Sub-zero shooting adventures in Ladakh’s winter

11 March 2016

India’s Ladakh region is a much-loved fixture of our annual summer tour calendar (check out our July Ladakh Photography Tour). It’s flat-out stunning for photographers of all disciplines in my opinion, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation to take clients there in the winter.

As of today, that’s changed. The opportunities for photograph-making in the Ladakh winter are stunning and rare — and we’ve found ways of taking you to the best of its landscape and cultural attractions without too much physical hardship or discomfort. Welcome to our January 2017 Ladakh Winter photography tour, led by noted ethnographer and photographer Sankar Sridhar.

Sridhar’s a Ladakh veteran, probably the most experienced professional photographer of the region in all its moods and seasons. Some of the photographic situations he finds himself in (like documenting harsh, high-altitude blizzard treks of the Chang Pa nomads in midwinter for days on end) I find tempting and fascinating — but I’m pretty sure my insurers wouldn’t, so we don’t go there. But this new tour has none of that expeditionary Scott of the Antarctic derring-do. It’s designed, like our summer tour, to let you focus on the photography rather than the challenges of weather and terrain.

Take a look at the photographs coming out of this tour. These are all taken by Sridhar. These photographs will give you a feel for the creative upside — and it’s rich. So what’s the downside?

Ladakh is cold in the winter. During the day the mercury nudges above freezing only grudgingly if at all, and night temperatures are typically -15°C or lower (5°F). In some of the places we go we could see -25°C (-13°F). Mix in loads of high-altitude Himalayan sunshine and you won’t know whether to think about the cold or the risk of sunburn.

But as they say, there’s no such thing as cold weather — only inadequate protection and preparation.

I guess if you live in Winnipeg or Helsinki this is all a bit ‘so what?’. But we’re talking here about a remote backwater in the Indian Himalayan and Karakoram ranges, and even the best hotels in Leh, Ladakh’s most important town, have to work hard to keep key amenities from freezing solid in midwinter. For some nights of this tour, we’ll stay in simple guesthouses or homestays, with the Ladakhi people, and on one memorable night we’ll camp in winter tents on the shores of an amazing deep-frozen lake.

But as they say, there’s no such thing as cold weather — only inadequate protection and preparation.

So, in summary: Stunning opportunities to expand your portfolio, no trekking or climbing or snowshoes or skis, and with the right winter clothing (which we’ll advise on) you’ll be fine — but it will feel cold a lot of the time. See you there!

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