I think Bhutan is almost unique in this modern world, in that the culture and beliefs are strong and firmly rooted in their present day society, The Bhutanese have mobile phones and computers, they wear Nike shoes, many of them study overseas, almost everyone speaks English, yet they daily wear traditional dress, eat their traditional foods, participate and believe in their culture and festivals. It is an amazing country with a beautiful juxtaposition of the old and the new existing side by side and rarely conflicting.
This image is of a young woman who works for the local government of Punakha, she has a few minutes before her work day begins. She works in a 17th Century Dzong, she wears traditional Bhutanese dress and she is sending a text message on her iPhone 5…
In less than 10 days I will be back in Bhutan for the Spring festivals perhaps watching a few more demons being vanquished, this time in Punakha Dzong for the Punakha Dromchen. You can read about it right here>>
The Demon of Chumey Valley
This is the final dance of the Prakar Lhakhang Tshechu in Chumey Valley, where the whirling demons are chased back through the door to the sound of chaotic drumming and stamping. Quite a lot of Ara has been consumed at the is point by all the performers, so it really is a mad frenzy, amazing to watch.
Image shot with the Hasselblad H4D-60 and the 100mm f2.2 lens
The Hasselblad H4D-60 is not really a travel camera… it being huge, heavy and not very subtle. But It’s such a lovely camera to use, and the results are nothing short of spectacular, which makes it all worth it. Its a hard camera to use quietly, as the shutter makes an almighty “thunk” which tends to echo around the space in places like Dzongs (Temple fortress of Feudal Bhutan) and temples.
This Image shot in the Thimpu Dzong on my last photo tour of Bhutan in the angled light of late afternoon as a group of Monks crossed the courtyard. Shot on the Hasselblad H4D-60 with the Hasselblad 100mm f2.2.
I have finalised all the details for my photography tour of Bhutan for next year and the web page has been fully updated. 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. 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.
Since there are so many Monks in Bhutan I can hardly only put up one image, so here are a few more. Mostly photographed in the Dzongs and temples of Punakha, Trongsa, Thimpu and Bumthang.
Path to Enlightenment
It seems the Monks are used to being photographed, I guess they are an easy target, but if you are on the path to enlightenment being magnanimous with a group of photographers is just one small test along the way. Either way they were all very friendly and obliging, or perhaps gracious is a better description.
Don’t forget to click on the images to see the bigger (and better) version. All three of these images were shot on the Canon 5D Mk II with a Canon 24-105mm f4L
Bhutan Photographic Tour 2013.
The dates for the Bhutan photo tour for 2013 are up! I have redone the whole tour for 2013 and reduced the number of participants to a maximum of 10 people to ensure plenty of personal contact time. You can read about the new Bhutan photo tour for October 2013 on this page
Over 10% of the population of Bhutan are Buddhist Monks, so when you are there you tend to see a lot of them about. The Dzongs, which are old feudal fortress temples dotted all across Bhutan, are now used as centres for Government offices and are also house the Monk bodies of Bhutan, quite aptly symbolising the close relationship of the counties government and its religion. In fact Bhutan is one of the only countries that has its religion (being Buddhism) written into its constitution.
Buddhism in Bhutan
The Buddhism of the majority of the population Bhutan is what they call middle path Buddhism, that is they won’t kill animals, but they occasionally will eat meat if one of their livestock dies from an accident or old age. As a tourist in Bhutan you are usually served meat or fish with most meals, as the Bhutanese assume most Westerners want to eat meat, but the great irony of this is that all the meat for tourist consumption is imported from India!
This image shot in Thimpu Dzong, with the permission of the subject, with a Canon 5D Mk II and a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L lens
During many of the festivals in Bhutan (a country with lots of festivals), they act out their traditional stories in dance. Most of the stories are quite incomprehensible to the uninitiated without a guide explaining them, but they are fantastic to watch and exciting to be a part of the enthusiastic crowd as the dancers whirl around the coutyard with their costumes flaring out in bright vibrant colours and patterns.
Monasteries, Dzongs and Festivals
For many of the festivals, especially those in the Monasteries and Dzongs (temple fortress), the dancers are often the local Monks. During my recent photographic tour of Bhutan we all saw many temples and Dzongs, but generally photography is forbidden within the inner sanctums of the temples themselves (fair enough i reckon, got to have some privacy). Well imagine our surprise when we were standing (quiet and respectful) outside the temple door of the Trongsa Province Dzong watching while the Monks rehearsed their dances, when one of the senior Monks invited us in to take photos!
The light was streaming through the ancient windows behind the Monks and falling onto the old planked hardwood flooring creating a stunning backdrop to set off the deep red and saffron robes of the whirling Monks. It was a magical experience, and was very hard to leave.
Bhutan Photo Tour 2013 dates released
The itinerary and the dates for the Bhutan Photography tour for 2013 have been finalised and booked. I have reworked the whole itinerary and reduced the numbers of this photographic tour down to a maximum of 10 people to ensure a better and more rewarding experience for all. You can read about this exciting new photo tour to Bhutan right here.
These are random shots from a roadside stop on the way to Trongsa Dzong in central Bhutan shot on one of my Bhutan Photo tours. This fellow and the rest of his team were in the process of putting up a viewing platform shelter on the opposite side of the valley from the Trongsa Dzong (temple fortress).
And like almost all officially placed lookout platforms, it was in the wrong place! It was situated directly opposite the Dzong and the view was very uninspired, the workers themselves were much more interesting, this fellow in particular. He has such a lovely open face, and the light was just right. I got some more interesting pictures of the Dzong later.
Trongsa Province, Central Bhutan. Shot with a Canon 5D Mk II, 24-105mm f4L lens.
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