We ran our third annual photography workshop tour in Tibet with Prairie Digital Media students from Canada and the United States. This year we used our Tibet Wild Frontier itinerary through Eastern Tibet and it was a huge success.
The tour commenced in Chengdu, where we visited the Pandas, ate hot pot, and walked with the crowds down the “ancient street” at Jinli. We then drove to Kangding, where we acclimatized, had a snow mountain sunrise shoot at Yajiagen Mountain Pass, and a meandering hike on Paoma Mountain. After two full days exploring the beauty of Kangding, we departed for Tagong. We then took the scenic way through Xinduqiao, stopping every five minutes (a slight exaggeration) for photo ops. The next morning, we beat the sun to the top of the hill to capture a spectacular dawn over Yala Mountain and the monastery. That afternoon we explored the Anyi Gompa (nunnery) and nearby monastery where we were surprised to discover a large colony of rabbits on the monastery grounds (literally hundreds). We made our way back to town and enjoyed an incredible meal at the Khampa Cafe. We departed early the next morning for Danba via Bamei.
Just before arriving to Bamei, we stopped at the newly opened National Black Stone Forest Park. It was Extravagant Yak’s first time to the park, but we are always interested in finding new places for our guests to explore. The raised walkways, stunning rock projections and the scenery blew us away. We had planned to spend an hour or so there, but it quickly stretched to three.
After a late lunch in Bamei and some more photo ops in town, we veered off of the 317 highway toward Danba. The weather that day was superbly favorable for epic landscape shots as we climbed the pass that drops you on the north face of Yala. The stretch of road between Bamei and Danba is my favorite in all of China. On that three and a half hour ride, you get a bit of everything: vast plateau valleys, snow mountains, and a steep, winding river valley that eventually opens up into the green valley towns of the Danba area. I can’t think of another road in the world that is as enjoyable to drive. One of the photographers pined after his motorcycle and hoped to one day return to do a motorbike tour through the area.
After pulling through Danba town, we crossed a tall, arched bridge and wound our way up a newly paved mountain road to Zhonglu village. Perched high up on the side of a mountain, the village is host to several of the ancient towers that pepper the valley. We enjoyed fresh, organic, home-grown, home-cooked meals at our guesthouse. A famous model from the village was willing to “sit” for a couple hours of shooting. The photographers each took twenty minutes with her to create their desired shots. After two nights in Danba, we stayed a night in Four Sisters Mountain Village and caught a sunrise shoot of the mountain from the lookout.
The drive back to Chengdu from Four Sisters Mountain was incredibly beautiful, until close to Dujiangyan, where the greens and blues from the mountain passes faded into the different shades of gray of the urban lowlands. Yet, Dujiangyan also had its own mystique. We visited the Ancient Irrigation System in town (after Apple Maps led us on a wild goose chase) and enjoyed the ancient Chinese architecture, which somehow goes well with the misty fog of the Qingcheng Mountain river basin.
We arrived back in Chengdu still with enough time for everyone to do their souvenir shopping, and a couple more photo shoots. I was especially blessed by this group, as their tip to me was in the form of taking an hour to do some family shots for us. I’ve included some of my favourite photos from the trip dotted throughout the article. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, and maybe this will stir the longing in you to see the mystic Tibetan lands for yourself someday soon.
We will follow this general itinerary for our upcoming Eastern Tibet Photo Workshop. There's still time to join, but you must act quickly!
by Maureen Scott
I only had three things to remember: breathe deeply; drink a lot of water; and put the toilet paper in the wastebasket, not the hole. That was my mantra for fourteen days. The first two were essential for surviving a mountain bike expedition above 4,000 metres. The third was necessary for avoiding the awkwardness of a clogged Tibetan toilet...