The Light Within: A Photography Adventure
in the High Himalayas

August 20-31, 2019

Ladakh & Zanskar, India

Experience 12 days photographing and exploring one of the most beautiful environments in the high Himalaya with former National Geographic photographer William Thompson, and nationally recognized photographer Sarah Waters.

Ladakh and Zanskar are enormously interesting visual environments that offer an amazing experience for the photographer and explorer. This high-altitude slice of the Himalaya is sparsely, yet colorfully populated, with its long history of Buddhism reflected in remote monasteries and small Tibetan villages.

The opportunities for image making exist virtually everywhere—from dawn to dusk and beyond—in the people, the faces, and the intense daily energy. It can fairly be said that this piece of India is superbly active, with a wonderful elegance of light, color, and humanity.

The goal of this adventure is twofold:

1) To become a much better photographer through learning from a professional, former National Geographic image maker

2) To enjoy and experience this fascinating part of the planet.

Participants will come to understand the culture through the use of cameras and video recorders. At the end of most days, depending on travel schedules, we will examine and discuss each other’s images. We will assess and critique what is learned throughout the workshop.

This adventure isn’t about equipment; rather, it is about learning how to see. If all you have is a point and shoot camera, that is fine. Cameras do not take pictures; people do.

This trip and the process of learning isn’t about the longest lens or the most expensive camera, but rather the fundamental feature of image making . . . that is, YOUR eye on the world.

Gallery Photos ©William Thompson ©Sarah Waters

What’s Included

All expenses for in-country travel, lodging, and meals are included . . . and we WILL travel extensively.

Travel recommendations and costs: Our travels will take us to altitudes generally above 11,000 feet, so to be reasonably fit is strongly advised.

To acclimatize to the altitude, it is recommended that you arrive in Leh a few days early and wander around and explore this small capital city and its extraordinary monasteries.

As noted, this is an adventure, given the somewhat rugged nature of this part of the world, but all accommodations are safe, clean, and comfortable.

What’s Not Included

Costs for insurance, laundry, liquor, gratuities, visas, and airfare are not included. We can help you find flights to Leh through our contacts.

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Accommodations on our journey are the best available, including a very lovely, tented camp in a high valley; the accommodations are not 5-star (as I doubt any such thing exists in our travel areas).


$5500 per person.

Exclusive of airfare and other expenses as noted above.

A truly amazing experience. I feel fortunate to have been part of it with a great group of creative individuals, sharing ideas and discussing any matter of topics along our journeys. Everyone brought different backgrounds into the mix and we all gelled together - creating a really fun group to travel with.

Hard to sum up what a fantastic adventure this was in a couple short sentences, but this is what life is about. I feel very moved and grateful for the whole experience.
— P. Howland - Seattle


*Subject to change

Day 01: Arrival. We will spend the day hiking & walking around Leh to acclimate to the elevation.

Day 02: Day trip to Monastery in Leh. The evening we will stay in the homes of locals.

Day 03-04: We will drive to a Village and spend the night at a local house.

Day 05: Drive back to Leh with evening accommodations at the hotel.

Day 06; Today we venture into the Nomads’ area. We will spend the day driving to Korzok via Chumathang.

Day 07: Drive to Kharnak. Camping overnight.

Day 08: At Kharnak valley. Camping overnight.

Day 09: Drive back to Leh via Taklang La.

Day 10: Return to Leh for relaxing and shopping with evening accommodations at the hotel.

Day 11: Departure from Leh

Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.
— Rumi

Your Guides

These trips are by no means cookie-cutter travel journeys. Each is edifying, fascinating, and has a goal—not of just travel, but also of coming to understand another culture through photography.

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William Thompson has more than 30 years of worldwide professional photography and film experience, including eleven years as a National Geographic photographer. With a PhD in cultural anthropology, he has taught Visual Anthropology for Quest University Canada in these exact areas. During this adventure, he will share my insights and expertise from an anthropological standpoint.

Photo of Sarah: William Thompson

Photo of Sarah: William Thompson

Sarah Waters will be joining me in teaching this workshop, which will be her second teaching excursion to Ladakh. Sarah has over 25 years of photography experience, and is known nationally for her equine and humanitarian photography. Mentored by her father, who was an instrumental colleague in pioneering the career of Ansel Adams, Sarah has a keen eye for light and depth in her work. She spends most of her time on the road in her Airstream with photography opportunities near and far.

Bill and Sarah at the top of a tiny monastery during a home stay. Photo: Jigmat Lundup

Bill and Sarah at the top of a tiny monastery during a home stay. Photo: Jigmat Lundup