Some more stormy moody skies from last years Bhutan Photographic Tour, this time over the Chumey valley in Bumthang, Central Bhutan. This is one of my favourite valleys in Bhutan, it is wild and open and the main road, which is the only road is a small winding one that is only 1 lane wide that meanders across the valley and then up through the passes.
I think this image is really defined by the sky and all the moody texture with sunbeams breaking through the clouds. Imagine it with Blue cloudless skies… It really wouldn’t be a “keeper” at all like that would it?
This was shot using the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the Hasselblad HC 100mm f2.2 lens. I shot it with the panoramic crop in mind and simply cut off the top and bottom… Having 60 megapixels to play with is very handy!
The “small” building on the ridge with the sunlight falling on it is actually one of the King’s Palaces. This image looks fabulous blown up big and actually featured in an international exhibition on Bhutan in Copenhagen earlier this month, as did the one from the previous post.
My next Photo Tour to Bhutan will be leaving in April 2015, dates and costings are being finalised right now and details will be up soon
When I am at these very important festivals I try to remain as unobtrusive as possible, bearing in mind that this is their festival, and I am a guest. I tend to stand quietly in one place for quite some time, on the corner of a building or off to the side of some steps, watching and when the opportunity presents making an image, like this one.
Dancers having a Tea Break at the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in Chumey
Not Getting in the Way
The Bhutanese are lovely friendly people and a regular occurrence when they see me standing at the back is to invite me forward (to stand in front of them) so I can see better… Now I am 180cm tall and most Bhutanese are somewhat smaller than that, so if I stand in front of them they won’t be able to see a thing. Naturally I decline, but often that simple interaction is enough to start a conversation where I often discover that the person I am talking to studied in Australia (Engineering, science or similar), or has a brother, or sister, or Son or Grand Daughter studying there.
Image shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the 100mm f2.2 lens… without getting in the way or being a nuisance.
For the locals in the Chumey valley the dancing of the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu (religious festival in the Chumey Valley) has special significance and meaning. The figures both celebrate their rich cultural and religious heritage and they believe simply witnessing the dances will absolve and release them from many sins committed the previous year.
Watching the Demons Dance
Buddhism in Bhutan
Bhutan is a Buddhist country, but as Buddhism travelled across Asia, transported by the travelling Gurus, it changed and evolved absorbing and adopting many of the animist beliefs of the locals. This you can clearly see in the Buddhist festivals of Bhutan with their many stories and legends of spirits and demons of the land that have become an integral part of local Bhutanese Buddhism, nothing illustrates this better than the Demon Dance on the final day of the Tshechu.
Image shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the 100mm f2.2 lens on my last Photo Tour to Bhutan
A Demon enters the Bumthang Tshechu from the Monastery door, Heralded by the sounding of the drum and a gong by two novice Monks. A third young Monk serenely watches the Demons Dance during the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in the Chumey Valley.
This Dance is the last dance of the last day of the Tshechu and is marked by wild spinning and leaping. The demons are chased off one by one in wild leaping displays of flashing whips and clanging discordant drums, it is the most primal and spectacular dance of the whole Tshechu, well worth the wait.
Both images shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and Hasselblad 100mm f2.2 lens
More images from the Kingdom of Bhutan, This time of the Black Hat Dancers of the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu (religious festival) in the Chumey Valley in Bumthang, which is in Central Bhutan.
This was during the Black Hat Dance, or Zhana Cham which celebrates the assassination of a Tibetan King in 842AD by a black robed Monk as well as symbolising the subduing of the demons of the Earth by Buddhist Yogis.
The sound of the hand drums the dancers carry symbolises Buddhism itself which has no visible form. This is one of the most sacred dances at the Tshechu and simply witnessing the dance is said to wash away sins.
The Dance is certainly breathtaking to watch with beautiful costumes and the dancers performing spectacular spins and leaps that become more daring as the day progresses and more Ara is consumed (Local rice liquor) by the dancers. Incidentally, almost all the dancers at these Tshechus are local Monks.
All these images were shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the Hasselblad 100mm f2.2 lens. Don’t forget to click on the images to get a bigger view.
I have finalised all the details for my photographic tour of Bhutan for next year and the web page has been fully updated, you can find all the details here>>. Next years tour differs from this years tour, which is leaving next month (october 12th), in that next year we are going in March, which is Spring in Bhutan. This means all the wildflowers will be out, it also means the festival around which I base the dates for the Bhutan Photo tour will be different.
Bumthang Festivals for the Photo tour of 2013
Both this year and last year the tour dates revolved around two fantastic festivals in the Bumthang region of Bhutan, The Jambay Lhakhang tshechu (religious festival) in Jakar and the Prakar Lhakhang tshechu (religious festival) in the Chumey valley. Both of these festivals are as authentic as it gets and worth the travelling into the scenic mountainous region of Bhutan, not that you need any further reasons, the scenery in central Bhutan is spectacular even on a bad day!
Punakha Festival for the Photo tour of 2014
For 2014 by arriving in spring it opens up the possibilities for seeing other festivals. For next years tour I have set the dates to coincide with the Punakha Dromchen tshechu, which takes place in and around the stunningly beautiful Punakha Dzong (temple fortress). This festival commemorates a pivotal victory of the Bhutanese over the Tibetan army in the 17th century that took place in the location where the Dzong now stands. The Punakha Dzong was built to ensure the Tibetans would never be able to sneak up the Punakha valley again, and the festival that happens in spring each year has a dramatic re-enactment of this battle as the main event, and we will be there to photograph it. If you would like to join me at the Punakha Dzong (which is pictured above) for this unique festival go to the Bhutan Photo Tour webpage to read all the details and reserve your place.