Stupa holds the relics of the Buddha at its base, enshrined by the 14th Dalai Lama.The Stupa area also provides a bird’s eye view of Leh town and the sunset from here is gorgeous the way light and shade plays off the hills and mountains. Overnight Leh.
Day 5 – Leh – Tsomoriri – The High Road to Tsomoriri
The road to Tsomoriri is like a visual marvel of unfolding landscapes and bucolic scenes that include goats and goatherders, glacial valleys, snow-capped peaks and soaring rocky mountains. We may even see the famous – and endangered – Himalayan Marmot. We will make photography and refreshment stops along the way, and arrive at Tsomoriri in the afternoon. We’ll take is easy the rest of the day to acclimatise to the even higher altitude and soak in the rarefied beauty of this amazing place. Image review and/or Photoshop tips will be on tap for those interested. Overnight Tsomoriri.
Day 6 – Lake Tsomoriri – Landscapes & Village Life
Early morning landscapes of the lake and mountains from a hillock, then descend to water level for hopefully mirror like reflections. Return to camp for breakfast and then visit and photograph in a Nearby Korzok village and monastery. Subjects include Tibetans and other locals in traditional clothes, in their homes and on the street, with prayer wheels, children and Buddhist monks. The people are warm, friendly and very hospitable.
Return to camp for lunch and free time to rest or work on images. Late afternoon free shoot around the lake, and Swarup will be on hand for anyone who needs photo mentoring. For any other needs, Vikas is one the best, most hardworking guides in the business. Overnight Tsomoriri
Day 7 – Tsomoriri – Lake Tsokar – Leh-Over– Of Yaks, Nomads & Salt
After an early Himalayan breakfast we set off for Lake Tsokar. On the way we’ll stop to visit nomadic Changpa goat and yak traders, something you don’t see every day! We’ll visit their homes and be with them as they conduct their working day, setting animals to graze, etc. This is sheering season, so we’ll also get the rare opportunity to photograph the Changpa in action collecting ‘Pashmina Wool’ from their prized goats This is the finest wool on earth, and it’s been cultivated and utilized as various textiles since the beginning of civilization in the Indus River Valley. The name ‘cashmere’ comes from an old spelling of Kashmir.
Following our time with the traders we’ll go off the beaten path for the otherworldly salt lake of Tsokar, rarely visited by other Ladakh photos tours. Once known for its size and depth, the lake has lost water over recent decades, which creates wonderful reflection pools with white salt bottoms and turquoise water. Carpets of salt cover the dry areas. There are innumerable angles to capture this high mountain scene, and if we are a little lucky, we’ll see the famous Tibetan Wild Ass, the ‘Kyang’. This is also a well know Snow Leopard area, but little chance of seeing one in summer. We arrive back at Leh in the late afternoon and check into our same hotel. Enjoy free time before dinner or go with Swarup to photograph at the colourful local market. Overnight Leh.
Day 8 – Leh – Nubra Valley – High Wire Landscapes
On the way to Nubra valley we cross the highest (18,000 ft.) motorable road in the world – the picturesque Khardung La Pass. No worries, we have precautionary oxygen on board in case someone has difficulty. Once over the pass and at lower elevations, we’ll stop for some fantastic landscape photography. We’ll also take an energy rest for coffee at a café that calls itself the highest café in the world!
Afternoon check-in at our quite nice Nubra hotel with amazing views. Take the rest of the day for free time and to rest up, as high altitude photo touring demands a more relaxed pace than normal. Those up for it can head out with Swarup and Vikas to discover some new photo spots as the late afternoon creates light shadow contrasts across the stark landscape. Overnight Nubra Valley.
Day 9 – Nubra – Diskit – Tibetan Nomads, Camels & Ancient Monasteries
Sand dunes undulate across a large swath of the Nubra Valley, a high-altitude desert that cleaves Ladakh and the Himalayas from the Karakoram mountains. The confluence of the Shyok and Nubra rivers is here, making for a fertile land that produces various grains and fruits and is perfect for grazing Pashmina goats and Bactrian camels. We depart early for the dune route of nomadic Tibetan camelmen and dramatic mountain backdrops. Nubra was once an important transit point along the ancient Silk Road and for centuries traders from Central Asia, West Asia and Europe would traverse these high mountain trade routes with salt, grain, pashmina wool, cannabis resin, silk yarn, cotton, indigo, and assorted other goods.
After the morning shoot with the nomads, we return to the valley for lunch break. In the late afternoon we visit the 500 year old Diskit Monastery, situated atop a hill above the flood plain and the Shyok River. It’s a fantastic piece of architecture – very old and very well maintained with much Tibetan Buddhist art. Some narrow walkways often provide dramatic light beams. Close to the monastery is a small playground where little lamas often play cricket. This is primarily a free shoot situation. In the late afternoon we return for a second opportunity at capturing the nomads in different light with different angles. Overnight Nubra Valley.
Day 10 – Nubra Valley – Turtuk – Streets, Peaks & Portraits
We make an early morning move towards Turtuk and the remote Baltistan region. Turtuk is one of the northernmost villages of India and sits on the banks of the Shyok River. The town provides interesting street shooting and rare portrait opportunities with a very small ethnic group, the Balti. Of Tibetan descent with Dardic admixture, the Balti tend to have sharp features and light skin, very different from most of India.
Turtuk is the last outpost before Pakistan, and also one of the gateways to the Siachen Glacier. The snow-capped peaks of the world’s two greatest mountain ranges – the Himalaya and Karakoram – collide here. With golden barley field foregrounds the scene cannot be resisted by the landscape photographer! Overnight Turtuk.
Day 11 – Turtuk – Leh – Culture & Royalty
Next day we start early morning for a short street shoot to capture the lives of the people of Turtuk through the lanes and alleys of the village. We will take time to get to know the people of this intriguing culture and learn about their lives. As a part of this culture shoot we’ll also visit the Royal Palace of the Yabgo Dynasty, meet photograph their descendants. Return to Leh. Overnight Leh.
Day 12 – Leh – Free Time, Shopping & Dance
Enjoy free time to relax, work on images, go shopping, or free shoot around Leh. Later this afternoon we’ll have great fun photographing a cultural show presented by people from the Dah, Han, Darchik and Garkon tribal villages, collectively known as Brokpa. The 4,000 remaining Brokpa live on the northern bank of the Indus River about 150 miles from Leh. These tribes, who lived in isolation for thousands of years, have distinct features – tall and statuesque, often with blue or green eyes, high cheek bones, fair skin, and even some with blonde hair! The community maintains they are the direct descendants of Alexander’s Army who remained behind after Alexander abandoned his campaign here 326 BC.
The performers will also be available for portrait sessions in their very unique traditional costumes. Special Farewell Dinner follows, as tomorrow is the return to Delhi and your onward flights home. Overnight Leh.
Day 13 – Leh – Delhi – Departure
Breakfast at the hotel, then it’s off to the airport for the return flight to Delhi and your onward travel. Of course if you will be staying on in Delhi, just let us know and we’ll be happy to help with the arrangements. How awesome was your Ladakh photo tour?
What’s Included in the Price of Your Ladakh Photo Tour?
Photographer fees and top English speaking guide
In-country flights, airport & ground transport, inc. airport transfers
All meals from breakfast Day 1 through breakfast Day 13
Plenty of bottled water throughout
All entrance, permit, and camera fees
Local model/location donations
Drinks or alcohol @ lunches & dinners (water is included)
Trip cancellation or medical insurance
Gratuities – porters, local guide/driver
India Visa fee
End of trip gratuity for photographer tour leader