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Tibetan revelry in Qinghai


In 2011, Master Photographer Nick Rains led his first photography workshop in China for Tours Abroad. He was obviously impressed by what he saw as he will not only return to that venue but also take on new challenges further south.

This first foray took Nick and his small group to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, then south to Tongren (aka Huangnan) up on the Tibetan Plateau. Using this town as a base the photography workshop then visited the series of festivals held annually according to the lunar calendar. These are often labelled Buddhist but many of the practices hark back to the older, shamanistic Bon religion.

The days typically started with a short drive to whichever of the local villages was hosting the main event of the day. The activities are organised by the local headman who then invokes blessings from the appropriate mountain deity. These are whole community events and even those who have left for work or schooling return to participate. Though the rituals are solemn there is also much fun to be had.

The group were generally free to take whatever shots they wished, except inside Lamasaries where photography is not permitted. Participants were able to check back with Nick with any issues encountered whether those were technical or artistic.

“Nick was there with pertinent advice at all times, imparting his enormous wealth of knowledge
  along with a smile, a joke, a story or 3 and nothing fazed him.” Victoria (2011 workshop participant)

For variety a few side trips were arranged, to local homes, to other quieter monasteries and even up to the grasslands for a look at the summer pastures and the herding way of life.

Participants were able to amass a huge collection of images. Each day participants were encouraged to submit a few of these to be critiqued by the group. This process aids the learning and also helps to raise the standard for future days. Some of Nick’s photos from this workshop can be seen by following this link.

Nick leads many photography workshops each year, mostly in his adopted home, Australia. He enjoys working with digital cameras as these allow him to give instant feedback. His explanations focus on why things happen, believing that the how is something that can then just ‘fall into place’.

With digital photography, post-production techniques are equally important and, therefore, Nick makes himself available for mentoring even after the workshop is finished and everyone has returned home.

Nick will return to China in March to lead a new photography workshop called Guangxi Spring. This will use the stunning landscapes around Guilin to add interest to images. He will then go back to Qinghai in August to lead The Shaman Festivals – Tibetan Revelry in Qinghai. Both workshops are still open to new bookings.


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