PHOTOGRAPHY TOURS BHUTAN

Bhutan is one of the last true unspoilt countries on earth. A Himalayan kingdom packed with unparalleled natural beauty, gentle people high with Gross National Happiness. And festivals amongst the most colourful on the planet.

Join us for 10 days culture, adventure and majestic photo-blessed scenery, touring this Buddhist stronghold of soaring, Himalayan peaks, tranquil countryside dotted with traditional farmhouses, monasteries and temples, claret-robed monks, fluttering prayer flags; and fast flowing slate-coloured rivers – ending in a party unlike any you’ve ever been to before.

It won’t be this untouched forever.

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“Creative Escapes are a good option if you want a dedicated learning holiday. Group sizes are small, meaning there’s more 1-on-1 time with tutors, less competition for spots to shoot from and plenty of supportive group critiques. Creative Escapes – the name says it all!”

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Highlights.

A place of untouched natural beauty – steep, pine-forested mountains are sliced through with deep valleys and peaks reach 7,000 metres – this is one of the only countries on the planet to actively discourage mass tourism – Bhutan gets a trickle of visitors compared to its neighbours in Nepal, India and Tibet.

Instead of GDP, Bhutan measures it’s success on peoples happiness, not earnings; the air is some of the freshest on the planet (Bhutan is the only country in the world to be carbon negative, where it produces less CO2 than it absorbs), and with TV only introduced 11 years ago, this is one of the last, original societies left.

You’ll depart hypnotised by the beauty of the Himalayas, discover how Buddhism is intrinsic to Bhutanese culture and shoot some of the stunning fortress monasteries dotted across the country. Come the end, we’ll take centre stage at the Thimpu Tsechu, the most photogenic festival on the calendar for a party to never forget.

Movement and story: shoot work from the festival with identity
Shoot planning: use time effectively and come back happy every time
Telling stories through your work – creating images with impact
Learn how to critically evaluate your work during and after the process
Techniques in formal portraiture; getting the sitter to come to you
A look at Magnum photographic style; key approaches, tricks and impact
Blending, looking beyond the obvious, objectivity, perspective and positioning
Putting you in the picture: elevating your work to the next level
Editing your work effortlessly, without looking forced

Itinerary.

Touchdown into Paro on the first day of your Bhutan Photography Holiday – and transfer to the city’s elegant old town. After some snooze, we’ll take our first peek – capturing dramatic images of the valley from Ta Dzong, before walking down to Paro’s traditional centre, Rinpung Dzong, to shoot the monks in the courtyard.

Today, we depart Paro and fly to the remote Bumthang Valley – the spiritual heartland of Bhutan. It is brimming with several precious and ancient Buddhist sites – and almost scot-free of tourists.

Here, you’ll learn the art of great travel photography, and create images few on the planet will have ever seen before. We’ll reveal skills to help you choose the best positions to make your images really stand out, how to compose correctly, and use light to best effect.

Next day, you’ll tour local villages and work on a series of images that defines the region. You’ll get 1-to-1 guidance on getting the right exposure, interacting with locals and creating interconnected photographs that would grace any travel mag.

Later, we’ll swing by the microbrewery run by a Swiss national, Mr Maurer, who produces chilled wheat beer to soothe any creative exhaustion. Bliss.

It’s just 60km to Trongsa from here, crossing the Yutong-la pass at 11,000 feet with spectacular views, then overlooking the river Mangde, Trongsa Dzong – the ancestral home of the present Royal Family – sits majestically with fabulous views of the Himalayas, with a sheer drop to the south that often just disappears into cloud and mist. The rambling assemblage of buildings that comprises the dzong trails down the ridge and is connected by a succession of alley-like corridors, wide stone stairs and beautiful paved courtyards.

Over 200 novice monks live here, where we’ll try out new skills in reportage, shooting in situ images of life in a monastery, then have our first show of images, reviewing each in detail.

 

 

Against a backdrop of forest-clad mountains, the Gangtey Goemba temple complex rises dramatically from a cluster of hilltop cottages – only a few hours from Trongsa. One of the oldest Nyingma monasteries in Bhutan, Gangtey Goemba has recently been renovated, and the fine workmanship of Bhutan’s best woodcarvers, sculptors, and painters here makes for fantastic photography.

Today, we rise early and shoot the glacial valley of Phobjikha, considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in Bhutan. Along the way, you’ll capture vistas dotted with prayer flags, local hamlets with authentic, characterful faces, and fields covered in dwarf bamboo. Later, we’ll take a dip in the hot springs at Gasa, then a short hop to Punakha, where we’ll visit Chimi Lhakhang – the Temple of Fertility – built by Lama Drukpa Kuenley (also known as the Divine Madman) in the 15th century. Monks, rows of prayer wheels and beautiful slate carvings; the Bodhi tree here believed to have been brought from Bodhgaya. This is a photographer’s paradise.

This morning, we look at documentary landscapes, weaving a route through the magical Punatshangchhu River and Wangdue Valley, then rising high up to 3160m at Dochula Pass for a view of the Himalayas unparalleled in Bhutan. Afternoon, the first glimpse of the festival, Thimpu Tsechu. We’ll do our first recce to prepare our next day’s shoot, and then take our positions next morning to capture some magic.

Fronting the enormous Tashi Cho Dzong, locals dress in their finest outfit and jewelries, watching sacred mask dances in an arena, competitors shooting ancient archery bows, markets, concerts; all the trimmings of a festival. Your tutor will be on hand to help you produce a final series that will be shown in a pop-up exhibition later that night. We then head out to party, Thimpu has a buzzing nightlife scene, and party the night away to celebrate our photographic triumphs.

It’s just over an hour from Thimpu to Paro, our final stop, then a short drive to the base of the Taktshang Monastery, then you begin the gentle ascent to Tiger’s Nest, one of the most important – and stunning – locations in Bhutan. This symbolic structure clings to the edge of a sheer rock cliff that plunges 900 meters into the valley below. Legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava (the second Buddha) flew here on the back of a tigress. The views are of course incredible, unforgettable. Iconic.

We’ll take our time perfecting the best shot, then take a tour around the inside of the monastery, before descending to Drukgyal and late afternoon shoot the peak of Jumolhari, all 7,329 meters of it. This is a photoshoot to savour.

And, to round off this magical tour, we’ll light 108 butter lamps at Kyichu Temple and shoot a special prayer by the monks. Satisfaction guaranteed.

On our final night, we’ll have a huge exhibition of all your final images, then head out into town to celebrate our creative genius.

Next morning, we’ve got just enough time for some final 1-on-1’s, some last minute shopping then board the plane back home.

Details.

1 – 10  October, 2019
4 places left

19 – 28  September, 2020
Spaces available

11 days. 10 nights. Starts and ends in Paro, Bhutan.

£3295 / £380 single supplement

Price includes 
10 days, 9 nights full board accommodation at listed hotels (or similar)
10 full days tuition from our UK-based professional photographer
All inland travel permits as described by Bhutan Tourism Board
Traditional ‘Khada’ (silk scarf) on arrival
All Royal Government of Bhutan Royalties and Taxes as applicable on date
All tours and intercity transportation with accompanying English speaking guide
Pony charges for hike to Tiger’s Nest, plus Hot Stone Bath in Paro
Bhutan visa processing charges and Visa fee
Multiple 1-on-1 tuition sessions

Price excludes international and internal flights, lunch and dinner.

 

There are no direct flights to Bhutan from the UK, so we will need to fly via Delhi. Flights to Paro via Delhi start at around £650, with an internal flight required starting at £120.

"Fabulous locations, amazing hotels & great memories. Thanks to Creative Escapes I have moved from taking a gazillion bland photographs to images I am really proud of. Already thinking about my next trip!"


Lorraine Byrne, Dublin