FREE PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS
We know a thing or two about photography in Bhutan. Now you can too.
When To Plan Your Trip
The best time to view Bhutan through the lens are in the SPRING (March, April & May) and FALL (September, October & November). Fall is mild with clear blue skies and the landscape bathed in a kaleidoscope of warm colors. Many festivals (tshe-chu) also fall during these seasons. The MONSOON months are great (June through August) for those desiring to photograph lush landscapes and moody cloud formations.
What To Photograph
There is just so much to see, enjoy and capture. The following subjects will give you an idea about what to look for. But really, keep a keen eye and you’ll find much more.
What You Should Know/Carry
Here are a few things you should know/carry to save time and money.
- TRAVEL LIGHT
Bhutan airlines allow only 20kg per person and the charges for extra luggage is expensive compared with other countries.
- PACK EXTRA BATTERIES
It will save you from gigantic headaches.
- POWER STRIP
Most power strips (to charge your gear) purchased outside Bhutan will exceed voltage requirements. So it’s good to buy your strips upon arrival in Bhutan.
- INTERNATIONAL CHARGER
Make sure your battery chargers are ‘international’. Power plug adapter for battery charger should be as same as India.
- PORTABLE BATTERY PACKS
For treks or camping. Portable battery packs (with solar options) like Powergorilla or Powertraveller Extreme works like a charm.
Traveling with a tripod not only can be expensive given Bhutanese airlines baggage allowance rule but it can also take up space. Gorilla Grip or any other such devices can be very useful in such instances especially if you have a GoPro with you. If you are strictly a tripod guy, have no worries, you can hire one from Bhutan Spicy Shangri-La for a nominal fee.
- PROTECT SENSOR
Shooting in Bhutan can be dusty and when changing lenses in the field, you’re bound to get dust on your DSLR sensor. So don’t forget to carry a large-sized Rocket Air Blaster, wet wipes and paint brush for dust removal.
- PROTECT FROM RAIN
Make sure your camera bag has rain cover. Weather in Bhutan is unpredictable and can change very quickly. It can save you from a colossal headache when rain comes out of the blue.
How to Get Great Photos
- RESPECT YOUR SUBJECT
Respect for one another and for the environment including its tradition is fundamental to Bhutanese culture. You’ll have an incredibly rewarding visit if you try to reflect that viewpoint.
Photography is prohibited in the interior of monuments like dzongs and monasteries. You’ll be putting your guide and agency in great legal peril if you do that.
- DON’T BE SHY
Bhutanese are very friendly and as long as you’re polite they will be glad to have their photograph taken. Learning a few key phrases like “May I take your picture?” (“Nga choegi paa chi tabgay tubga la?”) and “Thank you so much” (“Named samed kadrin-chey la”) in the Bhutan national language, Dzongkha, will go a long way. Get your guide to help you with the pronunciation.
- WEAR DECENT ATTIRE
Especially while photographing the festivals. Try and not wear shorts, revealing tops or tights. Please try not to block the views of others. Bring telephoto and mid-range zoom lenses. Photographing at the larger tshechu festivals in Paro or Thimphu is like shooting a sporting event leaving no room at all to move around. The smaller community festivals, however, are more intimate and provide more flexibility.
- BOOK A FARM-STAY
Staying overnight at a farm-stay provides the most authentic experience of rural life in Bhutan. It also supports eco-tourism and allows for plenty of chances to capture the most intimate portraits. The best area to book a farm-stay is in the Bumthang and Phobjikha Valley.
- SHOOT EARLY & LATE
If you can’t get up at the crack of dawn you won’t get better light and filters can only help so much. For shooting landscapes in Bhutan, afternoon light (after 3PM) is better. The bulk of the Bhutan Spicy Shangri-La photo tours for Spring and Fall are designed around these “golden hours”.
- WEAR BHUTANESE ATTIRE
It’s a good idea to wear Bhutanese traditional attire (‘gho’) sometimes. It separates you from other tourists and helps you blend in. Locals will also value your respect. It may also open doors that might have otherwise been closed.
- BE KIND
In most remote regions of Bhutan, the people would have rarely seen a photo of themselves let alone a camera. So showing them their photo on your playback and shooting again is a great way to develop trust.