Tips for Photography in Tibet


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Tibet is a photographer's paradise. Contrary to what many people believe, a fancy camera is not necessary to take excellent photographs. The person who stands behind the camera is responsible for that. Some people joke that in Tibet even a careless shot will get a picture that is likely to win the top prize of a photo contest. Indeed, Tibet is everywhere full of charm.
Here are some helpful tips for travelers with a hope of photography:

1. A pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera is ideal for quick, candid photos. Buy the best lens you can afford; don’t be tempted to purchase an inexpensive lens made by an unknown manufacturer. A wide-angle lens is good for capturing the feeling of temple interiors; for wall frescoes, try bouncing your flash to prevent flaring on the shiny murals. You'd better equip the camera lens with UV lens to protect the camera lens and also make the sky captured bluer.

2. Take necessary technical precautions to protect your camera in case of extreme temperatures due to the harsh climate. Do not let it insolate under the sunshine; do not use the camera when it is unclear or rainy.

3. Dust is a big concern in Tibet’s arid climate. Always keep your camera in its protective case or in a padded carrying bag, and avoid changing film or lenses in the wind. A lens-cleaning kit with a brush is a must. In cold weather, cover your gear at several extra sets of camera batteries, as they may not be available in Tibet.

4. Photographing in monasteries is generally allowed, however, taking pictures inside the chapels is forbidden or usually charged at extremely high rates to prevent photography. It is offensive to take photos, especially photos of statues in the shrine. Always ask permission before taking photographs in monasteries. Monks at the larger gompas are required to collect photography fees from tourists, usually a flat rate ranging from 10 to 100 yuan (US $1.20 TO $12.00). To avoid an unpleasant scene, don’t try to sneak photographs.

5. Early mornings and late afternoons are typically the best time for dramatic pictures; the mid-day light in Tibet is often harsh, causing contrasty photos. Try using a polarizing filter to enhance colors and the sky, especially on hazy days. Dial it about one-third of a turn from dark for the best results.

6. It is very important to gain permission to take photos of Tibetan people. Most of them would give their consent once asked politely. If you’re not only taking photo of portrait but also interested in capturing their folk custom and religious culture, be a part of it rather than just observe. You’ll be more likely to feel the atmosphere and get closer with the essence of their daily life. Then the photo to be taken of will be more likely to record the variable and vivid moments. If you have a polaroid camera and can give the photo instantly back to the image-maker. You’ll find the connection of friendship has been created and stored well and sound in the photo.  

7. You should have some caution that some people may ask you for money if you take photo of them without asking in advance. And in some scenic spots, if you happen to capture a photo with subjects such as a yak, mani stones, you may be required to pay certain amount of money because they may claim that those subjects are their properties. Do try to avoid uncertain items come into your images to avoid possible dispute.

8. Travel in the high-altitude areas, travel light is our mantra. Therefore, we do not suggest our guests taking a tabled-tripod or photoflash lamp. But if you’re after serious photography, you’ll be fine with the carrying your equipment with you while traveling, because most vehicles arranged for foreign tourist groups are with ample space for storing extra luggage. 

9. Take more spared batteries, as the low-temperature in Tibet will greatly shorten the duration.

10. Remember not to take photos in sensitive military areas.

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