PracticalitiesThese are small group tours, typically beginning with an arrival into Delhi and then a mesmerising early morning flight over the Himalayas to the largest town in Ladakah, Leh. Over the course of around 17 days, expect to be on the move a lot of the time, although the itinerary will likely build in a day or so here and there for relaxation – you will be at high altitude, and will need a day at the start to simply acclimatise. Group numbers are usually capped at around 12, and while photographing a location you will often split up into twos and threes. A limited group size minimises intrusion in remote communities, enables you to stay in smaller, often family-owned accommodations, and ensures that everyone has sufficient time to get advice and support from the tour leader. As well as local guides, who are expert at scouting new locations and vantage points, you will be accompanied throughout by an experienced photography tutor.
When staying with the Changpa nomads, you’ll sleep in tents with bathrooms attached. Water is a precious commodity in many parts of Ladakh and arrangements will be made wherever possible so that you can use refillable water bottles. You will also, for the most part, travel on foot, which allows for greater cultural immersion. And just as no effort is spared to minimise your environmental footprint, your tour will also aim for a positive social effect. As well as economically supporting the communities you pass through by using locally owned accommodations, restaurants and local guides, you will be encouraged not to photograph people or places of religious significance without permission.
The level of experience of each participant, as well as their equipment, will likely vary widely. Some will be content to head out on their own from the off with very little in the way of support, others may appreciate constant tips from a professional. An absolute beginner will still be able to get a great deal from a trip here, but given the range of subjects and taking into account that you will be moving from place to place at a fairly fast pace, it will help if you are familiar with the functions and capabilities of your camera (or smartphone) before departure.
In 2019 the Indian government, in an immensely controversial move, split the bitterly contested region of Jammu and Kashmir, of which Ladakh was the easternmost part, into two union territories. But despite the near-constant tension in Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan, you need have no concerns about traveling to Ladakh. “It’s very safe,” confirms Geraldine. “We’ve been going since 1991 and people always said it’s dodgy, but Ladakh is separate from Kashmir and Jammu. About the worst thing that we’ve experienced in all that time is sometimes the internet gets cut. It’s peaceful, Buddhist and well away from any trouble.”