Ladakh Photo Trek Part 2

Ladakh Photo Trek Part 2

 

 

f/3.2, 1/125 sec, at 23mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A early morning view of Leh, Ladakh from the Khardung La road. The peak sticking up is Stok Kangri 6,153 m (20,182 ft) (click for a larger view).

 

On arriving into Ladakh, India our photo workshop participants needed most of the first day to acclimatize to the altitude. Leh, the main city of Ladakh, is at 3,524 meters (11,562 ft) and at that height most of us lowlanders’ heads spin if you stand up to quickly. Heck, just walking up a single flight of stairs will take your breath away. Another thing this kind of altitude does is to give you wild and vivid dreams. Trust me, it’s not the dal & rice you had for dinner, it’s the altitude.  But acclimatizing didn’t mean doing nothing. Late in the day we drove to the Shanti Stupa and photographed the Leh Palace and the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa or monastery. You saw a couple of these shots in the last post. Below is one more. The light was just right for some stunning images.

 

f/16, 1/480 sec, at 141.3mm, 1000 ISO, on a X-E2

The Namgyal Tsemo Gompa viewed from the Shanti Stupa in Leh.

 

The next few days were spent touring local attractions and monasteries around Leh. After Leh we traveled the 4 to 5 hours by jeep to one of my favorite locations in Ladakh, the village of Lamayruru. A quaint little farming village overlooked by a large and impressive monastery or gompa.

 

f/3.5, 1/2500 sec, at 55mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

The monastery stands watch over the small village of Lamayruru.

 

f/14, 10 sec, at 11.5mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

Lamayruru Monastery

 

f/9, 1/180 sec, at 10mm, 320 ISO, on a X-E2

Piet Van den Eynde photographs the village from the top of the monastery.

 

f/1.4, 1/680 sec, at 56mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

An old man walks around the large prayer wheel at Lamayruru.

 

f/4.2, 1/45 sec, at 121.8mm, 2500 ISO, on a X-T1

Two young monks at Lamayruru seem to be passing secrets during their prayer time.

 

f/8, 1/600 sec, at 24mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A young monk runs to do his chores.

 

f/14, 1/680 sec, at 121.8mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

Here is Piet again, this time photographing the back side of the the Lamayruru Monastery.

 

After two nights we made a slow return to Leh where we did laundry and rested. Piet and I went for a walk around the city and ended up at the Soma Gompa just off the main bazaar road. It was here we saw several old men sitting and just watching the world go by. They nodded to us, so Piet and I walked up to them and gave them our hardest, “Julley!” the local greeting. We asked them if they would like a photograph. Not can we take a photograph, but would they like one. They each smiled so Piet, our resident off camera flash Guru began setting up his lights. While Piet was setting up I sat and chatted with them and got their names and ages and where they lived. They were all in their late 80’s and all had been farmers. It was about this time that someone made a crack, “I hope you are going to pay them royalties!” It had begun. It seems like every workshop we find some tourist that is upset with us for taking photos. Never mind that we ask. Never mind that we get to know many of them (granted not everyone). Frankly in my little conversation with these men I learned much more about them that this guy knew, I am sure. The tourist made another disparaging remark and wondered off. One of the old men named Sonam asked me what was his trouble. I said he didn’t like us taking their photo. Sonam then said, “It’s our photo, not his. He should not care.” Good point. ‘Hit and run’ photography is not my thing: whenever possible I like to get to know the people I am photographing. I also like to give prints out to as many people as I have the time and money to do so. Each of these men got a small Instax print of their own that we printed from our Fujifilm instax SHARE Printer SP-1. Each of them beamed when we gave it to them. Each of them thanked me. I’ll never sell this image. I might let Fuji use it on a blog, like any of my photos. Rarely do I sell an image of the people I photograph. When I do sell an image, I pay them a model fee and have them sign a release. These men are not models, they’re men who shared a little part of their life story with a me and demonstrated the hospitality and friendship of their people.

 

f/14, 1/125 sec, at 15.9mm, 250 ISO, on a X-E2

The gentlemen from the Soma Gompa. Sonam has the fedora on. (We have the same taste in hats 😉

 

By the way, we still have a few spots left on the Rajasthan workshop in Feb 2015.

 

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.

7 Comments

  1. Erin Wilson

    So very beautiful. You do a great job of making me miss the place and the people so much.

    Reply
    • Matt Brandon

      Erin, That was a long time ago. You need to join us for another adventure!

      Reply
  2. Jonathan Aves

    A beautiful set of images Matt.

    Reply
  3. fernando

    One thing that always amuses me, when people agitate either as our tourist friends in Ladakh did, or about photographers using street images for profit, is that it always seems to be a kind of guilt on behalf of the needy, like it’s always weather westerners exploiting poor folks from third world countries.

    Having lived all my life in photogenic, tourist laden cities, I can comfortably claim I’m in thousands of photos I never gave permission to be in. This question is so vast, that it really demands to be put in context.

    So, anyone who is ever trying, who even cares, has already self-selected as part of the elite of the most conscientious camera-carriers in the world. If we start to go one step beyond and actually give away prints (which in my view are worth more than equivalent cash compensation is most situations), or obtain model releases, or make payments, then we are in the highest echelons. And, at that point, the conversation really ought to take on a different, fundamentally respectful tone.

    I’ll get off my soapbox and get my coat now…

    Reply
  4. Karin

    Stunning! Delightful! Both the images and the writing draw me into your adventure. Matt, you are a Master!

    Reply
    • Matt Brandon

      Thanks Karin. Kind of you to say that.

      Reply

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