A journey to heaven.
Stock footage to 8k available HERE
A heavenly photography adventure.
Ladakh is a truly stunning location for any photographer. Bordering Pakistan and China, Ladakh is located in high altitude of the North West Indian Himalayas. The landscape is barren with stunning rock formations, while valleys nestled around the glacial rivers enjoy some greenery with Tibetan style monasteries clinging to the mountains.
My journey was brought to life from seeing what other local photographers are doing in this area. Many years ago I visited Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. The following year, Tamang Heritage trail. Both were great. Drawn by the culture, I had inspirations of going more remote, perhaps the lesser visited western area of Nepal. A decade later, after setting up photography workshops here in Cambodia, I discover Ladakh, an opportunity not to be missed. The barren landscape lends it’s self to time-lapse photography. Also the remoteness, the stunning shadow and light formation and high altitude aiding clear skies for astro photography adds to the draw.
A trial excursion, three weeks motorbike / time-lapse photography, in Indonesia’s Island Java earlier in the year put me in good stead for the Ladakh adventure. All this along with complete system upgrade, it has been a busy time for me during the Angkor Wat low season.
Here are some pointers for Ladakh.
Researching about the area, there is a limited window of opportunity, June through to September, when the weather is suitable. Early season, May / June, the snow is cleared and high passes become opened to the traveller. Glacial melt, turning rivers grey with the sediment wash. This increases the risk of water crossings along remote highways. Late season, August / September, the weather starts to change. A dip in temperature, rivers run blue and clearer skies, making this an Ideal time for astro photography.
Access to Leh
Most tourists opt for internal flights to Leh which are available all year round. During my stay some flights were canceled due to weather conditions, so plan accordingly and allow some flexibility. It is possible to hire a Motorbike from Manali and enter the area overland when high passes open, June – September. I met many people who did this who raved about the scenery on this road. However, only motorbikes hires from Leh are permitted in restricted areas within the Ladakh region. There is also a local bus service from Manali to Leh, obviously only open when the high passes are cleared.
Flying into Leh, a central hub for travelers to the region, you will land at 3500m. A few days of acclamation is required. After landing, It took two days before I felt my body acclimatize, this can vary for each person. It was a further two days before I got organized with a Royal Enfield motorbike and the relative permits for restricted areas. My first day on the Royal enfield took me over Changla pass (5360m) then down to 4250m to Pangong Tso. I was fine with this, unlike in Nepal where I was trekking over Thorong La pass. On a bike, you are up and over fairly quick, where as trekking takes more energy, and obviously longer exposure to high altitude. Remember the 500m per day rule. If you get into trouble, head down and seek medical advice.
Permits are not difficult. The main office is in Leh city. Any any travel agency in Leh will sort things for a minimal fee and should only take one day. There is a require for the minimum of two travelers per permit application. However, if you wish to travel solo, it is possible to get a single permit with the help of Geographic Tours (https://www.facebook.com/GeographicTours.in/). The cost of permits is minimal, around $10. The agency I used ticked all required boxes for restricted areas, which gave me freedom to travel where I wish within the limits. You will have to get photocopies of the permits, as checkpoints will take one copy when you pass.
There are options. Local busses are available to limited destinations. Taxies are common, often shared amongst travelers. A 4×4 would be a good option as I did witness some smaller cars having problems. Any travel agent in Leh can sort this for you. For me, the best way to travel was on a Royal Enfield. They are tough, heavy and built for the environment. During high season many bikers from across the country and beyond head to Ladakh, the crown Jewel of India. The landscape is barren. It is probably best to join a group motorbike tour, either through an agent, or get chatting to some native visitors. I wanted flexibility due to my photography work, therefore solo was the way to go. Thankfully I did not have any major issues. There were many bikers on major routes.
Photography / Time-lapse
This place really is heaven on earth. The remoteness removes light pollution. The baroness landscape lends it’s self to shadow and light. Monasteries give subject. The mostly Buddhist locals add to the culture. What more could you want? There are two main issues, altitude and transport. Places of interest can be far between. If you can overcome this, then you have an amazing playground for your work.
Future Timelapse / Photography workshop in Ladakh
I may well return to Ladakh in 2020 and beyond. It is a great place, nice people and the food is pretty good too. There is more to see. This was my first time on a Royal Enfield and riding a bike in high altitude, simply an amazing place.
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