Copper Mountain, ColoradoCopper Mountain, Colorado

Haa Valley

November 17, 2016

Woke up the next morning and packed up all my gear before breakfast, both nervous and excited for what to expect next.  Today the plan was to head west towards Haa Valley, and we had a decent drive ahead of us.

Rice Fields in ParoRice Fields in ParoViews of the rice fields of Paro, Bhutan

Rice Fields in ParoRice Fields in ParoViews of the rice fields of Paro, Bhutan

 

That didn't prevent us from stopping along the side of the road to get a few valley shots of the rice fields of Paro before the drive.  Bouncing along the dirt roads, we talked about post processing workflow, file export options, and night-shot gaffer tape photography tips.  Probably boring topics to most people, but I had a grin on my face the entire time as I sat and listened.  At above 3000m on the canyon roads, you could notice the start of fall foliage colors.  The road was interesting, to say the least, with shear drop-offs into the valley below and a width barely wide enough to squeeze one car through, let alone two way traffic.  I had expressed my fear of heights, so I was told multiple times to not look out the window.

Finally reached our mid point goal of Chele La Pass, the highest driveable point on the road at 3988 meters, and had a picnic lunch on the pass in the midst of thousands of prayer flags.  That sums up the drive and the lunch in one sentence, but I think it's pretty obvious at this point that those few words do not describe this experience the way it should be described.

Prayer Flags at Chele La PassPrayer Flags at Chele La PassViews from the highest road in Paro on the way to Haa, Bhutan

Prayer Flags at Chele La PassPrayer Flags at Chele La PassViews from the highest road in Paro on the way to Haa, Bhutan

Prayer Flags at Chele La PassPrayer Flags at Chele La PassViews from the highest road in Paro on the way to Haa, Bhutan

Caught some good light every once in awhile.  It was nice being with a group of people who didn't mind staying in one location for a long time to see if better light showed up.  We even hung a string of prayer flags on the ridge line before getting back on the bus.

After the sun started going down, we hopped back on the road for the rest of our drive to Haa and the Risum Resort for dinner, beers, and a good night’s sleep.  This place was even bigger than the place before.  Had a 3 room apartment to myself, and a rain type shower.  No internet access or heat for the night, but I think that made the overnight stay even more relaxing.

Takchu, BhutanTakchu, BhutanView from the small township of Takchu above Haa in Bhutan

Takchu GompaTakchu GompaTemple in the township of Takchu above Haa Valley in Bhutan

Takchu, BhutanTakchu, BhutanPrayer flags in Takchu above Haa in Bhutan

Next morning we still had a long drive to the country's largest city and capital, Thimphu.  First we drove up a canyon road to get a few pictures of Haa Valley and visit a temple in Takchu.  Didn't have sunny blue skies and it was a little wet out, but the views were still nice.  Ran into a few cows on the road.  Hoping at this point I’d have some keepers as I took a bunch of bracketed shots.  Monk children pounding away at the locally grown hemp for incense was fun to see, and they didn’t mind getting their picture taken by a bunch of crazy tourists.  We learned that there was practice festival dancing going on at the local monastery in Haa.  The monks would be performing the Black Hat Dance, so we thought it would be a great chance to practice dance shots before the official festival in Thimphu that we would be attending the next day.

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Black Hat DanceBlack Hat DancePerformers practice a traditional dance in a monastery at Haa, Bhutan, before the festival the next day in Thimphu

Spectators of HaaSpectators of HaaLocals watch a practice performance of the Black Hat Dance in Haa, Bhutan

Tried getting some shots of the performers, but was more interested in just watching.  I had originally thought the clowns were there to interact with the crowd and chase away the stray dogs loitering in between the dancers, but learned that they were actually the dance leaders.  In addition to their entertainment duties, they walk around and let the dancers know if they are messing up during the routine.  Started to rain towards the end so we headed back to the hotel for lunch.

Haa ValleyHaa ValleyViews from the road to Thimphu from Haa, Bhutan

 

As we departed the down, we stopped along the road a few more times to get shots of the valley town.  Light seemed to be getting better.  Drive was long and bumpy.  I remember being happy sitting in the back of the bus, watching everyone edit their photos on their Macbook Pros while driving.

Dzong in Haa, BhutanDzong in Haa, BhutanSunset making it through a cloudy sky on the road to Thimphu from Haa, Bhutan

As the sunset started approaching, we made it to a view of another temple in Haa.  In between moments of wind and rain, there was some nice light peeking through the clouds.  After the sun went down, we packed up the tripods and kept heading towards Thimphu.  Once we got there, it was definitely a change from what we were used to.  A larger town than we were used to for Bhutan, but for the largest town in the country, it was surprisingly small.  We stopped at an Indian restaurant because our hosts were afraid we would need some western food.  We all ended up ordering Indian food anyway.

Pre-warned about the stray dog population, I was grateful for the earplugs our photographer guides gave us at the beginning of the trip.  Overnight it sounded like there was a war going on between something like 100 packs of wild dogs.

Still trying to develop all of my pics.  As I start to get into a rhythm of keeping only the pics I like, I keep getting hung up on certain shots and trying to apply all the new post processing techniques that I learned on this trip.  In the past I would do some basic Lightroom editing.  Now I'm going a little nuts with blending layers, brushing, curves, and luminosity masks!  My goal is to finish going through everything by the end of the month, but I'll still take the time to write up everything while it's still fresh in my mind.

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