Capture the kaleidoscope of urban and tribal people and record the vibrant Holi and Bhagoria festivals

Date: March 17-30, 2019
Levels: All
Workshop Fee:  Variable – see below
Class Size: 14

Gujarat is the ancient home to one of the world’s oldest civilizations and a modern home to architects of contemporary India. Filling in this vast human history is a story of widely varied groups of people who continue to exist in traditional ways amidst a modernizing world. The focus of our photography tour will be to capture these lives as they go about their daily work, traditional handicrafts, and colorful festivals.

We will spend time with numerous indigenous tribes, primarily visiting them in their villages and homes. Each group has its own unique ways of expressing their culture and traditions. They wear ornate and colorful clothes, elaborate facial ornamentation, body tattoos, bracelets, anklets, and rings for fingers and toes.

We have carefully planned this tour to take advantage of two of Gujarat’s most spectacular festivals. The Holi festival is a country-wide celebration.  Anyone walking in the streets will be pummeled with fist full of colored powder and buckets of colored water until everything is one massive, laughing, and joyous collage. The Bhagoria is a small local celebration focused on the courtship of young men and women.

Photographing people, is dynamic, shifting from moment to moment, requiring time and respect for another’s way of life. We must enter their space slowly and thoughtfully, with patience, kind words, and a bit of humor. Eventually, they will open up to our presence, introduce us to their families, and allow us to enter their homes. With time and patience, we will be able to capture some remarkable and stunning images.

Highlights

  • The maximum group size is only eight participants, allowing for more one on one guidance, greater overall flexibility and less impact for us as a group
  • Receive thoughtful guidance and critiques from professional photographer Jock Montgomery
  • Walk through the markets of Chhota Udaipur to experience and photograph the Bhagoria, a festival of song and dance
  • Photograph the kaleidoscope of colorful indigenous people such as the Bhils, Madhari, Rabari, Mirs, and Bharvas
  • Engage with local communities well-known for their colorful and intricate handicrafts such as the Sumarsar and Nirona
  • Through your photography immerse yourself in the history and friendly chaos found on the streets of the old quarter in Ahmedabad
  • Experience the vibrant Holi festival where participants are doused with handfuls of colored powder
  • Photograph wildlife in the Rann of Kutch, home to the rare wild ass, the unusual blue bull (nilgai) and various waterfowl such as cranes and flamingos
  • Stay in heritage hotels with opulence from the era of the British Raj

Photography

On our photography tours we frequently work with serious amateurs and some pro photographers, but we are open to photographers of all experience levels, and accompanying spouses are also welcome to join us.

There will be ample opportunities to work with Jock Montgomery and Annie Miniscloux in the field so you can rapidly improve during the trip. They will help you work effectively in different lighting conditions, to create compelling content, and refine your storytelling and personal style of photography. Jock and Annie will show you how to respectfully work with locals to create meaningful photographs.

Typically, during the harsh midday light or in the evenings we make time for you to edit your work. Every other day, using an LCD projector and a large screen, we meet to review our work in a friendly group setting. When it comes to organizing and editing your files, Jock can give you expert instruction and tips in Photo Mechanic, Lightroom, Photoshop and more.

Itinerary

We make every effort to keep our plans, but we will also remain flexible so we can adjust to unexpected problems and take full advantage of opportunities as they arise.

 

Please note: three meals a day are included in the cost except for first and last days as noted in the itinerary.

Day 1, 3/9: Delhi

Upon arrival in Delhi, you will be greeted by a Compass Rose Expeditions representative who will assist you in transferring to the hotel, the Holiday Inn Aerocity.

Delhi is the capital of India. With a population of over 16 million, the city is a center of culture, industry, arts, education, and finance. In order to get over jetlag consider arriving a day or two early. Jock can help you make pre-tour arrangements and can suggest activities.

After an afternoon trip briefing by Jock Montgomery, we enjoy a welcome dinner and drinks at the hotel.

Day 2, 3/10: Chhota Udaipur

In the morning, we board a flight to Vadodara, Gujarat’s third largest city.  We then drive to Chhota Udaipur, once a princely state that ruled much of the surrounding area, now a small town of about 30,000 people.

On the way, we stop to photograph local villagers going about their daily routines. The daily clothes and jewelry worn by farmers and laborers are remarkably colorful as compared to similar workers in the west.

For the evening, we stay at the ancestral palace of Maharaj Sajjan Singh, the Kali Niketan a heritage hotel where we can drink tea and converse in common rooms filled with vintage animal furs and trophy heads.

Day 3, 3/11: Chhota Udaipur

In the morning, we head to town to experience the Bhagoria festival. The streets will be filled with people dressed from head to foot in vibrant traditional clothes. We are likely to see numerous groups of traditional song and dance. The festival is also the opportunity for young men and woman to show interest in each other by exchanging streaks of powder on each other’s faces.

Later, we visit surrounding villages for our first opportunity to photograph the Bhils. They are known for their craftwork with wood and pottery as well as their animistic rituals that include decorating cemeteries with colorful terra cotta figures. Most houses have striking Pithora paintings on the walls. These are stylized images of animals and people designed by a village priest to address a family problem or celebrate an event.

In the evening, we have time for a critique and discussion of the photographs. This immediate feedback will allow us to rapidly improve our skills.

Day 4, 3/12: Ahmedabad

This morning, we drive to Ahmedabad, one of the intellectual and artistic capitals of India, also known for its panoply of architectural styles. On the way, we visit the Champaner-Pavagadh Archaeological Park, a hill fortress of an early Hindu capital and World Heritage Site that blends Hindu-Moslem architecture.

In the afternoon, we have an excellent opportunity for street photography in the huge, chaotic town market that stretches for almost two kilometers. Nearby is the Sidi Saiyyed Masjid mosque, a famous city symbol, known for its carved stone latticework.

In the evening, we enjoy a special Gujarati thalis dinner at Agashiye, a beautiful restaurant spread between terraces connected to our luxury heritage accommodation The House of MG.

Day 5, 3/13: Ahmedabad

We head out at first light to take a heritage walk around the old city of Ahmedabad, to photograph the locals and visit centuries-old living quarters that combine the architecture, religion, and family life of Jains, Hindus, and Muslims. We return to our hotel for breakfast.

The main event of the day, the Holi festival, begins around nine or ten and lasts until early in the afternoon. This is a celebration of the victory of good over evil, the arrival of spring, the end of winter, and the opportunity to spend time with friends and family. The festival is most noted for the throwing of richly colored powders and colored water 0n anyone in the streets–men, women, rich, poor, children, elders until the streets become a moving collage of color. Be sure to bring a waterproof camera or a covering if you want to capture the panoply of colors!

In the late afternoon when the light is better, we can head back to the old quarter of Ahmedabad to revisit and capture more of the interesting street life.

Day 6, 3/14: Poshina

We visit the Darpana Academy of Performing Arts, which offers classes in Indian classical dance, singing, and martial arts as well as instruction for instruments such as flute, violin, and mridangam (a barrel-shaped, double-headed drum). We may have the opportunity to see students working on a theatrical, musical or dance performance.

If there is time and interest, we visit Sabarmati, Mahatma Gandhi’s Ashram from which he led his famous Salt March to challenge British rule.

We have lunch at Gopi, a restaurant serving classic Gujarati dishes in an open courtyard. We visit Adalaj Vav, an ancient, intricately carved, five-story-deep stepwell–a structure once used to provide water for drinking, washing, and bathing as well as a venue for festivals and sacred rituals. Next to the stepwell are godowns (warehouses), used to store charcoal. We will probably have an opportunity to photograph men and women loading and unloading charcoal lorries.

We then drive to Poshina, a traditional village populated by colorful tribal communities that harken back to the past. We will stay at the Darbargarh Palace, a heritage hotel with huge gateways, a massive dome, numerous pillars and arches, a pleasant courtyard, gardens, lawns, and terraces.

Day 7, 3/15: Poshina

This more we make our exploration of the city and surrounding area. We once again visit some Bhil villages and have the opportunity to visit the workshop of some craftsmen. We can use what we learned from photographing villagers in Chhota Udaipur to work more comfortably with the people here, and likely capture some otherwise overlooked images.

Later, we visit a sub-group of the Bhils, the Garasia. They are most noted for their live-in relationships in which marriage is delayed until they have enough money for a wedding. They typically live in one-room houses, made of mud and bamboo walls, situated on the hills near their fields. Each family has a land that is small enough for one family to do all the work. 

Day 8, 3/16: Dasada

We head towards Dasada, a small town at the edge of the Great Rann of Kutch, a seasonal salt marsh in the Thar desert.

En route, we visit the city of Patan, once the capital of medieval Gujarat, now known for its Hindu and Jain architecture. We visit craftspeople using double ikkat weaving, an extremely labor-intensive process in which both warp and weft yarns are tied and resist-dyed before being woven. We have lunch at the home of a local family. Later, we visit the 11th century Modhera Sun Temple that features a large, ornate stepwell, a magnificent pillared hall, and a secluded inner sanctum.

We check into the Rann Riders Lodge on the outskirts of Dasada. These eco-friendly cottages are imaginatively designed with mirrors, mud-plaster work, and embroideries to recreate the appearance of a village.

Day 9, 3/17: Dasada

Our day begins with an early morning game drive in open-roof 4wd safari vehicles to explore the Little Rann of Kutch, which turns into a spectacular coastal wetland after a rain. We will photograph the very rare Asiatic wild ass and the blue bull (nilgai), and if we are lucky we might chance upon the jungle cat, golden jackal, or desert fox. There are more common animals to be found, such as the gray mongoose, marsh crocodile, a variety of lizards, flamingoes, and cranes.

Our main focus in the Little Rann of Kutch will be on photographing people harvesting salt from the flats, and more importantly on visiting colorful villages, with tribes such as Rabari, Mirs, and Bharvas. The nomadic rabaris carry their homes on the backs of their camels and cattle. They set up tented camps for a few months at a time to meet the grazing needs of their cattle. We also visit the sedentary Banjara whose homes are close together. We will use the afternoon light to capture them returning from the fields carrying their harvest, firewood, or water. 

Day 10, 3/18: Bhuj

In the morning, we drive through the Thar desert on our way to Bhuj, once a vast trading center and an intersection of many civilizations. The city is still partially surrounded by a defensive wall. Inside are crenelated gateways, brightly colored Hindu temples, old carved-wood palaces, and a maze of narrow streets.

In the afternoon, we visit the richly decorated Swaminarayan Temple, part of a 19th-century Hindu sect that built extravagant temples.

Later, we watch a tie-dying demonstration and visit the Bhuj bazaar where you can see people dressed in their heavily embroidered traditional costumes as they barter and sell. Over the next three nights we stay at the Kutch Wilderness Kamp-Standard Cottage. 

Day 11 & 12, 3/19 & 20: Bhuj

We have two full days to explore this culturally diverse area with a high concentration of indigenous people, each with their own identity and traditions, notably shown in their clothing, jewelry, and housing.

Set near the vast Banni grasslands, this area supports almost two dozen pastoral and semi-nomadic communities collectively known as the Maldhari. These people travel across the grasslands for eight months of the year and stay at their home villages during the rainy season when grass is plentiful.

The Megwal were once considered an untouchable class in traditional Indian society. They live in small rounded mud-brick huts painted on the outside with colorful geometric designs and decorated with detailed mirror inlays. They are well-known for their embroidery work.

We visit Nirona village, a place that seems nothing more than a small town in a dusty desert, but it is home to some of the areas most celebrated and unique craftspeople. At Sumarsar, we will see the ornate embroidery of the Harijan.

Day 13, 3/21: Mumbai

This morning we board a flight for Mumbai.

After checking into the hotel, we visit Dharavi, a poor but very lively and vibrant part of the city that is full of energy and hope. During the walk, you will experience a wide range of activities like pottery-making, embroidery, baking, soap making, and leather tanning.

We stay at the Orchid Hotel. In the evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner and watch a slideshow of our groups’ collective best photography. This will invariably be a fun and satisfying way to bring closure to our exhilarating photographic adventures.

Day 14, 3/22: Mumbai

Breakfast at the hotel will be the final meal of the trip. We head back home to share our photographs of the remarkable people of Gujarat.

Most importantly, Jock and Annie can lead you to places with colorful human activities that call out to be captured as a memory.

Trip Dates

March 17 – 30, 2019, 14 days

Prices (in US $)

  • $7,135 with 4 participants
  • $6,880 with 5 participants
  • $6,385 with 6 – 7 participants
  • $5960 with 8 participants
  • $870 single supplement
  • $244 Domestic airfare (DEL/BDQ, BHJ/BOM) 

Payment Schedule

  • Deposit: $1,000 (non-refundable)
  • Balance Due: 90 days prior to departure

Cancellation Fees

  • 61-90 days prior to departure 50% of trip cost
  • 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of trip cost 

Required

What is Included

  • All ground transportation inside our destination(s)
  • All entrance fees
  • All meals except first day (only dinner is included) and the last day (only breakfast in included)
  • Bottled water
  • Accommodations as specified

What is not included

  • International airfare
  • Customary and optional tips for local guides
  • Personal expenses including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol, etc.
  • Overweight luggage charges

Header Image Credit: Jock Montgomery

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Instructor: Jock Montgomery

In 1983, Jock moved to Nepal to train raft guides and lead river expeditions and treks across much of the Himalayas. He was based in Kathmandu for twelve years and now makes his home in Bangkok, Thailand.

He is in demand as a commercial and editorial assignment photographer. He teaches and leads private photography workshops throughout Asia.

He has been leading trips in the United States since he was a teenager. He now leads river running, sea kayaking, trekking and mountain biking trips; as well as expeditions across the Himalayas, throughout Southeast Asia, North America, Greenland, Patagonia, Ecuador and the Galapagos islands.