Photo Tours Main Page - kevinmcneal

Upcoming Photo Tours


Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris

Kevin McNeal leads photo tours to select worldwide locations. For information, prices, and availability contact Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris at www.photosafaris.com, via phone at 206.463.5383, or via email at info@photosafaris.com.



                               Calendar Dates For 2016





Venice at Carnival

Jan 30, 2016 - Feb 06, 2016

Fee: $5,295 from Venice, Italy Deposit: $400 Limit: 10

Leaders: Darrell Gulin

                Kevin McNeal


View Slideshow

For More Information Please Visit

http://photosafaris.com/Tours/2016-Tours/Venice-at-Carnival




Highlights

Five full days of photography amidst the revelry and artistry of Carnevale Two exclusive photo shoots with models in full regalia Photograph Venice's off-the-beaten-path alleyways and footbridges with a local guide Excursion to the outlying island of Burano




Venice—opulent, romantic and picturesquely decaying—is a compelling magnet for your camera. For two weeks during late winter, the city has but one focus—Carnevale. At Carnival time, resident and visitor alike are drawn into an old-world fantasy of color, pageantry and revelry. At Venice's medieval core is Piazza San Marco, the city's largest square—two football fields in length—and the most magnificent. Lined by some of Venice's renowned landmarks—the Basilica di San Marco, the Palazzo Ducale, the towering Campanile—the Piazza lies at the heart of the Carnevale tradition. Here, the living theater of Carnevale plays out. Day and night, revelers promenade bedecked from head to foot in gloriously-feathered and festooned hats, and richly-hued, lavish costumes that beg to be photographed. But it is the mask that is the icon of Carnevale. Steeped in the history of Venice, hand-painted, gilded with gold leaf, the masks are true works of art and what makes Carnevale unique and sets it apart from all other Carnival celebrations worldwide. Masks are disguise and possibility, cutting across social class and individual identity. From the striking monochromatic traditional designs of the commedia dell'arte and the ghost-like bauta, to intricate and colorful fantasies of gems and feathers, the masks attract the eye and the lens for striking "portraits." "Venice at Carnival time is a photographer's delight. When people say "WOW—AWESOME!!" when they look at my images of the more than 50 models dressed in vividly colorful costumes and masks with Venetian scenery as the background, you know you've struck gold. " - D. Wisler In the quieter morning hours, as the sun appears over the mist-veiled waters of the Bacino de San Marco, costumed figures already begin to stroll the square—and numerous impromptu shooting opportunities present themselves. Throughout the daytime, the non-stop parade of revelers in theatrical guise expands and excitement grows. The world of the masquerade reaches the height of revelry in the evening with masked balls, renaissance-style processions, street artists, music and non-stop action. Bring your most comfortable walking shoes! With a convenient, centrally-located 4-star hotel as our base, we are only short minutes from the Piazza—but, with no cars allowed in the city we travel by foot and water taxi. Away from the midst of the bustle of the square, we also have time to discover quieter hidden corners of Venice and explore the network of winding narrow calli, the serpentine waterways of smaller canals, and some of the 400 graceful bridges that lace this medieval city. We capture the winter light that falls on rich architectural details, on elegant but often photogenically-decaying facades of palaces lining historic waterways, on churches and on sleek gondolas. In the evening, streetlamp reflections shimmer in the waters of the lagoon and canals. In addition to photographing the throng of masked revelers, we have scheduled two exclusive model shoots for our group. A special 4-hour shoot with our models posing in gondolas on the canals and amidst secluded alleyways highlights one afternoon. During a 2-hour interior session we photograph in one of the magnificent Venetian palazzos. Leaving the city behind, we travel to the photogenic island of Burano, a quiet island of winding streets and tranquil canals, offering a refreshing counterpoint to the whirlwind of the city. Burano is an explosion of color, justly famous for its brightly-hued houses and fishing boats, as well as for the handmade lace seen hanging almost everywhere. We photograph lavishly embellished masks and costumes against deeply-pigmented backdrops—here, rich color, design and pattern all vie for our focus. Keep your camera ready. The colorfully-gloved and bejeweled hand of Carnevale beckons. An extravagantly-costumed couple strikes a pose against a backdrop of Gothic architecture. Cloaked figures in fantastical hand-painted masks stroll the Piazza and emerge from half-hidden lanes. Join us and revel at what was once described as "folly and madness"—Carnevale in timeless Venice. For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 Depart on flights from the US.

Day 2 (Jan 31) Arrive in Venice in time for an afternoon orientation walk followed by dinner in the Castello District. (D)

Day 3 At sunrise—today and on most mornings during our week—we are in the center of the action, in Piazza San Marco, to photograph elaborately costumed and masked models. Later, we photograph around the historic Venice Arsenale and, in the late afternoon, we walk to the Rialto, stopping en route to photograph palaces, churches, canals, bridges and other architectural delights of Venice. (BLD)

Day 4 Following sunrise photography in the piazza and breakfast, we depart by boat for a full-day shoot to the island of Burano, known for its houses suffused in vivid colors. Burano's winding streets and its canals lined with fishing boats colorfully reflected in the water provide a short respite from the revelry in the city. In this quieter setting we concentrate on photographing fanciful masks and costumes against the saturated-color backdrop of Burano's buildings. (BLD)

Day 5 Sunrise finds us back in the hub of activity in Piazza San Marco and just off the square to shoot at the main gondola staging area of the city—where rows of the photogenic city boats park along the canal. Midmorning we depart by vaporetto, the water bus, to the bustling, colorful centuries-old Rialto vegetable and fish market. (BLD)

Day 6 Along with a local guide, we photograph palaces, churches, the opera house and the hidden corners of Venice. We have scheduled an exclusive 3-hour afternoon shoot with our models posing in gondolas along one of the smaller, less busy canals followed by sunset photography before dinner in Formosa Square. (BLD)

Day 7 Early this morning, we are in Piazza San Marco for our final sunrise shoot. As a highlight to our week at Carnival we have scheduled an exclusive two-hour interior photo shoot with our models posing in one of Venice's elegant historic palazzos. In the late afternoon a vaporetto brings us to the Academia area, by the high-arched wooden Pont dell'Academia spanning the Grand Canal for our last sunset shoot. (BLD)

Day 8 (Feb 6) Group transfer to the airport and depart for home. (B)





Aurora Borealis, Fairbanks, Alaska

Northern Lights, Ice Sculpture Championships & Sled Dog Racing

March 11, 2016 - March 18, 2016

Fee: $3,995 from Fairbanks, Alaska Deposit: $300 Limit: 14

Leaders: Kevin McNeal

                Stuart Westmorland


View Slideshow

For More Information Please Visit

http://photosafaris.com/Tours/2016-Tours/Aurora-Borealis-Fairbanks-Alaska



Highlights

Photograph the awesome aurora borealis from Fairbanks, Alaska’s famous Chena Hot Springs Resort—one of the world’s top aurora viewing locations Trip timed for peak aurora activity Shoot spectacular colorfully-lit ice sculptures during the World Ice Art Championships Outstanding action photography at the Limited North American Championship Sled Dog Races




They are nature’s light show. The northern lights rank at the very top of the night sky’s most awe-inspiring phenomena that can easily be observed with the “naked eye.” And, in 2016, the flickering curtains of dancing light known as aurora borealis continue to be the most vibrant and spectacular since the 1950s! As the sun sustains its strong cycle of sunspots and solar flares, the Earth will be hit with extraordinary levels of magnetic energy from huge solar storms. And March is predicted to be a peak month for aurora activity. These magical lights are just one feature of the surprising week of photography we’ve planned in Fairbanks, Alaska. "The trip to Alaska for the northern lights, the ice sculptures and the dog sled races was excellent. We got some really nice images. The logistics on this trip were prefect—it was well organized and we had fun. An additional benefit of these trips is meeting some good people and making new and lasting friendships." - L. Cooper The diverse photography of this adventure “focuses” not only on Alaska’s spectacular and colorful night sky, but also the exciting daytime activities that coincide with the dates of the tour—the action-packed Limited North American Championship Sled Dog Races and the World Ice Art Championships that engross Fairbanks in March. The aurora borealis has both fascinated and terrified humans for millennia. The aurora is probably the progenitor of dragon mythology in China and Europe, a supernatural omen prophesying war, doom and destruction as the heavens “turned red with blood.” For northern peoples living under the “aurora belt,” the northern lights have been incorporated into their stories and legends of creation, death, and even celestial sports. In the past, photography of aurora borealis was a difficult proposition. Exposure calculations of light intensity, and lengthy shutter speeds using film, were usually hit-or-miss—and a night of shooting could have been lost by a simple mistake. Now, in the digital age, with relative ease we can take a few test shots to check exposure and set our ISO, aperture and shutter speed accordingly. And the results can be spectacular! Shoots in Fairbanks correspond with the winter sled dog races and ice sculpture championships. During the day we allocate time along the dog team racecourse, capturing action images of the teams, sleds and “mushers” as they run through photogenic birch and aspen woodlands during 8-dog, 6-dog and 4-dog competitions. In the evening we head out to photograph the intricate large-scale ice sculptures created during the famous Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships. Just at dark and thereafter, the numerous carvings are lit with a variety of colored lights that radiate a photogenic internal glow. Then, as the sky fully darkens, with a clear sky, we concentrate on photographing the aurora. We travel 60 miles from Fairbanks to the acclaimed Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena Hot Springs is world renowned as one of the best places on Earth to see the northern lights. The resort is located directly under one of the world’s most active regions of magnetic fields producing aurora borealis. It is away from the light pollution of cities, and the skies over Chena are clear more often than those over Fairbanks. As we approach the vernal equinox auroras are typically the strongest. Prior to the nighttime aurora shoots, we spend a portion of our days photographing iconic snowy winter landscapes or relaxing at the resort before our late night photography sessions. Join us in Fairbanks in March! This exciting winter photo shoot will produce a wonderful variety of unusual images to please just about any outdoor photographer! For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.


They are nature’s light show. The northern lights rank at the very top of the night sky’s most awe-inspiring phenomena that can easily be observed with the “naked eye.” And, in 2016, the flickering curtains of dancing light known as aurora borealis continue to be the most vibrant and spectacular since the 1950s! As the sun sustains its strong cycle of sunspots and solar flares, the Earth will be hit with extraordinary levels of magnetic energy from huge solar storms. And March is predicted to be a peak month for aurora activity. These magical lights are just one feature of the surprising week of photography we’ve planned in Fairbanks, Alaska. "The trip to Alaska for the northern lights, the ice sculptures and the dog sled races was excellent. We got some really nice images. The logistics on this trip were prefect—it was well organized and we had fun. An additional benefit of these trips is meeting some good people and making new and lasting friendships." - L. Cooper The diverse photography of this adventure “focuses” not only on Alaska’s spectacular and colorful night sky, but also the exciting daytime activities that coincide with the dates of the tour—the action-packed Limited North American Championship Sled Dog Races and the World Ice Art Championships that engross Fairbanks in March. The aurora borealis has both fascinated and terrified humans for millennia. The aurora is probably the progenitor of dragon mythology in China and Europe, a supernatural omen prophesying war, doom and destruction as the heavens “turned red with blood.” For northern peoples living under the “aurora belt,” the northern lights have been incorporated into their stories and legends of creation, death, and even celestial sports. In the past, photography of aurora borealis was a difficult proposition. Exposure calculations of light intensity, and lengthy shutter speeds using film, were usually hit-or-miss—and a night of shooting could have been lost by a simple mistake. Now, in the digital age, with relative ease we can take a few test shots to check exposure and set our ISO, aperture and shutter speed accordingly. And the results can be spectacular! Shoots in Fairbanks correspond with the winter sled dog races and ice sculpture championships. During the day we allocate time along the dog team racecourse, capturing action images of the teams, sleds and “mushers” as they run through photogenic birch and aspen woodlands during 8-dog, 6-dog and 4-dog competitions. In the evening we head out to photograph the intricate large-scale ice sculptures created during the famous Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships. Just at dark and thereafter, the numerous carvings are lit with a variety of colored lights that radiate a photogenic internal glow. Then, as the sky fully darkens, with a clear sky, we concentrate on photographing the aurora. We travel 60 miles from Fairbanks to the acclaimed Chena Hot Springs Resort. Chena Hot Springs is world renowned as one of the best places on Earth to see the northern lights. The resort is located directly under one of the world’s most active regions of magnetic fields producing aurora borealis. It is away from the light pollution of cities, and the skies over Chena are clear more often than those over Fairbanks. As we approach the vernal equinox auroras are typically the strongest. Prior to the nighttime aurora shoots, we spend a portion of our days photographing iconic snowy winter landscapes or relaxing at the resort before our late night photography sessions. Join us in Fairbanks in March! This exciting winter photo shoot will produce a wonderful variety of unusual images to please just about any outdoor photographer! For more information on this trip, check out this trip report in the Photo Safaris blog.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Mar 10) Our group meets in the lobby of our Fairbanks, Alaska, hotel for an orientation session followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (D)

Days 2‒3 During the day we photograph the Limited North American Championship Sled Dog Races. The races are a three-day series of sprint sled dog races and skijoring (skiers pulled by dogs). In the evening, ice sculpture photography at the World Ice Art Championships is our focus, with amazing large and intricate ice sculptures colorfully back-lit by floodlights. They glow like jewels! From the “ice festival,” with clear skies, we head out for late night opportunities the northern lights. (BLD)

Day 4 We drive to Chena Hot Springs Resort, photographing landscapes en route. We head out at 9:30 PM tonight. A 30-minute snow coach ride takes us to a nearby mountain top for unobstructed views of the northern lights. A large yurt and hot beverages provide shelter and warmth as we photograph until early morning. (BLD)

Day 5 We sleep in this morning after our late night. This afternoon we photograph wintry landscapes and ice carvings at the local “ice museum” and have time to enjoy an apple martini—served in a martini glass made of ice! We take some time during the day for relaxing as we shoot late into the night if the aurora activity is good. Chena Hot Springs Resort is known for exceptional indoor and outdoor hot springs. Bring your bathing suit if you want to enjoy a midday soak! In the late evening, we pursue aurora photography. (BLD)

Day 6 A late morning private tour of the lodge’s sled dog kennels is a unique opportunity to learn about the history of sled dog racing and to photograph a few of these hearty canines. Afterwards, depending on road conditions, we use our vans in search of local snowy landscapes. Following an afternoon nap and dinner we head out to shoot the aurora into the night. (BLD)

Day 7 Following breakfast we load our vans and head back to Fairbanks, photographing along the way. Later, if time allows, we return to the World Ice Art Championships. (BLD)

Day 8 (Mar 18) Depart for home. (B)


Photographing the aurora borealis had been a lifelong dream. This trip exceeded all my expectations in making this dream come true. The auroras were amazing as were the ice carvings and the dogs, too! I highly recommend this to anyone with a desire to photograph the aurora borealis, you won’t be disappointed. —J. Graybill

The Aurora Borealis tour was a wonderful, exciting and very different kind of tour. To see the lights dance above us was something else; an out of this world experience! Though there were late nights and freezing cold temperatures, it was all worth it to see the swirls and waves of the northern lights! The people in the group were very nice and the tour leaders were excellent and helpful. I can't wait to sign up for another tour. —A. Gershin



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Holland at Tulip Time Tulips, Windmills & Canals of Holland & Northern Belgium

Apr 10–21, 2016

Fee: $5,495 from Amsterdam, Netherlands Deposit: $400 Limit: 12

Leaders: Terry Eggers

                 Kevin McNeal


View Slideshow


Highlights:  Two full days to photograph the largest spring bulb garden in the world Endless fields of colorful tulips in North Holland provide the material for creative graphic compositions Capture windmills silhouetted against a lavender dawn sky Photograph the dramatically-lit canals of Bruges, Belgium, shimmering below medieval stone bridges at dusk


For More Detailed Information Please Visit

http://photosafaris.com/photography-trips-2016/holland-photo-tour/



"God made heaven and earth," the saying goes, "but men made Holland." With more than a quarter of its landmass below sea level, Holland's diked, drained and "reclaimed" polderlands never fail to impress as one of the most unusual human-influenced landscapes on Earth. Though the Netherlands is one of the world's most densely populated countries, the Dutch pride themselves on being at the vanguard of the environmental revolution of the past 25 years. And even more important, they have figured out a way to make money while being green by exporting their innovative environmental technologies around the globe. Our Holland at Tulip Time photo tour concentrates largely on the northwestern provinces of Noord and Zuid (North and South) Holland from which the Netherlands get their "Holland" moniker. Colorful commercial tulip fields and a world famous tulip garden are an important part of our photography. First, we visit the spectacular 80-acre Keukenhof garden park—the world's largest spring bulb garden—where seven million exuberant tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and other bulbs are planted in a tailored woodland setting. The Keukenhof garden is literally a trade show for Holland's major bulb producers. The newest hybrids are presented here en masse, and a remarkable glass-enclosed pavilion offers thousands of tulips and other flowers in perfect light and near-windless conditions for photography. The commercial tulip fields of Noord Holland are next on our agenda, along with the picturesque hamlet and working windmills of Zaanse Schans. The density of tulip and hyacinth fields in this area is the highest in Holland. Field after field of vivid color gives us much to do. We photograph one of the best-known examples of the typical Dutch landscape—the windmills of Kinderdijk. Images of this unique windmill landscape are featured in virtually every photo book of Holland. And, in 1997, the 19 Kinderdijk mills were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For our final stop, we travel to northern Belgium to the "Venice of the North," the delightful medieval city of Bruges. One of the most visually-stunning cities in Europe, the historical center of Bruges was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. Here, as we walk the egg-shaped maze of cobblestoned streets, follow the winding canals, and explore the town squares, we find ourselves in a photogenic world of colorful brick and stone—brilliant in the spring sunlight. We climb the winding staircase of the Belfort, the belfry of Bruges, a medieval bell tower, to capture panoramic images of red brick facades, steep Flemish rooflines, and the market square below. Each evening, just at dusk, the landmark buildings along the canals are illuminated to create an exquisite palette for photography—medieval gables and spires, and gracefully-arching stone bridges are reflected in a warm golden glow during the magical hours of transition. Travel with us to where the North Sea meets the land—and the present and past await our cameras. In Holland, vibrant springtime flower bulb gardens and fields of unimaginable hues stretch to the horizon. Iconic windmills pierce the softly-lit sky and reflect in the calm waters of the polderlands. Bruges, in Belgium, is a timeless world where architectural imagery abounds throughout the day and into the luminous night.


Tour Details

Itinerary Day 1 Depart from home.

Day 2 (Apr 11) Arrive in Amsterdam. Meet for dinner at our airport hotel. (D)

Day 3 We drive to the Keukenhof garden park. After lunch and hotel check in we spend the afternoon exploring the spectacular garden with our cameras. (BLD)

Days 4–5 Keukenhof is a photo-rich environment with sweeping garden vistas and intimate close-up possibilities. In the event of rain, the garden offers a huge indoor pavilion featuring thousands of flowering bulbs under an immense glass ceiling with wonderfully diffused light. The surrounding area is also home to a substantial number of commercial bulb fields. We pick and choose from the best photo opportunities both within the garden and the adjacent fields. (BLD)

Day 6 We drive north to the vibrant bulb fields of Noord Holland. Our trip is timed for the predicted height of the bloom—and prior to the flower harvest! (BLD)

Day 7 After morning bulb field photography, we enter private land to shoot a remote and picturesque windmill in the midst of the flowering fields—a scene not easy to find in Holland today! This evening we shoot the charming hamlet and working windmills of Zaanse Schans. In one of these working windmills, the parchment for the ceremonial copy of the US Declaration of Independence was fabricated. (BLD)

Day 8 We drive to Kinderdijk, Holland's quintessential landscape, in hope of late afternoon light on the photogenic windmills. (BLD)

Day 9 We rise early and attempt to catch the windmills in silhouette in the lavender predawn light. Following breakfast, we shoot the windmills until early afternoon before heading to Bruges, Belgium. (BLD)

Day 10 A full day of photography in the historical city core of Bruges. From our conveniently-located hotel, we explore on foot—the best way to experience this wonderfully-preserved remnant of the medieval world. In the evening, warmly-lit buildings and bridges with their colorful flickering reflections in the canal waters are our prime subjects. (BLD)

Day 11 Morning photography in Bruges before returning to our Amsterdam airport hotel. (BLD)

Day 12 (Apr 21) Depart for home. (B)




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Washington's Palouse Country

Dates: June 04 - June 10, 2016 

Fee: $2,895 from Spokane, Washington Deposit: $300 Limit: 14 Second leader added as tour size warrants


Leaders: Kevin McNeal & Stuart Westmorland


View Slideshow

For More Information Please Visit 

http://photosafaris.com/Tours/2016-Tours/Washington-s-Palouse-Country


                       

          

Nothing else represents the quintessential American landscape more than the family farm, and few places still offer more photogenic pastoral panoramas than the Palouse country that straddles the border of southeastern Washington and northwestern Idaho. Our Palouse Photo Safari is a photographic celebration of this lingering and nostalgic slice of Americana. "Tour and tour leaders delivered what was promised — in spades!" - R. Newman There is a very compelling reason for you to visit this extraordinarily photogenic corner of America—now! Within a short time, the majority of its treasured landmarks—those architecturally beautiful hand-hewn wooden barns, silos and outbuildings of a bygone era will be gone. Scores of these weathered, abandoned and beautifully-deteriorating agricultural structures will collapse and be bulldozed onto the scrapheap of history. This motif of graphically stunning old barns and ramshackle farm equipment, nestled within the undulating deep loess hillsides of the Palouse, form an iconic farmland of indescribable beauty. Unusual patterns created by plowing and crop rotations offer hours of thought-provoking and enjoyable study of realistic and abstract photo compositions. During June, the vibrant yellows of blooming canola (rape seed) fields are contrasted by the rolling chartreuse hills of wheat and lentils, saturating the fields with explosive color. Wildflowers are abundant at this time of year. From a splendid vantage point on top of Steptoe Butte, we have a commanding view of miles of beautifully-cultivated landscape. Our group creates images similar to those that can be taken from an aircraft—although we have the advantage of two feet on the ground, stable tripods, long lenses and the ability to capture the landscape at its best, in the long low light of sunrise and sunset. In taking a break from other photographic endeavors, several of our leaders often get together for a photographic “busman’s holiday” in the Palouse. We have been here so often we have virtually every picturesque barn and farmstead in the region mapped out and choreographed to be there at the best light—yet every time we return to the Palouse, another barn or two is gone! Make plans now to join us in June and discover the photographic pleasures of the Palouse for yourself!


Tour Itinerary

Day 1 (Jun 4) Participants arrive in Spokane, Washington, in time to meet for dinner. (D)

Days 2–6 We drive to our centralized hub for these next five full days. Like the Palouse farmers we are up early. Our shooting locations are varied, depending upon the time of day, light and weather, and flexible as we drive numerous farm roads looking for great photographic situations. The Palouse offers a wide range of unique agricultural landscapes. Unlike the flat fields associated with so much of agricultural America, the 4,000-square-mile Palouse is covered with sensational rolling hills and textured fields adorned with fantastic barns and other farm buildings. We return to Spokane on the evening of Day Six. (BLD)

Day 7 (Jun 10) Participants may depart at any time today.

The wide, green, undulating countryside of the Palouse was enhanced by the knowledgeable tour leaders and captured through the skill of their no-nonsense, but often humorous coaching—a distinctive learning experience about light and compositions, as well as about the land, its barns and its struggle to maintain the natural splendor. —J. Menard The instructors were attentive, very knowledgeable, and dedicated to making the photo safari an enjoyable, productive experience. —J. Gordon








China's Giant Pandas & Jiuzhaigou National Park

Oct 11–23, 2016



For More Detailed Information Please Visit

http://photosafaris.com/photography-trips-2016/china-pandas-photo-tour/


Giant pandas are living animal icons of China—critically endangered due to shrinking habitat—and the subjects for our exciting photo shoot. Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, is our gateway to the Bifengxia Giant Panda Breeding Center. Here in this extraordinary breeding facility, we shoot the iconic pandas in a variety of camera-pleasing situations—creating images completely different from those made in a zoo. The Bifengxia Center is the location to which the majority of the pandas housed at the Wolong Giant Panda Breeding Center were relocated after the devastating Sichuan earthquake of May 2008. We have two full days of photo opportunities to shoot pandas—climbing trees in their compounds, rolling and tumbling, eating and relaxing. A third day of panda photography at the Chengdu Panda Research Base yields photos of red pandas and the potential for shots of 3-month-old giant pandas. We have scheduled three exceptional photo sessions where the pandas are transported from the breeding center enclosures and placed "in nature" both inside and out of the 144-acre breeding compound amid a photogenic autumn-cured meadow, bamboo thicket and another photogenic locale. At other times we are free to explore the breeding center and photograph pandas at our leisure. High on the eastern slope of the Tibetan Himalayan Plateau in northern Sichuan Province, lakes of surreal blue-green and gracefully veiled waterfalls nestle among soaring alpine peaks of Jiuzhaigou National Park. Called "Nine Village Valley" for the number of Tibetan villages scattered throughout the Y-shaped valley, the park encompasses nearly 130,000 acres. Old-growth forests shelter a diverse number of species, including Sichuan golden monkey and takin, and other endemic species. The giant panda once thrived in the area—and a small, elusive population is slowly returning, along with the bamboo it eats. Water and color are our dominant subjects here. Mineral-rich alpine lakes and ponds in vibrant shades of peacock blue and emerald green are stair-cased along glacially-formed high altitude landscapes. Fall colors in northern China rival major autumn foliage displays anywhere in the world. In autumn, the surrounding forest erupts in contrasting saturated shades of red, yellow and orange. Picturesque at any time of the year, the Jiuzhai Valley in autumn is a riot of color set among snow-dusted alpine peaks reaching to nearly 15,000 feet. Multi-tiered 1000-foot-wide curtains of water cascade over travertine walls or lace their way among green-mantled rock. White ribbons of waterfalls pour into blue lakes. Lake waters of brilliant hues reflect the golden yellows and bright reds of autumn leaves and towering jagged mountains. In the transparent waters, patterns appear—submerged interlaced trunks of ancient trees—or aquatic plants and algae add shades of green among the blue. Meandering turquoise water winds through golden autumn reeds. Capping off our trip is a visit to the famous Terracotta Army of Xi'an. These iconic treasures are certainly to be included among the most remarkable relics of ancient China. From captivating portraits of black-and-white giant pandas photographed in subtle golden bamboo, to stoic terracotta warriors and brilliant blue waters set amidst richly-shaded foliage in a landscape UNESCO described as a "fairyland of aesthetic majesty"—join us for a photo shoot of two familiar icons of China and a little-photographed landscape gem.


Trip Highlights

Photograph giant pandas, at close range, placed in natural habitat outside their breeding enclosures. Explore stunning Jiuzhaigou National Park—with the uncommon luxury of a private bus in the park—and create spectacular landscape images of its numerous waterfalls, turquoise plunge pools and intense "fall colors" of trees reflected in pristine water. Shoot the world famous Terracotta Army at Xi'an


Tour Details

Dates Oct 11–23, 2016 Fee $7,495 from Shanghai; departing from Beijing Deposit $400 Limit 14


Itinerary

Day 1 Depart from home.

Day 2 (Oct 12) Arrive at Pudong International Airport, Shanghai, and transfer to our downtown hotel. Meet in the hotel lobby at 6 PM for dinner at a nearby restaurant. (D)

Day 3 Fly to Chengdu in the morning. Following lunch we drive about 95 miles (150 kilometers) to the Bifengxia Panda Breeding Center, located on the southeast edge of the Tibetan Plateau in Ya'an. Situated at the top of the Bifengxia mountain area with altitudes from 3,630 to 5,940 feet, the first stage of Bifengxia Panda Breeding Center was completed in 2003. Today, the 144-acre center is the largest captive giant panda facility in the world. Each enclosure covers an area of about one-quarter acre and provides naturalistic outdoor settings wonderfully conducive to panda portraiture. After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, most of the 63 captive pandas at the devastated Wolong Nature Reserve were moved to the Bifengxia Panda Breeding Center. Soon thereafter, the first twin pandas of the world were born at the center. In the succeeding years, dozens of panda cubs have been born at Bifengxia. Within the compound you have lots of flexibility to roam and photograph at your leisure. The pandas may climb trees, interact in groups and are generally accessible throughout the day. (BLD)

Days 4–5 For these two days we photograph the giant pandas during periods of good light in their breeding compounds at Bifengxia and also "outside"—in unrestrained, natural habitats. This is a truly exceptional photo opportunity as few other photographers are afforded the chance to shoot these "million dollar" animals. (The rental fee for pandas to international zoos is one million dollars a year!) Our "in nature" sessions will be carried out with the help of numerous panda keepers after their normal feeding chores have been accomplished. Each "outside" session lasts about an hour. The endangered giant panda is found only in western China. Because of human encroachment, the panda's habitat is now reduced to six isolated regions, mainly in Sichuan. An estimated 1,000 to 1,500 wild pandas live in the mountains within the rim of the Tibetan Plateau. A type of bamboo called arrow bamboo is their favorite food, but because bamboo is a poor nutrient source, they must eat over 80 pounds of it a day! The giant pandas foraging area is often limited by the type of bamboo found within their home range, and their habitat is becoming progressively smaller due to expanding agricultural practices and logging. The lifespan of pandas in the wild is unknown, but pandas in captivity typically live from 14 to 20 years. (BLD)

Day 6 This morning we drive to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Founded in 1987, the Chengdu Panda Base houses around 80 giant pandas, several red pandas and other animals. With luck, we photograph 3-month-old giant pandas in their nursery enclosure and red pandas. (BLD)

Day 7 This morning we fly to Jiuzhaigou Airport, located at well over 11,000 feet in elevation in northern Sichuan Province. A 2½-hour drive brings us down to our hotel situated at approximately 6,500 feet in elevation. We photograph a Tibetan monastery en route and, after checking into our hotel, we have an orientation to Jiuzhaigou National Park using the park's public bus. (BLD)

Days 8–10 Over these three days we explore the park using our private group bus. A private bus for photographers is an amazing luxury here! Discovered by loggers in the 1970s, the area became a National Nature Reserve in 1982 and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. Elevations in the park range from 6,500 feet to over 10,000 feet. The Y-shaped valleys—Shuzheng, Rize and Zechawa—extend over 50 miles. Jiuzhaigou is an amazing place to photograph these colorful waters of 114 lakes and 17 waterfalls. (BLD)

Day 11 After a last day of landscape photography, we return to our hotel to check out and return to Jiuzhaigou Airport for our evening flight to Xi'an. With over 3,000 years of recorded history, this capital of 12 dynasties was once the starting point of the Silk Road. (BLD)

Day 12 In the morning we photograph the renowned Terracotta Army created to guard the tomb of Qin Shihuang, the first emperor to unite China. One of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries of all time, the Terracotta Army has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We fly to Beijing in the late afternoon. (BLD)

Day 13 (Oct 23) Depart Beijing on flights home.  


(B) A note regarding elevation in Jiuzhaigou: This national park features several different photogenic habitats. Fall colors in these habitats are based (among other things) on temperatures at various elevations—and the elevation level for the best color is difficult to predict in advance. In any event we do not expect to go much higher than 8,500 feet elevation while photographing in the park. If this maximum elevation poses a health problem or concern about participation on this trip, potential participants should consult their doctor before registering.


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India—Nagaland Hornbill FestivalDates

Nov 28–Dec 8, 2016


For More Detailed Information Please Visit

http://photosafaris.com/photography-trips-2016/india-nagaland-photo-tour/


Nagaland—in far northeastern India on the border with Burma—has a strong warrior tradition where headhunting was still practiced until the 1960s. Cut off for years due to political unrest, the area was only opened to visitors in the last few years—just over 2,000 foreigners traveled to Nagaland in the period between 2005 and 2011. A region of green hills and verdant valleys where much of the land remains forested, agriculture is now the mainstay of the economy, and towns and villages perch picturesquely on hill tops. A vibrant, incomparable cultural heritage remains imbued in the isolated Naga Hills to entice the photographer. Now often called the "land of festivals," Nagaland's major tribes, each with a unique culture but all traditionally great warriors, hold separate annual festivals that revolve around a yearly agricultural cycle. During the first week of December, however, sixteen Naga tribes unite for one massive extravaganza—the Hornbill Festival. Begun in 2000 by the government of Nagaland, the goal of the Hornbill Festival is to revive and protect the rich traditions of the Naga tribes. Day and night, for a week, the festival brims with music, vibrant dances, games, and colorful ceremonial attire, including decorated spears, bead and ivory armlets, and elaborate headgear of woven bamboo festooned with flowers, boar's teeth and hornbill feathers. The great hornbill is known for its impressive size—up to 50 inches in length with a 60-inch wingspan—for its longevity—up to 50 years in captivity—and for the unique prominent and bright yellow and black casque atop its massive bill. In Naga culture, the great hornbill is revered for its beauty and alertness. In the past, Naga warriors needed to prove their valor in battle in order to wear feathers from the hornbill. More recently, however, the festivals revolve around the rich agriculture of the valleys and the gods were appeased by "sacrifices" and prayers for a bountiful harvest. A Naga war cry echoes among the hills as hundreds of festival participants in their tribe's colorful traditional attire raise their voices as one—the Hornbill Festival has begun! The powerful rhythm of warrior log drums pulsates, heroic tales are reenacted, folk dances and songs are performed, indigenous games are played, and contests—pork eating and King Chilly eating!—are waged. Our cameras capture the splashes of mesmerizing color and the exuberant atmosphere of this annual visual feast. Much of the action takes place amid the thatched bamboo huts and morung-style structures in Naga Heritage Village. Ornately carved in the style of each tribe, they provide a glimpse into the Naga world. Delicious ethnic foods typical to each tribe are offered, along with the traditional rice beer. In the not too distant past, the morungs were tribal youth dormitories where warriors displayed their hunting trophies—including the skulls of their enemies. From Nagaland's cultural highlights, we travel northward, descending the mountains to the banks of powerful Brahmaputra River and wildlife-rich Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam. The lives of wildlife in this area follow the surge and ebb of this massive river. During monsoon it spills onto the lowlands; when the river retreats in November the land provides a lush habitat for the Indian rhinoceros, as well as Asian elephants, wild Asian water buffalo and tigers. Recovering from years of hunting before creation of the park, the wildlife In Kaziranga is now protected and accessible. From a dozen or so individuals, the Indian (or greater one-horned) rhinoceroses have increased to over a thousand strong. The animals in this park represent about one half of the world's Indian rhinos. More accustomed to human intrusion, rhinos now rarely charge and even mothers with calves allow close approach! Riding atop elephants contributes to our ability to photograph otherwise dangerous subjects. We help you adapt your hand-held photography to the pitch and roll of your elephant transport! Nagaland is only a few generations away from the days when tattooed Naga warriors wore the feathers of the great hornbill after proving their valor in battle. The one-horned Indian rhinoceros is only a few score of years from near extinction. Remote northeastern India is home to both the colorful cultural heritage of the Nagas and—a short distance away—one of the largest populations of one-horned rhinos in the world.


Trip Highlights

Shoot the incomparable cultural heritage of numerous hill tribes of Nagaland—in one of India's extravagant annual festivals Remote and inaccessible to visitors for years, Nagaland retains a strong warrior tradition—but soon to be a "vanishing culture" with exposure to modernism Photograph one-horned Indian rhinoceroses from 4x4 vehicles and elephants in Kaziranga National Park


Tour Details

Dates Nov 28–Dec 8, 2016 Fee $7,895 arrive Kolkata, India; depart from Delhi, India Includes internal flights Deposit $400 Limit 15


Itinerary

Day 1 Depart from home.

Day 2 (Nov 29 in Kolkata) Arrive at the international airport in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. After clearing customs and immigration, our representative meets you for the transfer to our hotel.

Day 3 Following breakfast, we head to the airport for our flight to Guwahati. On arrival, we drive to Kohima. As is typical of Nagaland, the town is perched atop a high ridge with an elevation of nearly 5,000 feet. (BLD)

Days 4–5 Day 4 is opening day of the Hornbill Festival. This morning we have a very short drive to Kisama Village. The riotous colors, music and exuberant diversity of traditional costumes and arts of Nagaland's sixteen tribes surround us. Expect to photograph exceptional close portraits of elders in traditional headdress as well as wide-angle views of ceremonial dancing—and everything in between.

Day 5 features the traditional stone pull contest as a massive 15-foot-long by 4-foot-wide monolith tied with vines is pulled for a kilometer by hundreds of men in warrior attire. We have time to walk the quieter streets of nearby Kigwema and photograph the traditional Angami houses with their impressive wooden pillars. Snack lunches ensure we do not miss any of the festivities during these two days. We return to our lodge for dinner and rest after each long day. (B, snack lunch, D)

Day 6 Following breakfast, we drive to Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam and home of the Indian rhinoceros. After checking into our lodge overlooking the Diphlu River as it meanders by the park we have the evening at leisure. (BLD)

Days 7–8 Depending on availability of elephants—they are owned by the government and used primarily for wildlife censusing—we have an early morning 1-hour elephant safari into the heart of rhino country. Riding atop elephants contributes to our ability to photograph otherwise dangerous subjects. We help you adapt your hand-held photography to the pitch and roll of your elephant transport! At other times we explore the park in open 4x4 Jeeps. Following our morning excursions we return to our hotel for lunch at midday when the park is closed, and return to the park for an afternoon shoot until sunset. (BLD)

Day 9 A 1-hour drive brings us to Silghat, an old port town. We have a half-day cruise on the majestic Brahmaputra River where we hope to have an opportunity to photograph endangered freshwater Ganges river dolphins. We explore the sweeping 15-mile-wide river, and stop at Hatimura Temple. Following the boat trip, a short drive brings us to a tea plantation for lunch. In the afternoon, we return Kaziranga National Park for a jungle walk in the Burapahar Range with a forest ranger and naturalist. (BLD)

Day 10 (Dec 7 from Delhi) We transfer to Guwahati for our afternoon flight to Delhi. Dayrooms are provided at an airport hotel. Transfer to the international terminal for flights home. (BL)

Day 11 Arrive home.


This trip is an exploratory. This is the first time we are offering this unusual trip. Our group will be accompanied by Kevin McNeal plus an in-country Hornbill Festival-experienced photographer and local guides.





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