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The Art of Nature Photography

Lesson 11 of 12

Travels To The Edge: Bhutan

Art Wolfe

The Art of Nature Photography

Art Wolfe


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Lesson Info

11. Travels To The Edge: Bhutan
Explore both the nature and culture of Bhutan. Watch as Art captures the colors and culture of the small Buddhist county in the Himalayas. Wander through ornate temples and go behind the scenes of the country's national sport.


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1 Introduction and Background Duration:22:38
2 An Integrated Life Duration:29:41
5 Finding the Subject Duration:27:54

Lesson Info

Travels To The Edge: Bhutan

A tiny buddhist kingdom is taking the path of enlightenment into the twenty first century thiss is bhutan we're preserving traditional culture and environment is considered essential to its people's well being and this is travels tio wait hidden in the eastern himalaya between india and china lies the tiny, sparsely populated mountain kingdom of bhutan having thrived for centuries in isolation, bhutan is committed to preserving its unique identity as it begins to make contact with the outside world. Buddhist principles of peace, tolerance and non violence are at the heart of these warm and welcoming people travelling with me is bhutanese guy hem a sona wear largely but this toe end land of promise people seem so friendly and content actually we have that interesting concept of gross national happiness I've heard about this what is that it's actually started by the four kings nasty on dh his idea was to you know, see the happiness in the people so that is guided by the foremen pillars t...

his are the good governance um sustainable economic preservation ofthe culture and the protection of the environment basically we're but this country and the buddhism teaches us not to be realistic tattered prayer flags dance in the wind on hillsides and high mountains everywhere in the time way inscriptions of prayers written on these flags are designed so that as the wind ravages thes flags over a period of time the prayers are scattered to the heavens, it's very moving to see the months consecrate these prayer flicks, and bless the messages that will be carried away by the wind. Theo the way friendly a really interesting scene here there's the's, beautiful offerings, including a peacock feather with these four monks chanting the distance and I'm just playing the foreground against this beautiful backdrop. So it's, a really complex shot from a perspective of having really a three dimensional effect. So that's, what I'm trying to do here, my kidney and so close to giving in such a beautiful religion with all the pageantry of these colored flags, the overlooking the large green expanse of the po gica valley is the monastic school of gang tae gon emma has made arrangements for me to observe the morning prayers the way these young monks worship and study together wait ah among enters the monastery as a young boy, and his spiritual training continues throughout his life. It's an austere life but with hardship and devotion comes enlightenment on the road in bhutan. There's a lot of distance in between destinations, so I really take advantage of the time by working on my images on the laptop charging my battery's, I've got an inverter that's plugged into the car battery, and I'm good to go for a long wait. Ah situated between two rivers the foe to male river and the mo chiu female river poon aka zong is arguably the most beautiful in all of bhutan wait this's song is spectacular tell me a little bit about the songs it's also build during the seventeenth century by ship the one who unified the country the reason for making this song at that time as only for the defensive purpose. So now we don't use for that purpose so it's half uses the administrative office of the district and half for the fantastic body thiss the places I mean where'd amongst the leave and then the studies when we talk about the long slice you must be wondering why this little kids are here in a monastery and that who decides it's actually the parents that who decides where to send their apparent boy yeah in olden times when we don't have the rest of medication here it was compulsory that once in from the family has to go to the buddhist study in the monastery now it's not compulsory other buddhist country they become a monk for time being like six months or about a year but share in town when you become a monk it's for the lifetime no wait this is a really nice tradition and old man is spinning a giant prayer wheel and within this giant pair will are literally thousands of prayers as he spends it he's gaining merit or credit for having done so you know what I like about this is so much wildlife is incorporated into the design especially we have this mythical animals. When you see a song it's so impressive from a distance when you start to get inside this and discover the ornate detail, virtually every square inch of this building is covered with beautiful designs no riding through a forest in the mountains of time. Very nice black necked crane is revered as a heavenly bird and a harbinger of good luck in time emma and I are headed off to a prayer flight site to get a good view of these endangered birds is beautiful up here and this is all protected you predicted area I don't see any power lines here. Actually we don't have electricity. The reason is that is for the birds because of the birds there's no power lines instead, like we used the generator in the solar energy here they nest in tibet during the summer months and then they come over here and winter over you come here during the meter forked over and then, like buy meat off march defy backing each did it think this is a great view? We're surrounded by prayer flags were in a high mountain valley and bhutan and below us is endangered black necked crane only get him playing feet looking to coming way blows these flags way they do everything as a pair there obviously really imprinting on each other right now before nesting season what flyer's wave got good karma good karma because we burn incense in the morning to please the deities this's surreal to be surrounded by prayer flags while these highly endangered birds air dropping out the heavens and landing right in front of me I couldn't have choreographed this any better thats our national sport archery arteries air national guard here the thing with the attrition so boring arrow that's made from the bamboo would like to introduce youto the traditional sharpshooters ok a lot of these guys hello hello art it's very nice meeting you how far is that target? Well that's about one hundred and forty meters one hundred forty meters the size of an american football field this is amazing can I take pictures here uses piece what? So what did trying to do here is that you know when the team is shooting you know so they tried to distract him so that you know you don't hit the target and then like the opening gets a point so can I distract you? They still come very close but don't touch me wow oh hey that's close to target teach me how am I holding the arrow like this? You know don't worry, I'm not going to kill my cameramen. Run for your lives. They are! That was fun. Thiss forest with swirling mists. They're really enchanting. Teo, thanks to bhutan's progressive environmental policies, over sixty percent of the land has been set aside to preserve the native forests. Thie success of this plan is obvious to me as I travel through the countryside. Beauty of the landscape is exquisite. Theo buddhist religious festivals called say shoes are an important part of bhutanese culture. The dance is performed by monks, reenact the life of buddha and the history of booth carl dance festival begins in small monasteries up on the hillside above tomorrow and tomorrow it will go down to the main zong in parlor. All these air dancers, they're streaming up this mountainside to be amongst this culture here, high in the himalayas season practicing traditions that are hundreds and hundreds of years old and is not being performed for tourists. It is for them wait the way these dancers air just beautifully spinning with their long, ornate robes. Such a great moment. No way, theo day after the festivities that song dragica emma and I had to the magnificent song in para for a celebration on a much grander scale thiss parle zong as my favorite is so ancient looking ah esha is in fact a religious ceremonies yes dedicated tow the one that who introduced the buddhism here in the country we call it second buddha or guru in poaching and what did you bring buddhism into britain? He was steering the eighth century on the invitation of the king off downtown and that's how we believe the buddhism was brought into our country this is a pretty important and reverent ceremony yes like by watching you aboutthe movements so graceful and hundreds of years old and the old tell a beautiful story wait this's none of the skull dance and these dancers are protectors of the religion the's are black and dancers there's twenty one of them and they're performing a purification rite, driving out the evil spirits and taking over the sacred ground here thiss dench ritual has been performed in the square for hundreds of years and as I photographed this, it feels like I'm moving back in time is a very solemn dance very rich in detail pattern on grace looking down on all these dancers as they're spinning I'm taking a really some nice abstract shots I love this perspective looking down and as the black hat dancer spin, I'm taking a very long exposure and so it's just a spiral very artistic, very abstract. It's a different view of this dance is just reverence that you feel as you watch this. This is a very powerful and ancient tradition here. A long ways up there, emma and I are making the long hike up to get the most iconic view in all of bataan. Ah, talk saying monastery, also known as the tiger's nest. This is a steep hike. Fama yeah. It's what way? We're going to visit one of the most secret please hearing way this's it? Yeah, the tigers n'est it goes back to the eighth century it's believed like the second wood or the groom. Butchie rode on the back ofthe attack chris. And then like flu and landed somewhere in the cleave which is inside the temple where we have to keep and did the meditation to bring down the local deity. Later in sixteen ninety five one of the special master, you know, did the construction off that temple in the memory of ship don't know no one who unified the country. So why is it important for the button needs to visit the site by offering praise and then make with some ofthe offerings here they get, you know, a better life begin karma wait thiss is the classic view of booth talk saying monastery person this very steep granite hill, but what makes it so great is the way the light is illuminating these prayer flags. The wind is sweeping up the slope, and the prayer flags air right perpendicular to where I'm standing is such a classic view. Theo, wait, there's, no other place like this in the world way. Ah, thanh has survived in isolation for more than a thousand years. As this enlightened nation greets the twenty first century, it's greatest challenge is preserving its soul. Signs seem promising. I'm art, wolfe told me next time on travels to the video.

Class Description


  • Improve your composition in landscape photography
  • Develop an eye for better nature photography
  • Find --and grow -- your inspiration
  • Go from nature lover to nature photographer
  • Spot creative shots even in popular places
  • Fine-tune composition with the unpredictability of wildlife photography
  • Tell a story through fine art nature photography


Spend a day gleaning insight from a nature photographer with five decades of experience shooting on every continent, Art Wolfe. This special one-day class includes two 90-minute discussions, 90 minutes of student critiques, and three episodes of Art's documentary series Travels to the Edge.

Go beyond basic nature photography tips and dig into the psychology of nature photography and what takes an image from a snapshot to fine art. Learn to find your inspiration, break the rules and see the story inside grand landscapes. This is not a class for taking textbook plain nature photography from a boring list of landscape photography tips -- it's a class designed to help you find your own unique voice to capture your own fine art prints of landscapes, wildlife, and culture.

After this class, you'll have the confidence to experiment, to work for the shot, and to capture the story in nature photography.


  • Beginning photographers shooting landscape, wildlife and nature
  • Intermediate photographers ready to refine their eye
  • Advanced photographers looking for insight from a top nature photographer


Art Wolfe is a nature and conservation photographer with a background in fine art and painting, a start which continues to influence his work to this day. Often described as a "prolific" nature and wildlife photographer, Art has published more than 80 books of photographs, along with images appearing in major publications such as National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian, Audubon, and more. Art has received numerous awards, including Nature's Best Photographer of the Year. He also leads a documentary television series Travel to the Edge. When he's not traveling nine months out of the year (including leading photography tours), he's teaching and working with his stock agency and production company in Seattle.



What a fantastic use of time! My photos improved dramatically since this course. I found it so useful, I recommended it to 3 people, and am coming back to purchase. My favorite segment was about composition, which is where I really needed the most help. I'd previously subscribed to the take a hundred shots and hope one turns out well. Now I think much more carefully prior to the shot, and the quality of the photos is on a completely different level from what I'd taken before. Then entire course was excellent, and I really appreciated the segment on audience submission critiques. It helped me to internalize the concepts he'd taught, and to develop a keener eye. Art Wolfe truly is a master. His photographs have the ability to stir the emotion deeply and soothe the ailing heart. Mr. Wolfe is a great instructor too. Concepts were presented clearly, and illustrated well. I am so thankful to have participated in this course. Thank you, to Art Wolfe, for sharing insights into your talent, and also thank you to everyone involved in making this course widely available. I cannot recommend this course highly enough!


I have always loved you CreativeLive, for being there in so many ways to teach me how to do better what I love to do. And, so I doubly thank you for re-featuring this and, thus. allowing me to buy this at a no-brainer price. I live in New Mexico. I have struggled to discern how to photograph New Mexico in a way that it hasn't already been photographed. It's like the Eiffel Tower. This class has SO helped me think about how to do that. I LOVED how Art Wolfe talked about how he started as a painter and how that has influenced how he captures his photography. I'm going to really start thinking about that and experimenting with this. New Mexico has had MANY painters, besides Georgia O'Keefe, whose work I love. I'm committed to studying them more and being influenced by their work. I haven't been photographing landscapes here very much, because of how much New Mexico has already been photographed. But this class has helped me think about how to do that more powerfully.and uniquely. And also, total kudos to the videographers of the last three segments of this class. Just watching these videos and Art Wolfe narrating this is worth the price of admission. So, in short, being a New Mexican who aspires to photograph her beloved New Mexico in a way that is different and more powerful, I think this class will inspire and focus me going forward. Thank you!

a Creativelive Student

I enjoyed your presentation and critiques so very much. I was able to watch it all but decided I would love to watch it again. I bought the class. Art's sense of humor was enjoyable. I loved his time working with his models and oh my what he was able to do with them artistically was so incredible. I learned so much through his critique. I went to our local Barnes &Noble; and was shocked they didn't have any of his books. I will continue looking for them as I would enjoy having some of them for inspiration. I also want to thank creative live as I have enjoyed your programs so much and I continue to spread the word about your classes. Thank you. Frances