India Photo Tour & The Kumbh Mela
Luminous India & the Kumbh Mela
Varanasi, Rajasthan & the Taj Mahal
Feb 11 – 25, 2019 (2nd trip added by popular demand!)
Designed & Led by Nat Geo Contributor & Multi-Major Award Winner
w/ Award Winning Indian Photographer
Single Supplement: $1455
Hotels: 4, 5 Star + Luxury Tents @ Kumbh Mela
Highlights : Kumbh Mela, The Greatest Religious Spectacle on Earth – Varanasi, India’s Oldest, Holiest City – The Taj Mahal – Rajasthan Camel Photo Safari – Blue City of Jodhpur – Legendary Jaisalmer – The Wonderful People of India!
India for the uninitiated is an unimaginable, almost kaleidoscopic feast for the senses. Even if you’ve been before and can imagine it, it’s still an almost kaleidoscopic feast for the senses! From a photographer’s perspective, most especially those interested in people and culture in exotic settings, there is nowhere else in the known galaxy that offers such an incredible diversity of photographic possibilities.
Enter Luminous India & The Kumbh Mela! – A photo tour workshop adventure designed and led by world renowned travel photographer David Lazar:“India offers amazing and unique photo opportunities with its rich culture and history, and some of the most friendly and outgoing people in the world. It’s a country that has drawn me back multiple times since my first visit in 2004. This itinerary has been carefully planned and researched on the ground, and is focused on capturing the essence of the culture through striking image making. There will be a plentiful mix of free and arranged photo shoots to help ensure that we accomplish our aim. By experiencing the subcontinent both through the lens and through the exuberance of its people during the incredible Kumbh Mela, we will be getting India in her most remarkable state of expression and devotion.” – David Lazar
David has designed the itinerary almost as if he were writing one of his musical scores for film. An introductory theme to set the tone in Old Delhi, a more majestic motif in Agra, an exotic thematic development to underscore the Rajasthani pace of life, rising higher and building to a dramatic turning point and crescendo at the Kumbh Mela, then easing into a sublime resolution in Varanasi and coda back in Old Delhi…
As always, David will be offering his expertise in the field on an ongoing basis, as well as image review and Photoshop/Lightroom instruction to those interested. Individual help is also available by request, as time allows in the schedule. David is one of those rare photo tour leaders who actually cares that his guests become better photographers during their time with him, and will do everything in his power to make it so.
Joining David in tour once again is award winning Indian photographer Swarup Chatterjee. Swarup is not only a rising star in his homeland, but a passionate & personable instructor who is always working the local scene in his inimitable way to get that next unexpected photo op.
So – if you are a photography enthusiast of any skill level with an interest in incredible India, this is without a doubt a great opportunity to invest in yourself as a keen photographer, and have the photographic time of your life in the process! Please know that it’s experience in the field that gets you to the next level, and not expensive equipment. LJ is well known for its unmatched access and awesome volume of impact image making opportunities in each if the countries in which we work, and India will certainly be no exception.
“Varanasi is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together”– Mark Twain
For a look at the itinerary, just hit the Itinerary tab above. For pricing & details, see Pricing & Details. You are bound to have questions, so please don’t hesitate to contact us. We promise a prompt and cheerful response!
Itinerary – Luminous India & the Kumbh Mela
Feb 11 – 25, 2019
Day 1 – Delhi Arrival – Orientation – Afternoon Street & Market Shoot – Overnight Delhi
Whenever you arrive, a Luminous Journeys’ representative will greet you at the Indira Gandhi International Airport to get you situated and delivered safely to the hotel. The program begins at 2:30 pm with orientation by David and Swarup. Be sure to bring your gear, as at approximately 3:15 pm you’ll be taken out for your first official tour shoot on the mind blowing streets of the old city market area of Chandi Chowk. This is truly a street shooters “paradise” once you learn how to approach it. This is largely a free shoot situation, with David offering insight on identifying subjects, backgrounds and light to help improve your environmental portrait making.
Day 2 – Delhi – Legendary Jaisalmer
Early flight to legendary Jaisalmer, the oasis city on the great Thar Desert. Afternoon shoot is planned for a small schoolhouse full of delightful young ethnic ladies for culture, fun and portrait making. We will have gifts for you to give out to the girls as well. Then to the very best unencumbered position to photograph the fairy tale Jaisalmer Fort as the sun sinks into the desert sands…
Day 3 – Jaisalmer – Thar Desert / Private Camel Photo Safari
Photograph Jaisalmer Fort from the inside this morning. The fort is a lot more than ancient fortifications, it’s a fully functioning “settlement” with a variety of people, shops, cottage industries, a fascinating art gallery, and exquisitely stone carved haveli facades and balconies where David has arranged for some local models in colorful Rajasthani style saris to model.
Following lunch it will be time to head out into the Thar Desert, not to some tourist camp with hundreds of tents, but to private land with very few, and none where we will be camping. Nothing but virgin sand dunes and a completely private encampment. Access to the dunes is both by Jeep and camel. We won’t torture you with long hours on camelback, but only about 45 minutes to give you a taste of what it’s like. (To anyone camel averse, no worries, we can take you in by Jeep). Prior to boarding your camel, we’ll stop in a small Rajput village to photograph local people living much as they have done for centuries, many living in mud and thatch roof dwellings.
Make camp in the late afternoon at a select location in virgin sands, perfect for shooting the dunes w/ our camels and camel drivers. They will be wearing traditional clothing, and not Fly Emirates T-shirts! As darkness settles in and the stars rise, dinner will be cooked over a crackling fire while men in white wearing bright turbans play ancient Rajasthani ragas.
Day 4 – Jaisalmer – Blue City of Jodhpur – Stepwell & Clock Tower Market
Sunrise on the desert is breathtakingly beautiful. Rise early feeling fresh and invigorated by the cool desert dawn, enjoy a cup of coffee or chai, then prepare to photograph dawn on the dunes. First with classic silhouettes, then with layered scenes of men and camels interacting, and ladies in tribal saris walking the dunes with pots balanced atop their heads.
In Jodhpur, Mehrangarh Fort, called by Rudyard Kipling the “work of giants”, dominates the skyline. You might recognize it as the massive structure from which Christian Bale emerges in The Dark Knight Rises. Early morning will find us shooting in the narrow lanes below the fort, with its cool rich backgrounds and brilliantly color clad people effortlessly expressing their Rajasthani culture. Where blue as photographer camouflage! Steve McCurry, more than any other photographer, has served to make the labyrinthine blue alleys of the Blue City famous with several iconic shots. This afternoon photograph the colorful happenings at the ancient bazar near of the old British clock-tower. Dinner at Indique atop Pal Haveli with its unbeatable views of the illuminated city, wraps the day.
Day 5 – Jodhpur – Street Scenes & Portraits
We may have a very interesting surprise in store for you this morning, in addition to plenty of photo opportunities with friendly locals. You will see how David works as he arranges some environmental portrait opportunities. Much of travel photography is about finding a great potential shot and returning to it time and again under different light, or the right light, ready to capture a spontaneous action within that perfect frame. There is not a lot of time in a two week traveling photo tour for this, but this will give you a good feel for it. Other options include Jaswant Thara cenotaphs and Mandore Gardens.
Jan 30 – Day 6 – Jodhpur – Varanasi
Morning shoot in the blue alleys with great angles on Mehrangarh Fort, breakfast and flight to Varanasi via Delhi. Varanasi, built on the west bank of the Ganges River, is widely considered the holiest city in this most holy of countries, and the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Lord Shiva himself is said to have dwelled here during his days on earth. For photographers, it’s also a godsend! From hundreds of Hindus bathing and performing puja in the golden light of a Ganges dawn, to the remarkable cremation ghats where the souls of the deceased are released to moksha and their bodies to the Ganges; to the large number of colorful Sadhus (wandering ascetics) who will venture over from the Mela, Varanasi at this time becomes an even more fascinating place of extraordinary image making opportunity. This evening photograph the fantastic night puja ceremonies on the river.
Jan 31 – Day 7 – Varanasi
Exit our unbeatable Ganges view hotel and be on the holiest of all rivers (recently declared a living being by the government) in rowboats before dawn, ready to photograph locals and pilgrims at as they bathe and perform puja rituals illuminated by the first rays of sun breaking across the water. We’ll get in close, but have a longer lens handy.
In addition, David has arranged for a Sadhu or two to perform their natural puja for us, to make certain everybody has an excellent shot at the perfect shot! Continue north by boat away from the crowds of Dashashwamedh Ghat, where lone bathers in colorful saris against soaring backgrounds can make for compelling images. A full day of street photography as well as a visit to a wrestling akhara for some unique impact image making ops. Late afternoon / blue hour photography at the Manikarnika cremation ghats.
Day 8 – Varanasi – Photographers Choice
David & Swarup will have a nice surprise for you this morning (unless it happened already!). Alternatively, this is also a great time to get up well before sunrise and go out on your own. As long as you can find the river, it’s impossible to get lost on your return to the hotel.
During this time with the Mela not far away in Allahabad, there is a large influx of both pilgrims and sadhus. The photography opportunities are particularly rich, even for Varanasi. David and Swarup will go out with separate groups today. You will know each of them well at this point, and their differences in approach and style. So it’s your choice who to go out with. And again, you can choose to go out on your own as well. It will be a great day no matter what!
Day 9, 10, 11, 12 – Varanasi – Allahabad – Kumbh Mela!
Morning drive to Allahabad, home of the Kumbh Mela. The first ever Mela was held, believe it or not, was in 3464 BC! The dates were set by a proto-astronomer looking for the proper star alignments to determine the bathing dates of this 6 week event. That proto-astronomer was a Naga Baba, a forebear of the Juna Akhara, which to this day remains the fiercest and most austere of the warrior ascetic clans. We will have inside access to the Juna akhara as well as various sects. The information and access and we will have – not only to the Akharas, but to quite a number of mind blowing austerities, or tapasyas, being performed around the grounds will determine our schedule. And no doubt much of it will be done on the fly, as this is a very fluid and massive event. It will be your choice if and when you join the leaders and our expert local guide, or decide to go off on your own.
On the major bathing day we will likely have access to be inside the grand procession itself, with freedom to photograph. Alternatively, we will pre-position at the main sangam (bathing area) in order to shoot the hundreds of ash covered Naga Babas whirling swords and trushuls as they charge into the water in a furious, inimitable splash about. After that it’s free shoot time in the sangam area, and you can roam through the shallow waters and photograph joyous pilgrims bathing and the massive crowds gathered on the bank.
4 Nights Lux Tents and Camp Includes the Following:
– Welcome drink and cold towels on arrival
– Ample mineral water per person, replenished daily
– Buffet Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner (veg.)
– Morning/evening tea & coffee with cookies and light snacks
– Comfortable cots w/ warm blankets and heater
– “En suite” bathroom
– Electrical outlets for charging batteries inside your tent
Day 13 – Allahabad – Varanasi – Agra & the Taj Mahal
Check-in to our fantastic Mughal style hotel and take a break before today’s photography starts this afternoon at the Taj Mahal as both subject and background from outside the Taj grounds, across the Yamuna River, along the river, and even on the river!
Day 14 – Taj Mahal Sunrise – Delhi
The moment you walk through the entry archway where Taj seems to fill up the sky is one you will never forget. This is a prime example of where even the greatest photographs cannot do a subject this beautiful justice. But we’ll give it our best shot!
After breakfast return to Delhi for free time or an optional shoot at the great Jama Masjid Mosque. Tonight is your well-deserved grand Farewell Dinner feast!
Day 15 – Delhi – Departure
There is no scheduled photography for today, as people will have differently scheduled departure flights. If you have a later flight out consider it free time, and if you need any assistance we will be there for you. You’ll be driven to the airport according to your departure time and given a fond farewell… Off to relative peace and tranquility you go, but you will miss this incredible, inimitable country!
*The above itinerary is subject to changes in the order of places visited. Tour definitely begins and ends in Delhi, and Mela days will remain unchanged.
**A 40+ page Trip Notes pdf will be sent to all registrants approx. 100 days prior to tour start date.
***Image review and/or Lightroom tutorials are available on tour on an ongoing basis by request.
****Free time is essentially anytime you choose, as long as you don’t miss any travel day transport!
w/ David Lazar
Feb 11 – Feb 25, 2019
$7495 (10 persons max)
Single Supplement – $1455
Minimum Deposit – $1500
Bookings – Team Luminous
Photo Tours Director – Benn Stevens
Top Rated English speaking guides
All Meals (except arrival/departure days) w/ tea or coffee
All in-country airfare, airport taxes, air porter fees
All transport, including airport welcome and send-off
All entrance, zone and camera fees
Model fees & “Set Donations” to Monasteries
Ample bottled water & refresh towels throughout
Donations to Luminous Journeys Charities
– international airfare
– any private transportation
– trip/medical insurance
– medical expenses
– extra drinks or food
– personal purchases and services
– hotel porter gratuities
– local driver/station guide gratuities
– India visa fee
– end-of-trip gratuities for photography tour leaders
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Praise for Luminous India, David Lazar & Swarup Chatterjee
“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
Hi Benn – Oh my feet haven’t really touched the ground since returning from India. It was such a fantastic trip and I am still on a high 🙂 I so appreciated having been on another Luminous Journeys trip where everything was well organised and all I needed to do was focus on photography. It is also great to spend time with like minded people who are just as enthusiastic to get up early in the morning and stay out after sunset … and we had a lot of fun!
David is an amazing photo-tutor – always looking out for great compositional opportunities for us; humble and generous with his knowledge and encouragement. He’s relaxed and completely joins in the fun of the team, while being available for one-on-one advice and assistance should we ask for it. I appreciate that we are presented with access to great image making; have some model shoots organised for us but also have opportunities to do ‘our own thing’.
Swarup was enthusiastic and energetic with a totally different approach/style of photography from David’s. I learned a lot of different things from him. So I really feel completely spoilt by having two tutors on your Luminous Tours. Swarup’s management of us at the Holi Festival is to be highly commended – pre-planning and organisation was excellent. Although I usually hate crowds and this was “chaos on steroids”, I felt completely safe in the care of the team and was able to really enjoy myself.
Vikas is a remarkable tour guide. Well organised, fun and with such an inspirational life story! It was great to have him interpret and explain situations, history and culture. I can’t actually speak highly enough of him – one gem of a tour guide. – Rosalyn Johnson, New Zealand
“Luminous India 2018 was a fantastic journey… I’m still dreaming and refusing to wake up! The trip was perfectly organized all the way through, and the amazing photography was always a good mix of arranged shoots and freestyle. As for tour leader David Lazar, what a lovely person! Far, far away from any star attitude, always open for suggestions, to answer questions, share his experiences and offer advice. He was excellent in taking care of all 10 participants and seeing that our needs were met. In other words, a perfect choice!
I also I learned a lot from Swarup Chatterjee, and really enjoyed his fellowship. He’s an excellent, well experienced photographer… His expert guidance and instructions in preparing to shoot the Holi Festival was for sure most helpful. Local guide Vikas was also a brilliant choice, always open to chat about India and arrange some extra wishes. He was tireless, always living the slogan – ‘In India, everything is possible!’
It was just an amazing, brilliant, fantastic journey every hour of the way. I really fell in love with the country and I can’t wait to return!” – Mario Becker, Switzerland
“Luminous India was one of the most amazing trips I’ve ever done!! The trip was awesome and as always (this was my third Luminous Journeys photo tour) I had a lot of fun with David Lazar and the group. India was not among my countries to visit but when I read the itinerary I knew I would not be disappointed. And heck, you have organized an amazing journey under many points of view: beautiful places, nice people and dozens of photographic opportunities! Now I LOVE India!! Really, I can’t think to a better itinerary for a 2 weeks trip, thanks for having organizing it so well :)” – Paul D’, Switzerland
“Swarup [Chatterjee] was fantastic! My husband and I discussed after the workshop that having him as our photography trainer was one of our best decisions! Swarup is not one of those prototype trainers. He touches your heart!” – Kaushiki Sen, India
“I was in Mumbai and had attended Swarup’s Basic Photo Workshop. Good that I did! The two day workshop with Swarup was very informative, practical & enjoyable. Swarup really knows his stuff & will share all his knowledge with enthusiasm! I can’t recommend this workshop enough. The first day was full of information and the second day that followed was action packed full of different locations to target specific techniques & settings. I only wish I did this sooner! Thank you India!” – Ted Moore, USA
“Travelling with Swarup Chatterjee is always so much fun. Not only he carries an incredible amount of knowledge about India, he exactly knows where to shoot and when to shoot.” – Tushar Pandit, India
“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
“Swarup Chatterjee is a thorough professional. He exactly knows the art of conducting photo travel. He is also a go getter. An amazing personality to deal with.” – Washim Khan, India
“Spending a day with Swarup on his Basic Photography Course was an absolute revelation! His easy but technically informative style of teaching gave me the knowledge I needed to finally get off the ‘auto’ setting and actually use the camera for what it is designed to do. It also made us look at beauty as a concept in a completely different and innovative manner. Whether you’re a complete beginner or a keen amateur, I could not recommend this course more highly! – A.M. Sachdeva, India