I travelled to Bhutan with a Toronto based company called, "Canadian Himalayan Expeditions" in May of 2015 and spent the month hiking most...but not all...of the famed "Snowman Trek" with two other clients in my trekking group. Our total personnel consisted of seven support staff and us three clients: There was one lead cook with one assistant...one main guide with one assistant...two mule handlers and one porter/assistant, and fifteen (!) mules to carry the gear for all ten of us. Unfortunately, due to a huge snowfall the previous winter that had not completely melted, several of the high altitude mountain passes were not clear enough of snow for the mules to pass so we were forced to detour along other trails into separate remote valleys and villages off the actual "Snowman Trek" route. It was not an issue for me personally. This "detour" was equally as beautiful and, as the images show, I highly doubt that I missed much in the way of scenery or culture by not being able to complete the actual route of the "Snowman Trek" itself. Bhutan is an absolutely amazing country of beautifully warm, inviting, gentle people living in a distant culture rarely visited by the western world. In contrast to Nepal, (which I've twice been to) where 50,000 people a year visit the Khumbu region...let alone the rest of the country...Bhutan has less than 5,000 tourists a year in the entire country itself. This is due to a tourism policy that prohibits open travel in the country. Foreigners (except citizens of India) are required to pre-pay a fee of $250 U.S. per day to travel within the country. This fee does however cover your guide, your food and your accommodation for each day you are in the country so it does somewhat offset the cost. The greatest percentage of visitors to Bhutan go there to trek through and experience the countryside...not hang out in the small towns and villages for extended periods of idle time. Needless to say the large fee to be in the country completely screens out all of the penny budget backpackers that routinely flood into countries like Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Laos, India etc. so what you wind up with for your travel dollar in Bhutan is an adventure through an extremely remote and beautiful country, rich with exotic cultural amenities and yet totally devoid of other foreigners. During the entire month we trekked the trail through the northern region of the country I saw...literally...a total of three other foreign trekkers. The country is, for all intents and purposes, totally barren of tourists. Succinctly, Bhutan is today what Nepal and the rest of Southeast Asia was probably like fifty years ago. It is remote, friendly, safe, and incredibly beautiful, and an idyllic "lost paradise" worth every penny it costs to travel to. I'd go there again, and I will. This trip was for me a very rich photographic opportunity and I approached it with the intent of capturing images to the very best of my skill. I took my Canon 5D Mark III and 24-105 f/4.0 L, 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 II, and 24 f/1.4 L, lenses. Almost all of the images in this gallery were shot with the 24-105 lens. It's my "go-to" lens for travel photography. Many of the images were shot with a tripod base to achieve higher quality HDR imagery but numbers of images were also shot hand held HDR. To post process the images I used Adobe Photoshop and applied "Photomatix" for the multi frame HDR images and "DXO Film Labs" for the monochrome and other creatively processed non HDR images. You can click on any image to enlarge it to full screen.
© Steve Tambosso - "The Wandering Fireman"