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.

Video Blog #10 Photo Interview with Fernando Gros and more…



Yes, it is true, this is a video blog post. I know you thought it was dead and gone. Well it was only sick. ;-)  I have tried breathed into it new life. Well, I least I hopes to.

This Sunday I am off to Ladakh, India for a two week workshop. After Ladakh the group heads to Srinagar, Kashmir. Then in February, 2015 I head back to Rajasthan. The question begs answering are photo workshop worth it? Are they worth the time and the financial investment? So this issue we will look at the benefits of photo workshops. To do this I have an interview with Fernando Gros from Continue reading

Rajasthan 2015 Photo Workshop Announced


I am thrilled to say that we set our plans into motion for the next Rajasthan Photo Trek (workshop). We have run this workshop for two years now and have been given high marks from all our participants. If you want to make photos in one of the most exotic places on earth with the most colorful dress and exciting locations then Rajasthan is your choice. Join me and photographer and author Piet Van den Eynde as we travel for two weeks across the Indian state of Rajasthan, the Land of Kings. Continue reading

A Podcast: A conversation on the Fujifilm X System with Piet Van den Eynde #02

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s.

Piet and I checking out the menus of the X-E2 and X-100s. © René Delbar


Last year after the Rajasthan Photo Trek, Piet Van den Eynde and I decided to take a few minutes to talk about our experience with the X-series cameras in the field. Piet is a brand ambassador for Fujifilm Belgium, an Adobe Lightroom Guru and an e-book author with Craft & Vision. More importantly he is my co-leader of the Digital Trekker Photo Treks. Last year after our first Photo Trek together Piet and I thought it might be fun to do a podcast about the Fujifilm X-Series gear we used. You can listen to that conversation HERE. That podcast turned out to be one of my most listened to podcasts and quite a few people had asked for a sequel… So, always eager to provide the content that people want, we though it might be fun to do this again… sort of a part two. This year, after the Photo Trek was officially over Piet and I huddled under a blanket together – no really it was the only way to deaden the sound in our cheap concrete day-rooms – and recorded this podcast. We talk about the latest gear and how we have been using the X-system since our last podcast. I hope you enjoy this conversation. Continue reading

Good things come to those that wait

A drab, rainy, wet day at the Alwar Palace.

A drab, rainy, wet day at the Alwar Palace. What could we photograph here?


I see the crystal raindrops fall
And the beauty of it all
Is when the sun comes shining through
To make those rainbows in my mind
When I think of you sometime
And I want to spend some time with you…

We have all felt it. You’re tired. You’re hungry, maybe you’re wet and cold. Frankly you just want to quit and go home… pack it in. You could do that or you could hold out just a little longer and see what is around the next bend. Welcome to the last day of the Rajasthan Photo Trek this year. Continue reading