Ladakh Photo Trek Part 3


f/9, 1/280 sec, at 18.8mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

Nubra Valley is being developed with guest houses and luxury tent accommodation. It is a good idea to visit it sooner rather than later.


After the official workshop ended, as often, we offered an extension on the trip. The planned extension was to Srinagar Kashmir and the surrounding valley But as you might know the Kashmir region was faced with unprecedented flooding and there was no way we would be able to lead a workshop in such surroundings. So Piet, Alou and I had to put our heads together in a hurry and come up with an alternative for Kashmir. The obvious choice became the one we went with: the amazing Nubra Valley.

f/9, 1/30 sec, at 25.4mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

A sign posted at Khardung La.

The Nubra Valley is located Northeast of Leh over the Khardung La (Khardung Pass). The Khardung La is touted as being the highest motorable road in the world at 5,602 m (18,379 ft). Frankly I doubt that. Our GPSs all came in closer to 5,334 m (17,500 ft). Nevertheless, it is high! So much so there is a sign posted in all caps that reads, “STAYING FOR MORE THAN 20-25 mins CAN BE HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH”.

Once over the pass you drive a windy (winding?) road to a city called Diskit then on to another called Hundar. It was in Hundar we stayed the night in luxury tents. These are tents with permanent concrete flooring with carpet and a huge king size bed. Also each tent has a toilet and shower with hot water (on call). It was also in Hundar that we found the two humped bactrian camels.  In Diskit we visited the Diskit Monastery, the oldest and largest Buddhist monastery in the area.



Interested in what gear or settings I used. As always just click the photo and you will find the EXIF data.

f/4, 1/320 sec, at 70.5mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

Hundar was the home to the two humped bactrian camels.

f/5.6, 1/2000 sec, at 104.9mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1

A man and his camel silhouetted against the Karakoram range.


f/5.6, 1/640 sec, at 74.1mm, 400 ISO, on a X-T1


f/1.4, 1/1500 sec, at 35mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

An old man walks his dog in the small village of Diksit, Ladakh.

f/1.4, 1/600 sec, at 35mm, 800 ISO, on a X-E2

A monk at the Diskit Gompa prepares offerings made of yak butter.


f/10, 1/20 sec, at 35mm, 6400 ISO, on a X-E2

A local man prays to the Buddha as sunlight is shining into a small gompa in Hundar.


f/9, 1/600 sec, at 115.9mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T1

Next to the Diskit Monastery sits this 35 meter statue of Maitreya Buddha or the future Buddha.


Given we only had three nights in Nubra,  there was plenty to photograph. Speaking of… this will be the last of my images of this trip. In the next post I want to post a few of the participants’ images. We had a talented group and as always I want to share with you their visual take of this trip.

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.


2014 Ladakh Photo Trek…WOW!


Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

Namgyal Tsemo Monastery, Leh, Ladakh


Piet Van den Eynde, Alou and I just concluded what might have been the hardest workshop I have ever ran. Not because we didn’t have fantastic participants. On the contrary, we had great participants, many of whom were repeat clients. Not because they were not all really talented photographers – they all were – even though that is not a requirement to participate in one of our trips. It was because so many things just happened. Like God looked down and said, “I think I’ll give you a little run for your money, Matt. You need some new stories to tell!”

It started when one participant emailed us the night we arrived to India and explained that her aircraft she was flying had one of their engines go bad and they had to make an emergency landing in Toronto. She explained she might be late. Talk about scary! But she made it and joined us a day late. Then within hours of that email I get another from another participant that said he had visa issues and maybe be several days late! When it rains… He made it two days later.

While all this was unfolding, we received news that there was major flooding in the Kashmir Valley where we had planned to run a four day add-on to the Ladakh trip. The flooding was so severe that we decided to cancel the Kashmir add-on both for our sake and in respect of the people experiencing the flooding. Frankly, it would be dangerous as well as tacky to visit as a tourist while people where struggling for their very lives.

If that was not enough, while camping at 15,000 ft one of the participants had issues with altitude and was evacuated to lower altitudes. But wait… there’s more. As a result of the flooding in neighboring Kashmir all communications with the outside world was relegated to visits to a local phone booth. Yes, they still have phone booths, but only one or two were operational for the whole city of Leh in Ladakh. Can you say, “lines of people”?

But we managed. We carried on and had fun, made friends and took some amazing photos. We replaced the Kashmir add-on with a trip to the Nubra Valley and I thinks folks were happy with the choice. I am pretty sure participants walked away with stunning, unique images to add to their portfolio. That’s one of the good things about leading workshops in India – photo opportunities are low hanging fruit. It doesn’t mean anyone can take a good photo, but it does mean everyone has the chance to.

If this has got you thinking of  joining a workshop (or in fact, if this is scaring you from joining one), know that we also have a more luxurious workshop in Rajasthan in February 2015, for which there are still a couple of places available.


Camping for several night was both exciting at 15,000 ft and cold! (click for a larger view)

Camping for several night was both exciting at 15,000 ft and cold! (click for a larger view)


Participants stop on a drive around Tsorak Lake, Ladakh to photograph the mountain light.

Participants stop on a drive-around Tsorak Lake, Ladakh to photograph the mountain light.


Tsokar Lake is a salt lake with many huge salt flats that the local nomads take advantage to harvest salt for their livestock.

Tsokar Lake is a salt lake with many huge salt flats. The local nomads take advantage of this to harvest salt for their livestock.


Alou stand on what looks like a mirror, Tsorkar Lake.

Alou stand on what looks like a mirror, Tsorkar Lake.


In Lamayuru, Piet gave participants lessons in off-camera flash.

In Lamayuru, Piet gave participants lessons in off-camera flash.


What trip with Piet Van den Eynde would be complete without using our Fujifilm Instax printer to pass on photos to our new friends?

What trip with Piet Van den Eynde would be complete without Fujifilm Instax prints being passed to new friends?


Mike Alexander shooting in a dark monastery in the Nubra Valley.

Mike Alexander shooting in a dark monastery in the Nubra Valley.


France Leclerc prepares to photograph Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).

France Leclerc prepares to photograph Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass).





Off to Ladakh Tomorrow.


Tomorrow Alou and I leave for Ladakh and Kashmir with Piet Van den Eynde and 9 other participants. (Pray it stops raining!) I wanted to add a quick interactive post to show you around where we will be and what’s in my new Think Tank Roller Derby bag. The bag photo below is interactive by a company called Sakoos. Pretty fun. (FYI: Don’t click on an open green tag unless you want to be redirected to the Sakoos site. To close the tag, just click off it.) Enjoy poking around this post and we will post when we can. Remember, we still have a few spots left on the Rajasthan Workshop in Feb 2015.

PetaPixel Playing With The Truth




In a recent blog post the tech/photography site PetaPixel suggested a workaround for getting more camera gear on your next flight. The solution is, just lie. Forge your own press credentials and say you are with a media service. Apparently the major airlines have deals for traveling media professionals and will allow extra baggage for just $50 a bag. As a traveling photographer always worried about weight,  I read through the PetaPixel article with interest. That is until I reached the bottom of the post when author DL Cade quoted Canadian photographer Von Wong (another Fuji x-photographer) who said, just make your own credential. “Boom. Instant proof.” Seriously?  Continue reading

Jessie’s Venice


f/4, 1/9 sec, at 19.1mm, 200 ISO, on a X-Pro1

A rainy evening in Venice.


I haven’t posted photos by Jessie (my daughter) in quite some time. Frankly, it is because she hasn’t been shooting. School kind of gets in the way of photography. But while traveling Italy she has found the time and seems to have gotten her mojo back. Again, I am very proud of her images.

PS. Jessie’s loving the X-Pro1 and the 18-55 mm.

Continue reading

Florence at Night


It goes without saying many people have photographed Florence at night. But I haven’t. So here is my contributions to an already large body of work on this beautiful old city. I hope you enjoy these. Tomorrow we are off to Venice. Ciao!


Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Continue reading

How to Photograph and Still have a Family Vacation.

f/6.4, 1/680 sec, at 14.5mm, 200 ISO, on a X-E2

A view of Florence from atop the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore or Il Duomo di Firenze.

Florence is the capital of the  Tuscany region of Italy. The city is viewed as a cultural, artistic and architectural treasure. Florence is also known as the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance. It is the home to such wonders as Michelangelo’s David and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and countless other historic works of art. Of course, when you are on a family vacation the goal is to see all these wonders and stuff yourself on gelato, pizza, prosciutto and still have time to shop.  If you’re like me you also want to try to grab time to take memorable photos in the midst of all this. Continue reading

Buongiorno From Roma

Piazza Navona

Piazza Navona


We left Rome today and are now in Florence for the next few days. Rome was everything I had dreamed it would be. Well, almost. Everyone said the coffee would be the best I have ever tasted. So far I have not had a bad cup of coffee. But I don’t find it head and shoulders above the rest of the worlds cappuccino’s and espressos. Now the gelato… that’s another story!  I am sure there is no better ice cream on the planet! Continue reading