Luminous Bhutan Photo Tour

Luminous Bhutan Photo Tour Workshop

Land of the Thunder Dragon

Mid April, 2019 (14 Days)

Designed & Led by Nat Geo Contributor & Multi-Major Award Winner

David Lazar

Price: $6995 (Outstanding Value for Money @ $499 per day)

Hotels: Excellent 3 & 4 star + one Homestay

Highlights :The Otherworldly Tiger’s Nest Monastery – Remote Cultural Festival – Private Photo Shoot w/ Festival Performers – Himalayan Landscapes – Inside Access to Monasteries & Monks – Ethnic Tribes in Traditional Costume – Stunning Ancient Temple Architecture – The Warm and Happy People of Bhutan!

Let’s Get Started!

David Lazar is a Nat Geo contributor and widely published travel photographer with a number of major awards to his credit. But those credentials alone are not enough! What matters most in this context, is that he is a great photo tour leader who sincerely cares that you become a better photographer. Luminous Journeys photo tours do not just bring you from location to location and make you fend for yourself, like so many of our competitors.

On the contrary! We take great pride in providing the extra value added you deserve – insight, instruction and true travel photography guidance throughout. This is done informally according to your own needs and stated requests. For example – are you shy to approach portrait subjects in a foreign country? No worries, David will guide you through his tried and true approach and you’ll have ongoing opportunity to apply what you learn as the photo tour workshop progresses. He’s always there to help you take your photography to the next level, while having a lot of fun along the way. Another value added that most other photo tours don’t offer, is arranging a variety of photo shoots where you get the chance to work with local models in awesome settings and see just how a professional travel photographer on assignment gets things done!

Our Luminous Bhutan photo adventure is slated for mid April 2019, awaiting finalization of festival dates. Spring weather is great, the number of tourists is lower, and the flowers are in bloom! You will get the opportunity to photograph an off-the-beaten path cultural festival with insider access – and not be forced to battle the massive crowds that pack into the Paro Tshechu. David and team is returning to Bhutan in April 2018 to explore a few “secret” places we have inside contacts for, where you will be able to photograph ethnic tribes in traditional dress.

Bhutan Spring Festival Season

Late March/April and even into May sees no less than 6 festivals in various parts of the country, including the second most popular, Paro Tshechu. Of course it’s also a spring time festival, full of color and joy and whirling monks! The festivals, featuring tsechus, are where history and tradition are passed on orally and visually. Bhutanese values, mythology and spiritual beliefs are expressed through these dance dramas. Often they climax with otherwise rare displays of giant silk thangkha paintings of the great Guru Padmasambava, or other great deities of Bhutanese Buddhism.

Photographing the early preparations for the festival can also be quite rewarding. Monks rehearsing their performances, prayer flags and masks being made, all manner of inside access not available to the average visitor. This is a good way to meet and speak with some of the monks, see what mask they will be wearing, learn about the meaning of his role in the performance, etc. This type of access and knowledge can only help with your photography during the spectacular performance itself. On the following morning we will have a private photo shoot with several of the costumed performers before the performance.

This tour will have a maximum of 10 – 12 participants. Please, for your own sake, avoid those overpriced Bhutan offerings that take 16 – 18 photographers! These are profit centers, not true photo tour workshops. Stay tuned, mark your calendars for April 2019 when our first edition of Luminous Bhutan will take place. The finalized itinerary will posted in May, but it will closely approximate what you see in “Itinerary” when you click the tab at the top of this box.


Itinerary* – Luminous Bhutan!
Mid April, 2019

Day 1 – Paro – Welcome to Bhutan – Land of the Thunder Dragon

Arrive Paro International Airport from Bangkok, Singapore, Kathmandu, etc., depending on home starting point. A happy LJ representative will greet you and take you to the hotel. Program begins at 2:30 pm with a slideshow presentation and orientation by David and Dorji. If you arrive a day or two early, just let us know and we’ll arrange to have you in the same room at our day 1 hotel.

Most likely first afternoon shoots are Nyimzan traditional bridge and streets leading to Rinpung Dzong, the Fortress of Heaped Jewels; the 15th century Dungtse Lhakang temple; and street portrait locations picked out by David.

Day 2 – Paro – “Tiger’s Nest”, Taktsang Monastery

Tiger’s Nest is of course the most iconic site in all of Bhutan, for obvious reasons. Something you may not know is that two of David Lazar shots of the monastery are the most popularly seen online – one with the prayer flag foreground and one without. The hike to Tiger’s nest begins before sunrise from the hotel and takes about 3 hours going up, and 2 hours going down. This is by far the longest hike of the tour, but is not that difficult and there is plenty of time. And no worries, there will be porters (no extra cost) to carry your gear if you so choose. There are several scenic photo stops on the way up, plus lunch.

Day 3 – Paro – The Capital City of Thimpu

Thimphu is one of the last capital cities in the world without traffic lights, where traffic is managed by police in white gloves! With a population of only 150,000, they can get away with it. here you have the ancient and the modern blended into one, seemingly effortlessly. Photo locations include Buddha Point (where the 169 ft bronze Shakyamuni Buddha statue gilded in gold stands) with views over the valley and city; Choki Traditional Art School with access to photograph the students at work on their various expressions; The Memorial Chorten/stupa where charming elderly people, with their rosary and prayer wheel in hand, circumambulate the Chorten; Centenary Farmers Market and much more.

Day 4, 5 – Punakha and Wangdue

After breakfast take a scenic three hour drive to Wangdue and Punakha valleys. Photography locations include:
1. The scenic Dochula Pass at 3,150 meters (1 hour drive from Thimphu)
2. Mountain Passes and snowcapped Himalayan ranges
3. The Gorgeous rice fields and village of Lobesa
5. The Fascinating Temple of Fertility @ Wangduephodrang
6. Bhutan’s most beautiful Punakha Dzong “Fortress of Great Bliss”
7. Sunrise @ Dochula Pass w/ awesome Himalaya views
8. Khamsum Yulley Namgyel Chorten / Stupa – A beautiful walk through pine trees, traditional houses, a meandering river, with villagers working the rice paddies fields. Shots along the way and up to the Chorten, and from the Chorten to the idyllic scene below.
9. Sangchhen Dorji Lhuendrup Nunnery – Stunning view of the Punakha valley on one side and the Punakha valley on the other. You can also interact with the English speaking nuns and photograph them as they go about their daily routine
10. Talo, Laptsakha and Nobgang villages are located above the nunnery. These villages are thriving examples of Bhutanese rural life in the west, whereas in the east you see poorer and more remote villages, seemingly reaching back in time. There is interior house access and portrait opportunities as well.

Day 6, 7 – Punakha – Phobjikha & Gangtey Glacial Valleys

The serene and stunning glacial valleys of Gangtey and Phobjika are among the most beautiful in all of Bhutan.

Photo Opportunites:
1. Enroute to Gangtey stopped by the Bjena Geog community school to visit the happiest children in the world at assemble and prayer time.
2. Lanscapes of the wide glacial valleys of Phobjikha, Gangtey and neighboring villages
3. Traditional Bhutanese villages with houses built and painted in rich age old traditional art and architecture
4. Gangtey Monastery – Lovely hilltop location overlooking the valley. This is an important monastery of the Nyingmapa school of Buddhism, and you’ll have the chance to photograph monks in daily routine and ceremony, both interior and exterior.

Day 8 – Gangtey – Trongsa – Central Bhutan

The drive into Central Bhutan from Gangtey takes about 5 short hours with plenty of landscape and small village photo opportunities, as well as the spectacular and massive Trongsa Fortress. Photograph the fortress as part of a landscape, and later up close and personal.Trongsa Dzong is perhaps the most extraordinary in all of Bhutan. Built in 1648 on multiple levels cling to the side of a cliff. This was the seat of power for the first and second kings of Bhutan, and still holds great royal significance.

Day 9 – Trongsa – Bumthang – East Central Bhutan

From Trongsa to Bumthang is about 3 hours via the Yotongla Pass at 11,154 ft/3400 meters. Short stop at Chumey village to photograph men & women weavers at their looms making yak and sheep wool clothing, blankets, etc.

In & around Bumthang photo opps include:

1. Jakar Dzong – “Fortress of the White Bird”
2. Four Temples Walk & Shoot w/ Buddhist monks
3. The fantastic Kencho Sum Temple
4. Mountain Town Street Shooting

Day 10 – Bumthang – Tang Valley

The remote high mountain Tang Valley is simply resplendent, complete with river running through it, many temples, monasteries and even a palace. At the end of the valley the Tang Chu river feeds into the “burning Lake”. This is planned as a relaxing day in a beautiful setting, with lunch at an ecological along the river and free shooting at various David Lazar locations.

Day 11 – Tang Valley – Ura Valley

The Ura Valley is the Bumthang region’s most remote, and is home to the least tourist visited Spring Tsechu Festival. The group will enter the valley the old fashioned way, the only way possible for many centuries – down easy Himalayan paths winding through the forest. The path ends at the temple of Ura Lhakhang, where the festival begins tomorrow. Photograph festival preparations. There will be monks rehearsing their performances, prayer flags and masks being made, and you’ll have the chance to speak with monks and learn about the performance. This will in turn help not only with today’s image making, but will inform you for the spectacular performance tomorrow. Tonight is a special treat and a great way to get the locals – we’ll be overnighting at a wonderful Homestay!

Day 12 – Ura Yakchoe Festival – Bumthang

A day of excitement as we spend preparation time with locals involved in the festival, go to Ura Lhakhang with some of them, shoot behind the scenes before showtime, and have free access to shoot the performance itself. You’ll be working the scene with the access of a professional photographer, like a professional photographer! Photo tour climaxes don’t get much better than this!

Day 13 – Bumthang – Paro Flight

Photographers’ Choice morning following by a flight back to Paro, saving the 10 hour trip by road! Once in Paro it’s free time for shopping, shooting or relaxing before this evenings special Farewell Dinner.

Day 14 – Paro Departure

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye. You will be driven to the airport according to your flight time and given a very fond Bhutan farewell. For those who have later flights, a guide and vehicle will be made available for some extra photo touring, museum visit, etc., free of charge. You will miss this place!

PLEASE NOTE the above itinerary is a close sample only, and changes by refinement and improvement before being finalized are assured.

*Image review and/or Photoshop/Lightroom tutorials are available on an ongoing basis by request.

Luminous Bhutan!

w/ David Lazar

Mid April, 2019

14 Days
$6995 (12 persons max)
Single Supplement – $885
Minimum Deposit – $1500
Tour Leader – David Lazar
Bookings – Team Luminous
Photo Tours Director – Benn Stevens
Price includes:
list-infoTop Rated English speaking guides
list-infoAll Accommodation
list-infoAll Meals (except arrival/departure days) w/ tea
list-infoAll in-country airfare, airport taxes, air porter fees
list-infoAll transport, including airport welcome and send-off
list-infoAll entrance, zone and camera fees
list-infoBhutan Visa fees and taxes
list-infoModel fees & “Set Donations” to Monasteries
list-infoAmple bottled water & refresh towels throughout
list-infoDonations to Luminous Journeys Charities
Price does not include:
– international airfare
– any private transportation
– trip/medical insurance
– medical expenses
– drinks other than tea at meals
– personal purchases and services
– local guide gratuities
– end-of-trip gratuities for photography tour leader
Let’s Get Started! Not Sure, Tell Me More


Discover the Luminous Difference & access our free Essential Guide on choosing the best photo tour for you!

Nat Geo contributor David Lazar in photographic action

David Lazar Biography

A Bhutan thangka

Praise for David Lazar Photo Tours

“What a great trip we had! … I cannot praise David highly enough… My photography improved by leaps… His lightroom and photoshop tutorials were exceptional… It was a fabulous tour with real pros that actually care that you become a better photographer. What more can one ask for?” — Patricia Pomerleau, USA

“My Luminous Vietnam Journey was far and away the best photo tour I have been on. It was more than a photo tour, it was an investment in myself as a keen photographer, it gave me the opportunity to engage with ordinary Vietnamese people and some extraordinary professional photographers in David and Phuoc – I have visited 42 countries and been on enumerable holidays and tours – this one really was the trip of a lifetime” – Lindsay Earle, Zimbabwe

“The Myanmar photo tour was wonderful…the group was so funny; we had a great time together. Everything ran flawlessly. We were treated like VIPs and of course the shooting was amazing! I can see you [Luminous Journeys] continuing to organize these for a very long time. You are the best at inspiring people to attend your photo tours, and living up to your promises. I just read the itinerary for India and I am very interested. I would love to join David [Lazar] on this tour!” —Paul D’, Switzerland

“I have to commend Luminous Journeys and David Lazar for putting together what I consider to have been the best photo tour we’ve been on…and we’ve been on quite a few around the world. From start to finish, Luminous Bali was impeccably researched, planned and executed with a rich, full and unique itinerary that left no photographic stone unturned.

David was a joy to travel with; often cracking us up along the way and, a fantastic mentor from whom I feel I learned a great deal. I really appreciated how genuine and generous he was sharing his knowledge and creative talent. I think my mom has unofficially adopted him! I should also mention just how much we adore Pande. What a gem. For future trips, the first place I’ll check for photo tours will be Luminous! Looking forward now to Vietnam in June with David.” – Lee Ann Birkenstock, USA

“My photo tour with Luminous Journeys and David Lazar was an amazing experience. Everything was organized perfectly so we could concentrate on photography. Besides being a great photographer David is also a really nice person and always willing to help. It’s really inspiring to see him work. I came back with the best photos I’ve ever taken” – Jani Uljas, Finland

“David Lazar is a wonderful, charming and eloquent travel companion. With his fine humor and graciousness he offers all participants breathing room for personal development. He does this in such a way that the group dynamic develops spontaneously and helps create new friendships in an atmosphere of mutual inspiration and support.

It was always fascinating to watch how David interacted with the local people from a photography standpoint. He was very natural and relaxed in his approach, even gentle, and would smile and use a few words in their native language. You could see them relax and very quickly develop a sense of trust with him. This paid off time and time again throughout the tour, both during focused photo sessions and free shoot situations. David loves to teach and pass on his knowledge and experience to participants. He taught me a lot about how to approach a shoot. Like how to see light with more discernment, and then find the best possible compositions to take advantage of that light. This was followed up on later with image review and editing, which he was always more than happy to do.

In short, David is a first rate photographer with an ideal personality for travel work and leading photo tour workshops. This along with the perfect organization from Luminous Journeys made for a truly unforgettable and rewarding experience.” – Renate Szinyei – Switzerland

“Having been on several organized trips to Asian destinations over the past few years I have found Luminous Journeys trip to Vietnam June 2016, to have been the best value for money organized tour that I have been on. The opportunities to take unique photos of people and landscapes could not have occurred without the professional organisation of the tour leaders. Their expert photographic guidance meant that all members of the tour were able to capture shots that were technically accurate and artistically composed. We were guided to areas and local villages that are not accessible to the ordinary traveller. I was happy to go on this photo tour and will be more than happy to do Luminous Journeys photo tours in the future.” – Robbie L, Australia

Luminous Bali was a most interesting, well run and rewarding trip.  The research that had gone into it and the attention to detail was impressive. I liked the fast pace and full days.  We were left in no doubt that this was a photography trip and had a fabulous line up of opportunities to take good shots…no lessening of the photographic feast!  As the primary leader, David was well organised and thoughtful and kept the entire trip ticking over perfectly.  He was an absolute pleasure to travel with and I am most interested in travelling with him and your company in the future.”  – Beth James, Australia

“I remember when I signed up for my first photo tour with Luminous Journeys in Myanmar.  Benn [LJ’s photo tour director, Benn Stevens] told me that this trip will take my portfolio to the next level. Not only was he right about that; but images from that trip have also won me several awards in the last two years.

The photo tour in Bali was Utopia – the place, the people, the team and arrangements. The Luminous Journeys team did an excellent job with tour design and logistics… David Lazar & local Balinese guide, Pande Sura, were extraordinary. I have already signed up on my next trip with LJ and David in Vietnam.” – Sesh Seraday, USA