Breathless in Nepal - Julian Elliott, 23rd January 2023

Irresistible title for me and my relationship with Nepal and I was not disappointed in the journey Julian took us on this evening.
Into an area where Annapurna and Dhaulagiri dominate, out to the far west of Nepal, bordering China, Jomsom and the villages beyond, Lower and Upper Mustang; names that conjure up a vision of remoteness, bareness and the simple life of its inhabitants. How do they survive here?

Julian, with his love for travel, 40 countries so far, and travel photography gave us plenty of ideas on how to gather our information to enable such expansive journeying into the unknown together with the apps to enable our best positioning for the ideal time of day shots. The magazines on the stands at stations passed through en route (Recommending for France Detours en France should you be going that way!) Using the Photographic Ephemeris gives you all you need to know together with Google My Maps and then Google street views where relevant.

Now the gear Julian carries is impressive and far too much for a mere mortal like me! He is a fan of tilt shifts and recommends them as an essential for the buildings found in the Durbar squares of the cities of Nepal as well any situation where the angle of the building requires the straightening of those in-curving verticals. He is a Canon user with 20-70 2.8 and a 100-400 with stabiliser being a basic requirement… oh and of course a tripod! Pre- planning is also built in to Julian’s work mode.

The single road, much of it unmade, to Mustang after a flights from Kathmanduto Pokhara to Jomsom needs the right transport and the other absolute requirement is a local guide. Babu who grew up in Mustang and who, with the necessary language skills and local knowledge, enabled the trip to proceed safely. We were treated to images of far off mountains, rock patterns of the semi arid desert extending to the far distance; extremely old stupas and monasteries taking us back to what we imagine living in the middle ages was like. Local skills whether grinding the corn or spinning wool introduced us to a few of the local inhabitants and close ups of those gnarled hands and coloured clothes. Taking time to observe and get to know the people is so important.

The hiccup in this journey came with an unpleasant experience with the symptoms of high altitude sickness and the need to descend to a lower altitude and the help of a very young doctor in a village with oxygen availability. Julian admitted he was lucky but he learned lessons! The journey was peppered with little stories; the vultures who help dispose of those who have died; the ancient walnut tree which wards off ancient spirits; shamanism being a part of the religious beliefs in this part of the world. Fascinating insights into a remote land of which so little is known.

Then back to Kathmandu and its periphery towns of Patan and Bhakatpur with their Durbar Squares and Julian’s ability to find high viewpoints to look down on various throngs below especially during festivals like New Year the celebrations, when everyone is covered in tangerine orange powder paint! Keeping your camera safe a priority! The very individual sadhus of Pashupatinath, where model releases could be gathered so images could be used by Getty, provided wonderful portrait opportunities.

What a trip Julian has had…and we now too, having travelled the journey with him through his amazing images. And next time he hopes it will be with paying passengers wanting to make the most of a remote experience. Whetted your appetite? Might it be you?

- Jane Tearle