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Photographing Bhutan

Fine art travel photographer David Lazar first became fascinated with Bhutan after winning a photography contest in 2010, and then enjoying the fruits of his first prize – a free trip to the mysterious, “Land of the Thunder Dragon”. When he had the chance to return earlier this year, he could not have been happier! This is quite befitting in a country where the government actually has programs for the mental and spiritual wellbeing of its citizens, and measures what it terms, Gross National Happiness.

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Monk near Punhaka Dzong, Thimpu

Sandwiched between India in the south and Tibet in the north, Bhutan was for many centuries controlled by one or the other. It was in 1634 that Bhutan defeated Tibet in the Battle of Five Lamas and began its life as an independent kingdom. While it became a British protectorate for a time, (English is well and widely spoken to this day), clearly the most profound and deepest influences came from Tibet and the Kagyu school of Tibetan style Mahayana Buddhism.

Walking into a Bhutanese monastery for the first time and taking in the beauty of a great thongdro (tapestry) and other works of Buddhist art, along with the mesmerizing sounds of monks chanting, is quite an extraordinary experience. Of course you cannot go in gripping and ripping. Shoes off, with permission, you enter quietly and respectfully and do your utmost not to disturb anyone, while taking select frames.

Places to visit with wonderful photo opportunities range from the charming streets of the capital city of Thimpu, which may be the only capital city in the world without traffic lights; to massive centuries old fortress monasteries called dzongs; to simply awesome high mountain landscapes and 10,000 foot high rice paddies in the clouds!