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Feb 2019 India Photography Tour — Welcome TWiP Listeners!

Feb 2019 India Photography Tour — Welcome TWiP Listeners!

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Photography Tour in India — Featuring Ardh Kumbh Mela, with Varanasi and Kolkata, in February, 2019

 Welcome TWiP listeners! Be sure to mention the “TWiP Discount” when booking for a $300 discount! 

Join me for a once-in-a-lifetime photography tour through India during the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad — the largest congregation of humans on earth!

January 30 ~ February 09, 2019


This photography tour is sure to be one of the most incredible travel and photography experiences you've ever had, or likely will. Eight guests maximum for nine days and nights will tour vibrant, colorful India on an adventure that saddles the single largest gathering of human beings on the planet; the Ardh Kumbh Mela, celebrated only once every six years, with over 60 million visitors expected in less than two months. The photography opportunities at an event like this can not be underestimated. Not for the faint of heart or the agoraphobic, this tour will leave you with photos to show and stories to tell that will last the rest of your life!

Some of the things you'll experience and photograph on this tour include… Ganges river life, flower, fish and spice markets, and Akharas for traditional wrestling in Kolkata (Calcutta)… witnessing the largest gathering of people on the planet at the greatest religious affair for Hindus, the Khumb Mela, in Allahabad… a boat cruise on the River Ganges, a visit to one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth, a thousand-year old Aarti ceremony, and seeing incredible holy men in Varanasi. Of course you'll see many temples and shrines, explore the streets of ancient cities, and all the while, enjoy incredible food.

Accommodations are four and five star hotels, with the exception of Allahabad (for the Kumbh Mela) which will put us in a luxury tent camp. All meals and internal flights are included.


Full details are below, however this all-inclusive tour has a flexible price depending on how many register. The maximum price is $5,995 if we only have four or five guests. If we fill the tour with eight guests, the price for everyone drops to $5,245. (And anyone paying in full before a price drop would of course receive a partial refund).

Maha Kumbh MelaPhoto provided by Kipling India, Tour organizer, and used with permission


Q: Is this a photography workshop… or a tour?
It's both! You will “learn by doing” throughout the tour, and you will be “doing” at some pretty epic locations. Education is a constant, and we will always be learning. I'll take some time to direct as a group, but a lot of the education will come in private moments as we experience new things together. We will have access to places regular tourists would not, and will have photographic opportunities provided to very few.

Q: Is there any classroom time?
Not formally, no. We will be out shooting as much as possible. We will however have downtime where we can talk through education topics (or anything else)

Q: How about photo reviews? 
Same as above — we will do reviews as we go, as we like. Some guests will want to have their images critiqued often, while others won't want it at all. We will accommodate everyone as much as reasonably possible!

Q: On to travel… is India dangerous?
We won't be traveling anywhere that is unsafe. If you watch the video interview below with Chris and Eric, that question came up and they both said they felt incredibly safe the entire time they were there — both personal safety and gear safety. Naturally, as with anywhere in the world, we will want to take precautions and be aware of our surroundings, but India in general is a safe place to be.

Q: What if I get sick or hurt?
Personal health is always a priority when traveling, especially when away from our home countries. You are required to provide proof of insurance that will provide foreign medical aid, most easily acquired through a travel insurance company like World Nomads.

Q: I have more questions!
Then click on this thing here and ask away!

Want to hear about India from two photographer's who've recently been there?

Check out this interview with Chris Briscoe and Eric Mindling, two good friends and incredible photographers who recently traveled through India and have amazing stories to tell!


LOTS and lots of info below

Here's a table of contents…

All links below will open a new browser window with google image search results, wikipedia pages, or other sources of information so you can learn more of what we'll be experiencing!

Detailed Itinerary*

30 Jan 2019 | Arrival in Kolkata (Calcutta), India

​Location: Kolkata, India
Travel: arrival day
Accommodations: Peerless Inn (4 Star Hotel)

You will be greeted at the airport and escorted to the hotel, where we will meet as a group that evening to discuss the days ahead!

Overnight in Kolkata

31 Jan 2019 | River life… flower, spice, fish and vegetable markets… a cemetery… a spectacular tram ride

​Location: Kolkata, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Peerless Inn (4 Star Hotel)

We'll start the morning photographing “life on the Ganges”, exploring various ghats on the river to capture a diverse collection of subjects and activities. The flower market will be the starting point followed by the Kumartuli potters' village (where clay idols of Hindu gods and goddesses are made) and the morning will finish at Bagbazar ghat following the downstream of the river.

Next we'll visit the South Park Street Cemetery, located on Mother Teresa Sarani. The road used to be called Park Street, and prior to that, Burial Ground Road. (Please note that photos are officially prohibited but if you can hide your cameras, it may be possible).

After lunch we'll visit a spice market, fish market and a vegetable market. Later we will enjoy a tram ride from Shyambazar to B. B. D. Bag. We can expect excellent photo opportunities during the tram ride.

Overnight in Kolkata

01 Feb 2019 | Traditional Indian wrestlers… pavement dwellers… the “Shadow of Calcutta”… a train depot

​Location: Kolkata, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Peerless Inn (4 Star Hotel)

The day begins with a riverside walk to capture the traditional wrestling and pavement dwellers' morning life. We will take you Akharas such as Shree “Swami Gyan Yogananda Parimath” and Malik Ghat on the banks of the River Hooghly near the Howarh Bridge.

Traditional Indian wrestling isn't just a sport – it's an ancient subculture where wrestlers live and train together and follow strict rules on everything from what they can eat to what they can do in their spare time. Drinking, smoking and even sex are off limits. The focus is on living a pure life, building strength, and honing their wrestling skills.

We'll spend the afternoon in the “Shadow of Calcutta”, capturing portraits, old Yellow Taxis and Trams, etc. We'll visit a train station, where usually permission for photography is not allowed as they are protected area. However, we will do our best to gain permission from inside the railway station, and we will try to get insider access to the depot where they store the tram at night — this will be unofficial but we will try our best to get it!

Overnight in Kolkata

02 Feb 2019 | Ardh Kumbh Mela… millions and millions of people

Location: Allahabad, India
Travel: Flight from Kolkata to Varanasi, then drive to Allahabad (75 miles / 120 km @ 03~04 Hours)
Accommodations: Luxury Tents (see photo below)

After breakfast, we'll head to the airport for the flight for Varanasi, then drive straight to Allahabad. Upon arrival we will check in at our Luxury Tented camps.

NOTE: As vehicles of any sort are not allowed in the fairgrounds, you should be prepared to walk for up to 5 to 8 miles (8 to 12 km) during the main event of Kumbh Mela

A Kumbh Mela is held every six years in Allahabad — every 12 years is the Kumbh Mela (the main and even bigger event), and at the mid-way point, six years later, the Ardh Kumbh Mela (half Mela) is held. We will witness a the Ardh Kumbh Mela in 2019. The Magh Kumbh Mela is one of the greatest annual religious affairs for Hindus. Hindu mythology considers the origin of the Magh Mela to be the beginning of the Universe. An important occasion, the Magh Kumbh Mela is held every year on the banks of Triveni Sangam (the confluence of the three great rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati) in Prayag near Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh.

The story that the drops of nectar of immortality fell near Sangam is believed by the people to have given mystical powers to the place as millions gather at the ghats to purge themselves of all sins by taking a dip in the waters and attain Moksha (Salvation). Young and old, fit and frail; all regions, castes, and creed aside, it becomes the single most brilliantly unifying experience ever. The place itself, overrun by Naga Sadhus, who never wear any clothes and are always smeared in ash; Urdhwavahurs, non-indulgent in physical pleasures; Parivajakas, having taken a vow of silence; and Shirshasins, who stand for 24 hours and meditate, transformed as if from another realm.

Overnight in Allahabad

The luxury tents we will stay inExample of Luxury Tents accommodations — Photo provided by Kipling India, Tour organizer, and used with permission

03 Feb 2019 | Ardh Kumbh Mela… a most incredible spectacle of humanity

Location: Allahabad, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Luxury Tents (see photo above)

Today is a full day photo opportunities of Kumbh Mela. The most amazing saints visit the festival from all across India!

NOTE: As vehicles of any sort are not allowed in the fairgrounds, you should be prepared to walk for up to 5 to 8 miles (8 to 12 km) during the main event of Kumbh Mela

In Allahabad every six years it is celebrated in the months of January and February when Jupiter is in Aries or Taurus, and the Sun and Moon are in Capricorn, during the Hindu month of Magha. In 2019, from the 15th of January to the 4th of March, all this will once again be the center of attraction and attention from the world over. Estimates suggest that in the previous Maha Kumbh Mela held in Allahabad, nearly 60 million took a bath at the occasion and if the forecasts are to be believed, this one will garner an even bigger gathering than the previous one.

Overnight in Allahabad

Holy men in the river, bathingPhoto provided by Kipling India, Tour organizer, and used with permission

04 Feb 2019 | Ardh Kumbh Mela… Mauni Amavasya; the Main Royal Bath / Second Shahi Snan

Location: Allahabad, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Luxury Tents (see photo above)

Today is another full day photo opportunity of Kumbh Mela on Main bathing date.

NOTE: As vehicles of any sort are not allowed in the fairgrounds, you should be prepared to walk for up to 5 to 8 miles (8 to 12 km) during the main event of Kumbh Mela

The Holy Bath is the most important ritual of the Kumbh Mela. Mauni Amavasya is the New Moon Day of Silence in the lunar month of Paush (Jan-Feb). It is the most important bathing day in holy rivers, preferably in a confluence. During the main bathing days, it will be a grand occasion to photograph this spectacle of humanity, as well as to photograph the holy men as they walk to take the royal bath here.

The Mauni Amavasya is considered the most auspicious day for bathing due to a special celestial configuration and has traditionally attracted the largest crowds at the grand mela.

Overnight in Allahabad

05 Feb 2019 | Varanasi, the holiest of seven sacred cities… and one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world

Location: Allahabad and Varanasi, India
Travel: Drive to Varanasi (75 miles / 120 km @ 03~04 Hours)
Accommodations: Hotel Madin (5 Star Hotel)

Today again, we will take you to photo opportunity during Kumbh Mela. Afternoon drive to Varanasi. Upon arrival check in at hotel for overnight stay.

Varanasi, also known as Benares (Banāras or Kashi), is an Indian city on the banks of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh, 790 km (490 mi) southeast of Delhi. It is the holiest of the seven sacred cities (Sapta Puri) in Hinduism, Ravidassia religion and Jainism, and played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Some Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Varanasi is also known as the favourite city of the Hindu deity Lord Shiva as it has been mentioned in the Rigveda that this city in ancient times was known as Kashi or “Shiv ki Nagri”.

Overnight in Varanasi

06 Feb 2019 | Sunrise cruise on the River Ganges… temples & shrines… the narrow lanes of the Bengali Tola… a thousand year old Aarti Ceremony

Location: Varanasi, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Hotel Madin (5 Star Hotel)

Today we will take you on an early morning sunrise boat cruise on the River Ganges, with the opportunity to capture vivid photographs of devoted Hindus bathing in the river. These photos of Hindus offering their prayers against morning sunlight make the journey quite rewarding. After that we'll return to our hotel for breakfast.

The afternoon we will take us on a walking trip for fascinating exploration of the narrow lanes of the Bengali Tola area of Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on earth. Here we will pass countless small temples, shrines, and traditional shops. Our guide will provide a unique insight into this most fascinating of cities, which would otherwise be incomprehensible to the outsider.

In the evening, you will witness and photograph the thousand-year-old Aarti Ceremony during which worshippers pray near the water by the light of candles and lanterns.

Overnight in Varanasi

07 Feb 2019 | Sadhu holy men… Kushti players… traditional funeral pyre caretakers

Location: Varanasi, India
Travel: none
Accommodations: Hotel Madin (5 Star Hotel)

Today again we will provide a different photo opportunity, focusing on close-up portrait photography of Holy men, Sadhu on the Assi Ghat, and Kushti Players (Indian Traditional wrestling), and traditional caretakers of funeral pryers belonging to the Dom community at the Manikarnika Ghat.

That evening, we will again witness an evening Ganges ceremony.

Overnight in Varanasi

08 Feb 2019 | Wrapping up and a farewell dinner

Location: New Delhi, India
Travel: Flight from Varanasi to New Delhi
Accommodations: The Pride Plaza (5 Star Hotel)

After breakfast, we will head to the airport for our flight for New Delhi. We have no forma activities in New Delhi other than our farewell dinner. Take the day to edit photos, explore one of the craziest cities in the world, or just relax before your long journey home, then join us for a wonderful farewell meal!

Overnight in New Delhi

09 Feb 2019 | Departure home

Location: New Delhi… to home
Travel: Time to fly home, my new friends!

You will have a private (or shared with our other guests) car to the New Delhi airport for your departure home. For anyone wanting to stay on in India, you are of course most welcome, and we can help arrange any further adventure you may seek!

*all details subject to change depending on availability, weather, or any other unpredictable encounters


This is simply a point-to-point map of the cities we are traveling to, so you can see where we'll be from an eagle-eye view.


Pricing is tiered depending on how many guests attend (four is the minimum; eight is the maximum). The more people sign up, the lower the price is for everyone (so, tell everyone you know… it could save you up to $750!). If you choose to pay in full in advance, and the total price goes down, you will be issued a refund of the difference. Deposit is required to hold your seat. Please be sure to read the cancellation policy below.

(all prices in USD$)

  • Deposit — $1,000
  • Total Price
    • 4 or 5 guests — $5,995 per person
    • 6 or 7 guests — $5,495 per person
    • 8 guests — $5,245 per person
  • Single Supplement — $1,150

Payment Policy

  • Deposit (at minimum) is required to hold your seat
  • Full balance is due three months prior to departure (that's October 30, 2018). Late payments will incur late fees of $250 per week. If final payment is not received within 60 days of departure, your seat will be considered canceled and a partial refund per the cancellation policy below will be issued.

Cancellation (Refund) Policy

  • If the trip is cancelled by PhotoJoseph Studios, a full refund will be issued
  • If you cancel your trip for any reason but are able to find a replacement guest, you will receive a full refund minus a $100 administration fee (once that guest has paid)
  • If you cancel your trip for any reason but are not able to find a replacement, a partial refund will be provided on the following schedule:
    • Cancelled 91 or more days before trip start: Refunded minus $250 administration fee
    • 61-90 days – 75% of tour fee refunded
    • 31-60 days – 50% of tour fee refunded
    • 30 days or less – no refund
  • No partial refunds are possible for any unused portion of your trip
  • PhotoJoseph Studios will not be liable for any incidental expenses that you may have incurred as a result of your booking such as vaccinations, visas, non-refundable flights or loss of enjoyment, etc.
  • Please consider purchasing travel insurance which may reduce or eliminate the cancellation and interruption fees outlined above. Travel medical insurance is required.

Package Price Includes

  1. Pre-departure private photography consultation — More on that below!
  2. All accommodations — Rooms are based on sharing double / twin room / luxury tent. Single room supplement is available for guests desiring private accommodations.
  3. All meals — Naturally you're welcome to dine wherever you like, but every meal is accounted for. Some are in our nice hotels, but most are in local restaurants, to best experience India in all of her glory!
  4. All internal flights — Kolkata to Varanasi, and Varanasi to Delhi
  5. All internal ground transportation — Varanasi to Allahabad and back, and all journeys from hotels to locations that aren't on foot, and all internal airport transfers, in air-conditioned vehicles
  6. Entrance fees — Some scenic spots on the itinerary charge for entry
  7. Local English-speaking guide — We will have one to two guides accompanying us every step of the way
  8. Local greeters — We will be greeted at each of our airport arrival destinations
  9. Arrival/departure airport transfers — Every guest (or group of guests for similarly timed flights) will be met by a greeter and escorted by private car to the hotel, and brought to the airport for their final departure
  10. Private group discussion forum — A private discussion forum for our group along with a wiki page of important information will be accessible at all times.

Not included…

  1. Airfare to and from India — see details on where to book flights to and from, and when, below under “Travel & Visa”
  2. Travel insurance — It is required that you book your own travel insurance for medical emergencies
  3. Additional flights, accommodation or sightseeing — basically anything not listed in the itinerary
  4. Visa Fee — India Visa is required for most visitors, and must be obtained before your arrival, as well as sufficient blank pages in your passport
  5. Tipping — Tips to guides, drivers, bellboys, etc. are always appreciated
  6. Personal expenses — Room service, internet charge, laundry, drink, fax, telephone call, camera fee in monuments, etc.

Travel & Visa

It is your responsibility to book airfare to arrive on time and depart after the tour. DO NOT BOOK TRAVEL until the trip is CONFIRMED. Once you place a deposit, you will be added to a mailing list to keep you updated on the trip's progress. The trip requires a minimum of four guests. Until four guests are confirmed, no one should book airfare!

That out of the way, if you want to explore flights…

  • ARRIVAL: You should arrive in Kolkata (CCU) on January 30, 2019 (we will have a meeting that evening, but if your flight doesn't arrive until late, that's fine… we will see you at breakfast!). If you want to arrive earlier, we can help with accommodations.
  • DEPARTURE: We will depart from New Delhi (DEL) on February 09, 2019. If you wanted to leave a day early from Varanasi (VNS) you could, if the flight is favorable for you. You would miss the final dinner, but that's it. We fly as a group from Varanasi to New Delhi on Feb 08 as most international flights leave from DEL and many in the morning, so this is just easier for most. And if you want to stay on in Delhi, we can assist with accommodations and/or extend your stay in the New Delhi hotel.

A visa is required for most visitors. Please check the requirements for your nationality. This is your responsibility and guests arriving with incomplete visas will likely be denied entry, and no refund will be issued. 

Travel Insurance

Private travel insurance (medical, evacuation, cancellation, etc.) is required. Check out World Nomads which offers different plans at excellent prices.

Photography Experience / Level

The great thing about a worksop like this is that it's open to ALL levels of photographer! If you've only ever shot with a smartphone, you'll learn a ton and I'm more than happy to help you with the basics. Whether this is your first or fiftieth workshop, I'll do everything in my power to make sure you feel comfortable all along the way, and never over your head or waiting for others to catch up (photographically speaking). If you've been shooting for decades and are just looking for the next great experience, you can't go wrong here. And even if you're a working pro, looking for a photography “vacation” with like-minded folks, I promise you'll have a wonderful time, create amazing images, and have epic stories to tell!

Pre-departure Private PhotoJoseph Consultation

Each guest can schedule an included private video-chat consultation with me to discuss specifics of the trip and ask any questions you like, including about photography and gear. Guests to workshops like these often buy new gear before the trip, and I'm happy to help advise where I can.

Before You Book — Some very very important considerations!

  1. I saw a sign in a hotel in Thailand once that read “Bangkok is not for beginners”. I would say that the same applies to India, especially for this trip. That has nothing to do with photography (I'm more than happy to have any level of photo enthusiast join us!), but for the traveler. If you've never been on an international trip, or have never traveled outside of the “western” world, please consider this voyage carefully. Compared to western standards, India can be crowded, loud and dirty. It will be intense, especially with the number of people in Allahabad. Which brings us to…
  2. India is a busy, crowded place, with over over 1.3 billion inhabitants. And millions of them will be in Allahabad when we're there — that's why we're going! The Kumbh Melha is literally the single largest gathering of humans at any given time on our planet. This is a “half” Melha, where “only” 60+ million people are expected. The last “full” event in 2013 had 120 million in attendance! So the good news is, the city can handle it. But no matter how you cut it, that's a LOT of people. If you don't like crowds, this is NOT a trip for you.
  3. We will be walking a lot, especially in Allahabad where there are no motor vehicles permitted on the fair grounds. You can expect that we'll walk 5 to 8 miles (8 to 12 km) while there alone. If you're uncomfortable walking all day long, you may want to skip this trip.
  4. The itinerary includes all meals, many of which will be in local restaurants where we can enjoy local food. If you prefer to eat only western food, that may be largely possible (at least while in hotels in Kolkata, Varanasi and Delhi), however those meals are not included and may be relatively expensive (USD $20 to $30 per person per meal) — and we offer no guarantee that you'll find the food you want. This trip is tailored so we may experience the full force of India; it is not a trip for those who prefer to view a country through a tinted car window. Granted we are staying in four and five star hotels and luxury tents, but outside of the hotels, make no mistake — we will be in the real India.
A spiritual man in IndiaPhoto provided by Kipling India, Tour organizer, and used with permission

Other questions?

If you have any questions at all about this trip, please feel free to reach out to me directly and I will respond as quickly as possible!

I can't wait to see you in India! ;-)

Feb 2019 India Photography Tour — Welcome TWiP Listeners!

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