Visionary Wild, LLC • 2200 19th St. NW, Ste 806, Washington, DC 20009

E-mail:    •    Tel: 1-202-558-9596 (9am to 5pm, EST).

Justin Black – Managing Director: 1-202-302-9030 • Email:

Jennifer Woolley – Director of Operations • Email:

We look forward to hearing from you!


Limit 6 spaces | $16,500* Closed
Expedition June 5 - 21, 2018 | View other workshops

Himalaya & Varanasi with Justin Black and Jasminder Oberai

Map via Google

“What an incredible experience! Beautifully orchestrated and managed, and exceptional guides and support staff. Choices of lodging and destinations very commendable. I have to say, the Trident, Imperial, Brijrama Palace, and Chamba Camp Diskit were all significant experiences in life, and the birthday celebration has to rank at the top of the list for birthdays. Thanks! The whole trip was seamless, good job!” –T. Hanagan, 2017 Varanasi & Ladakh participant

We invite you to join us for this photographic adventure, limited to only six guests, to two of India’s most visually rich spiritual centers, the ancient Hindu city of Varanasi on the Ganges River, and the Tibetan Buddhist sanctuary region of Ladakh in the Himalaya. The opportunities and experiences on this itinerary make the most of an incredible array of colorful cultural and majestic landscape elements, both urban and natural.

Day 1, Tuesday, June 5, 2018 – Arrive Delhi: Our trip begins with your arrival and airport pickup in Delhi, where-upon you will be transferred to our splendid accommodations at the Imperial Hotel. There you will meet your trip leaders, Justin Black and Jassi Oberai, and get to know your six fellow photographers over a fine dinner.

Days 2 to 4,  June 6-8 – Varanasi: The next morning, we fly to Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River, the holiest of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and Jainism, founded (according to legend) by the god Shiva himself.  A major pilgrimage destination, Varanasi is a photographer's dream, an endless frenetic swirl of color and activity, with a steady stream of pilgrims visiting the ghats (stepped and terraced embankment leading down to the river). Transferring by comfortable Mercedes Sprinter van from the airport to the edge of the city center, we will travel the final two miles by boat on the Ganges itself, passing the spectacle of the ghats, temples, palaces, open-air crematoria, and pilgrims bathing in the river, before arriving at the luxurious and historic Brijrama Palace, our accommodation for the next three nights, at the center of all the action in Varanasi. Our photography in Varanasi will mainly take place morning and late afternoon to avoid the midday heat, and will include strolls along the ghats to photograph of the incredible tapestry of life that gathers there each day, including numerous Sadhus (traditional Hindu holy men) offering prayers for passersby, pilgrims bathing, holy cows strolling the streets, locals doing laundry, and even the odd goat. Turing off the river and into the narrow labyrinthine lanes of the old city will surprise and delight the observant photographer with unusual juxtapositions of subject and form, and endless "decisive moments" waiting to be captured. A visit to Varanasi isn't complete without photographing the Aarti, a spectacular Hindu religious service of song, flame, smoke, and elaborate traditional dress. We have also made special arrangements to visit cultural sites of particular note, including Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment, Varanasi's silk-weaving district, and a traditional open-air wrestlers' club, and others.

Day 5, June 9 – Varanasi to Delhi en route to Ladakh: After our time in Varanasi, we return to Delhi for a restful overnight at another of our favorite hotels, Trident Gurgaon, in transit to the next phase of our journey, the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh.

Day 6, June 10 – Leh and Nimmu: Now a Tibetan Buddhist-majority enclave bordering Chinese-occupied Tibet within India's Jammu and Kashmir State, Ladakh is a high-elevation mountain desert features a very comfortable summertime climate, the green of poplar-forested and terrace-farmed valley bottoms, and rocky mountainsides. Upon arrival in the Ladakhi capital of Leh (elevation 11,500 feet), we will immediately load into our group's comfortable private vehicles and drive to the village of Nimmu, and the beautiful inn at Nimmu House, a historic countryside palace built in the traditional Tibetan-Ladakhi style, that once belonged to the Ladakhi royal family. The rest of this day will be for rest, altitude acclimatization, and a review and feedback on your photography so far on the trip.

Day 7, June 11 – Yuru Kabyad Festival: We drive west into the Sham valley to Lamayuru, known for it's mountainous lunar landscape. There, we will photograph the festival of Yuru Kabyad, celebrated with tremendous pomp and enthusiasm by the local Buddhist monks. In the evening, we will return to overnight at Nimmu House.

Day 8, June 12 – Alchi, Likir, Basgo:  Today we visit Alchi and Likir Gompas, as well as the old fortress at Basgo. Overnight at Nimmu House.

Alchi Gompa: 70 Kms from Leh on the banks of the Indus, is the Alchi Gompa, dating to the 10th century. One of its walls features thousands of miniature pictures of the Buddha. Three large, brightly painted images made of clay are focal attractions. No longer an active monastic center, it is looked after by monks from the Likir monastery. Among the thirty-four monasteries in Ladakh, this is the only one which is not located on a hilltop.

Likir Gompa: A monastery founded in the 11th century, skilled craftsmen at Likir produce excellent Thangkas, earthen pots, and carved wooden folding stools. Majestically situated, Likir commands a spectacular view.

Basgo Gompa: 40 Kms downstream from Leh, it was the seat of power of branch of a Namgyal family. It was here in 1680 that invading Mongol and Tibetan armies were held in check over a three-year siege. Original 16th-century murals and other historic art at Basgo are well worth a visit.

Day 9, June 13 – Shanti Stumpa and Leh: After breakfast, we drive the Srinagar highway to return back to Leh, where we will check in for the first night at the Grand Dragon Hotel. After lunch, we will visit the beautiful Shanti Stupa, with a view of the glacier-covered Himalayan Stok range, crowned by glacier-capped 20,187-foot Stok Kangri. In the later afternoon and evening, we will visit the local markets to photograph, and shop for authentic Tibetan and Kashmiri art and handicrafts as well.

Shanti Stupa: On the hilltop of Changspa, the Japanese for World Peace built the Shanti Stupa, inaugurated by the Dalai Lama in 1985. The quality of design and workmanship here is superb.

Day 10, June 14 – Khardung La and Nubra Valley: Onward to the Nubra Valley (known as the Valley of Flowers), via Khardung La pass, among the very highest motorable roads in the world reaching an elevation of 17,582 feet. En route, we will take advantage of spectacular views of the never ending snow-capped mountain ranges around Khardung La. After spending some time at at the pass, we will proceed to Nubra. Nubra valley is distinctly different from Leh, offering excellent landscape photography opportunities such as sand dunes, marshes, streams and snow...


capped peaks. The spectacularly and improbably positioned Diskit Monastery provides just one of the local highlights. Here we spend two nights at a tented camp modeled after luxury tented camps in Kenya: TUTC Chamba Camp Diskit. The management and staff here have mastered the art of excellent service, and the cuisine exceeds all expectations.

Day 11, June 15 – Nubra Valley: After breakfast, we will be crossing the Shyok river and going to the other end of the Nubra valley and visiting Samstanling Monastery in Sumoor, Ensa Monastery & Panamic Hot Springs. Overnight at TUTC Chamba Camp Diskit.

Deskit Gompa: Deskit Gompa was founded by Lama Sherab Zangpo of Stod in about 1420 AD during the reign of King Dragspa. About 100 monks reside at the Gompa, which is a branch of Thikse Monastery.

Samstanling Gompa: Samstanling Monastery was founded by Lama Tsultrim Nima and Monastic community was introduced as Rezong Gompa. About 50-60 monks reside at this 132 years old monastery.

Ensa monastery: Ensa Monastery, with its statue of Avalokiteshvara (Maitreya Buddha), fine paintings and green oasis. We return to the banks of the Nubra River for a hot picnic lunch. We then drive to the Yarab Tso Lake – ‘Wishful Lake’ (3,300m/10,826 ft), where we enjoy another pleasant photo walk.

Day 12, June 16 – Nubra to Leh: It's back over Khardung La pass to Leh, where we'll have the afternoon and evening to visit the old market and photograph in the subject-rich streets of Leh itself, overnighting at Grand Dragon Hotel.

Day 13, June 17 – Thiksey Monastery, Chang La, and Pangong Lake:  In the morning, we will visit Thiksey Monastery en route to Chang La pass (17,585 ft.) and Pangong Tso, a landscape photographer's paradise. This endorheic lake is in a broad basin surrounded by high desert mountains, and crosses the border between India and Chinese-occupied Tibet. Nighttime astrophotography is a great option there. Overnight at Pangong Hermitage.

Day 14, June 18 – Pangong Lake to Stok Palace: We will drive over Chang La again en route to the current residence of the Ladakh royal family: Stok Palace in the idyllic village of Stok, situated a half hour's drive from Leh. The castle was built on a hill at the end of the village around 1825 CE by King Tsespal Tundup Namgyal. Stok also features the sacred monastery of Gurphug, a branch of Spituk Monastery, and a large mountainside statue of the Buddha. The king of Ladakh still resides in about a third of the palace with his family, while the rest has been converted to a boutique hotel and museum. Overnight at Stok Palace.

Day 15, June 19 – Takthok Monastery, Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery, and Shey Palace: After breakfast, we have options to visit Takthok Monastery, Hemis Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Shey Palace, overnighting again at Stok Palace.

Takthok Gompa: The Takthok (the monastery with rock ceiling); 50km. east of Leh, this is the only monastery belonging to the Nyingmapa school of order. The monastery came into existence when Guru Padma Sambhava visited this place and blessed it in the 8th century. The Gonpa was merely a meditation cave of Padma Sambhava, with footprints and many other signs, until the reign of King Tsewang Namgail. When Mahasiddha Kunga Phunstog introduced monastic community. It was given the name of Takthok Padmalinggon. The Takthok Festival is held in the month of July or August.

Hemis Gompa: 40 Kms from Leh, it is the wealthiest, best known and biggest Gompa of Ladakh. Its popularity stems from the major annual festival held here in summer. The festival is in honor of Guru Padma Sambhavas birth anniversary. It also has the largest Thanka in Ladakh which is unfurled once in 12 years Hemis was built in 1630 during the reign of Singge Namgyal, an illustrious ruler of Ladakh. It flourished under the Namgyal Dynasty for the royalty favored the Drugpa sect, which is managed the monastery. It is divided into two, the assembly hall on the right and the main temple on the left. The hall (Dukhang) is also used as green room by the dancers during the festival. The temple is known as Tshogkhang. The verandahs have a surfeit of frescoes, among them the Buddhist Wheel of Life (Kalachakra) and the lords of the four quarters, besides the prayer wheel

Thiksey Gompa: 19 Kms from Leh, spectacularly sited, Thiksey is one of the largest and architecturally most impressive Gompas. There are several temples in this Gompas, containing images, stupas and wall paintings of Buddha, which are exquisite.

Shey Palace and Gompa: Situated on a hillock 15 Kms upstream from Leh, it was once the residence of the royal family. According to tradition, it was the seat of power of the pre-Tibetan kinds. A 7.5 mts high copper statue of Buddha, plated with gold and the largest of its kind, is installed here.

Day 16, June 20 – Leh to Delhi: Early Morning transfer to airport for flight to Delhi, and transfer to The Imperial Hotel.

Day 17, June 21 – Departure day: Transfer to international airport for your flight home.

Justin Black

JUSTIN BLACK is a photographer, writer, editor, expedition leader, photo workshops instructor, a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers (ILCW), and a former executive director of the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). Since 2011 with Visionary Wild and for ten years at Galen Rowell's Mountain Light Photography, he has created inspiring and effective educational photographic experiences for thousands of passionate photographers. He is widely recognized as one of the world's leading photo workshops organizers.

A professional photographer since 1995 when he signed his first picture agency contract, before founding Visionary Wild he served the ILCP as Executive Director, and for seven years was General Manager and Curator of Mountain Light Gallery.

Justin's photographs have been published by magazines such as National Geographic Adventure, Sierra, Sunset, American Photo, Outdoor Photographer, Rock & Ice, and Nature Conservancy among others. His work has also been published by major news outlets in print and online, and has been used in advertising for brands such as MasterCard, Patagonia, Nikon, and Fujifilm.

Among conservation NGOs that have used his photographs in their campaigns are World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, The Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Panthera, Land Trust Alliance, Earth Justice, The Wilderness Society, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, ILCP, and the Wild Foundation.

In 2017, he entered the world of motion pictures as an Executive Producer on the award-winning documentary film, Headhunt Revisited: With Brush, Canvas, and Camera, produced and directed by Michele Westmorland. Justin was invited to serve as a judge for the 2015 and 2017 Nature's Best Photography Africa competitions. He has also been an editor and contributor to numerous award-winning photo book projects, including Galen Rowell: A Retrospective; Freshwater: The Essence of Life; The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Human Well-Being; Our National Parks: America's Natural Heritage; as well as Flying South: A Pilot's Inner Journey by Barbara Rowell. His limited edition fine prints are available through his portfolio website at

An early career as a travel photographer and image licensing specialist led him to Mountain Light Photography in the San Francisco Bay Area, founded by Galen Rowell – a world-renowned National Geographic photographer, author, and mountaineer – and his wife and business partner, Barbara Cushman Rowell. Beginning in May of 1999, Justin managed marketing of the Rowell image collection, assisted Galen on assignments and in his workshop program, and taught seminars on nature photography. In April 2002, the Rowells invited Justin to relocate with them to California's scenic Owens Valley as Mountain Light's General Manager. Justin eagerly embraced his new responsibility, along with the sublime Eastern Sierra Nevada landscape as his new home.

Four months later, Galen and Barbara perished in the crash of a chartered plane, leaving behind a tremendous creative and visionary vacuum. Justin went to work, building on the impressive Rowell legacy to reinvigorate Mountain Light by establishing a seasonal series of guest photographer exhibitions, expanding the image collection, and relaunching the highly acclaimed photo workshop program through collaboration with Galen's leading professional peers, including Frans Lanting, Pat O'Hara, Jack Dykinga, John Shaw, David Muench, and Jeff Foott. In May 2008, Justin's successful efforts were recognized by both Sunset and American Photo magazines, as each magazine featured editorial recommendations of his workshop program at Mountain Light.

After ten years with Mountain Light, Justin was recruited to take over the position of Executive Director of ILCP, a non-profit association of the best photographers worldwide working in the field of environmental and cultural conservation. At ILCP, Justin oversaw an explosion of productivity in expeditions, publishing, multimedia production, and the achievement of successful conservation outcomes. He contributed photographic coverage to ILCP's Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVE) program, including Flathead Valley (Canada, 2009), Yucatán (Mexico, 2009), and Chesapeake (USA, 2010), as well as a solo project for The Nature Conservancy, documenting the Dragon Run wetland on Virginia's Middle Peninsula. One of Justin's photographs from the Flathead River project appeared as a section opener in the Vancouver Sun newspaper – the first time the threatened watershed received significant coverage in that nationally important media outlet.  The photograph was later selected by the United States Senate for display in the U.S. Capitol Building, as Canada and the USA reached an agreement to protect the Flathead.

Justin left his position at ILCP in late 2010 to establish Visionary Wild, building on his successful leadership of the Mountain Light workshop program and applying expertise gained at ILCP to provide superlative workshops and expeditions for passionate photographers seeking to advance to the next level of creativity, quality, purpose, and meaning in their work. His own work continues to evolve in new directions, driven by the ongoing search for extraordinary qualities in our world's dynamic landscapes.

Justin lives in Washington, DC, with his brilliant wife, Lena, and their children Philippe and Alexandra.

Justin Black's limited editions portfolio

Justin's Outdoor Photographer Profile

Bringing focus and meaning to your photography

The Top 40 Nature Photos Project

Justin's Conservation Photography Projects


Justin’s Camera Bag

After using an array of 4x5, medium format, and 35mm film cameras in the first two decades of his career, Justin fully embraced digital cameras in 2010. His current gear includes Nikon DSLRs and Fujifilm mirrorless systems.


Fujifilm Medium Format Mirrorless:

GFX 50S camera

23mm f/4 GF Fujinon

32-64 f/4 GF Fujinon

120mm f/4 GF Fujinon


Nikon DSLR:

Nikon D810 cameras (x2)

24mm f/3.5 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

45mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

85mm f/2.8 PC-E tilt-shift Nikkor

24mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

35mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

50mm f/1.4 Sigma Art

85mm f/1.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

200mm f/4 AF-D Micro-Nikkor

500mm f/4 AF-S Nikkor

18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 G AF-S ED Nikkor

24-70mm f/2.8 G AF-S ED Nikkor

70-200mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

200-400mm f/4.0 G AF-S ED VR Nikkor

Nikon TC-14EII teleconverter

Nikon TC-20EIII teleconverter

Nikon SB-900 flash

Nikon SB-700 flash

Assorted Nikon TTL flash cables


Fujifilm APS-C Mirrorless:

X-Pro2 Cameras (x2)

14mm f/2.8 XF Fujinon

23mm f/2 XF Fujinon

35mm f/1.4 XF Fujinon

50mm f/2 XF Fujinon

18-55mm f/2.8-4 XF Fujinon

55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 XF Fujinon


Filters and Light Modifiers

Nikon Circular Polarizer II

Singh-Ray Vari-ND

Tiffen WW IRND neutral density filters

Photoflex reflectors and diffusers

Lumiquest soft boxes

Rogue Flashbender

Rosco gels



Really Right Stuff TVC-24L with leveling base and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead or Arca-Swiss D4 geared head

Gitzo 1028 with RRS BH-25 ballhead


Photo Packs

MindShift Backlight 36L

MindShift Backlight 26L

Mindshift FirstLight 30L

MindShift Rotation 180 Pro

Mindshift Rotation 180 Horizon

Mindshift Rotation 180 Panorama

ThinkTank Airport Addicted V2.0

ThinkTank Urban Disguise 50 V2.0


Jasminder Oberai

There are those who walk a different path, those who see the world with eyes wide open to the creation of glorious images, those who are innately curious, exploring and learning each step of the way. One such talent is Jassi Oberai, a multi-genre international professional photographer based in New Delhi, who has taken the art of photography to sophisticated levels through his constant quest for images that have staying power and relevance long after they have been made. More a versatile visual practitioner rather than a rigid purist, he has earned a well-deserved reputation as an inspiring teacher through Canon’s Photo Mentor program. He is also a true gentleman and a kind human being, who happens to be a lot of fun to travel with.

Jassi has journeyed with his camera around the world, always looking for magical light that shines on nature and the diverse human experience. From capturing brilliant landscapes, wildlife behavior, street photography, or portraiture that captures the human spirit, Jassi does it all effortlessly, applying his mastery of color, timing, and composition to everything he shoots. In his own words, “Color can give a whole new look to something rather mundane and familiar. To me that’s what I like the most about photography – looking at the world in new ways.” Jassi’s passion is much more than capturing stunning visuals, he is all about sharing the knowledge that he has garnered in his professional journey.

You can usually find him either hanging on some distant trail juggling frames and lines to creating compelling images, or sharing nuggets of wisdom and insights with enthusiastic photographers in workshops, spreading this passion called photography.


  • Varanasi – the world's oldest living city, vibrant with colorful culture around every corner
  • Private sunrise boat ride on the Ganges River
  • Evening Aarti ceremony on the ghats
  • Walk among the ancient preserved ruins at Sarnath, where Buddha gave his first sermon.
  • Ladakh – explore this stunning Himalayan landscape, with breathtaking vistas at every turn, and the monasteries and villages of the local Tibetan Buddhist community.
  • Two of the world’s highest motorable passes at Khardung La (17,582ft.) and Chang La (17,585ft.)
  • Witness the celebration of the Yuru Kabyad Buddhist festival.
  • Visit locations specifically selected with excellent photographic opportunities in mind, at an easy pace.
  • Generous photographic instruction throughout by Justin Black and Jassi Oberai
  • Limited to only six guests
  • Support by superb local guides and drivers who have proven themselves on Justin’s prior travels in India
  • Excellent accommodations and logistical support
  • Flavorful Indian and Ladakhi cuisine

Accommodations & Travel

  • Imperial Hotel, Delhi (A superb classic ★★★★★ – 2 nights)
  • Trident Gurgaon Hotel, Delhi (Modern elegance ★★★★★ – 1 night)
  • Brijrama Palace Hotel, Varanasi (Beautifully historic, perfectly located, and very comfortable ★★★★ – 3 nights)
  • Nimmu House, Nimmu, Ladakh (Wonderfully updated former royal family residence – 3 nights)
  • Grand Dragon Hotel, Leh, Ladakh (Comfortable and well located ★★★★ – 2 nights)
  • Chamba Camp Deskit, Nubra Valley, Ladakh (Luxury tented camp, on par with the best in Kenya – 2 nights)
  • Pangong Hermitage, Pangong Lake, Ladakh (Premier luxury tented camp – 1 night)
  • Stok Palace, Stok Village, Ladakh (Part boutique hotel, part current royal family residence – 2 nights)
airplane iconcar iconboat iconfoot iconweather icon
Fly into Delhi (DEL). Internal flights between Delhi, Varanasi, and Leh are included. Airport pickup and ground transfers, as well as group ground transportation, are included during the itinerary. Group boat excursions on the Ganges River at Varanasi are included. Walks will generally be easy to moderate, though footing in the streets of Varanasi and in monasteries in Ladakh can be uneven. In Delhi and Varanasi, expect temperatures ranging from the low 80s to low 100s Fahrenheit (with excellent A/C in our hotels). In Ladakh, expect temps ranging from the low 40s to high 60s F. This is generally a dry time of year.



  • Generous photographic instruction and guiding throughout by Justin Black and Jassi Oberai
  • Accommodation as per hotels mentioned in the itinerary
  • All meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) from dinner on June 5 to breakfast on June 21 (including beer or wine with dinners when available)
  • Private transfers and transportation for the entire trip from arrival to departure at Delhi
  • Flights within India: Delhi-Varanasi-Delhi; Delhi-Leh-Delhi.
  • Sightseeing excursions as per the itinerary
  • Services of English speaking local guide for sightseeing excursions as per the itinerary
  • Monuments fee
  • Exclusive boat rides in Varanasi
  • Border region permits for Nubra and Pangong
  • All applicable Indian government fees and taxes
  • Some gratuities, particularly for group hotel and restaurant staff, as well as a basic gratuity for group guides and drivers


  • Travel insurance (highly recommended; is a good source)
  • International air fares
  • India Visa
  • Telephone calls, faxes and all forms of communication
  • Airport departure taxes holiday destination/s
  • Items of personal nature such as alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages apart from those included with meals, laundry, sundries etc.
  • Any optional activities / excursions or extras other than those specified in inclusions
  • Personal gratuities to group guides and drivers (we recommend being prepared for gratuities totaling in the range of USD$200 to $300, or about 14,000 to 20,000 Indian Rupees)
  • Other personal and travel expenses not explicitly included