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This morning, with the clouds low in the valley, and the mists rising through the pines from the ruddy hillside, the team sat for our first breakfast back in Bhutan. This year, we will be hosting the 21 students we worked with last year for an advanced workshop and 20 new students to a beginner’s workshop. Our plan is to work intensively with our advanced students for three days, and then to take a new crop of students and raise them up to the level of our first group.

The beginner’s class will look very much like all of our other first level workshops, but for our advanced students, the gloves are coming off.  Along with deeper concepts in photographic vision, like shooting architecture, landscape, and people themed assignments, these guys are now going to dive into the second part of the workflow and learn the basics of computer-based post-production. Working in Adobe Lightroom, these students are going to learn about the concepts behind Digital Asset Management, the tricks and pitfalls of file management, technical and creative approaches to developing their images in Lightroom, and finally the concepts of exporting images for different media types. By the end of these three days, these guys will be able to manage an entire workflow, from assignment to delivery, regardless of whether that means they are creating images as a part of a web-based story or for print media.  That’s a lot of ground to cover in three days!

Everyone except Thomas arrived yesterday and gotten our first full night’s sleep last night.  Working hard to push through the jet lag, today was a day of logistics and team meetings as we met with each of the program point people with whom we had to coordinate all of our locations for our advanced workshop and next week’s beginner’s workshop. We were fortunate to have representatives from a variety of our anticipated programs in attendance, and we talked about everything from traditional and modern medicine, to living with disabilities in a city that is nearly inaccessible to those with handicaps. We visited a bakery, a nunnery, and a local spicy pickle maker! There are really going to be some amazing stories about organizations making incredible contributions to this community!

Our most amazing experience of the day probably came from our visit to the little nunnery in Thimphu that we were scouting for a shoot day with our beginning students next week. In a tiny upstairs apartment, above a courtyard with a small shrine surrounded by prayer wheels, an elderly nun sat in her prayers. Our students will be shadowing the nuns from two of these locations to see what their lives are like and to learn what they do to contribute to the community.  As such, we were are looking to work in the kitchens with the nuns, sit through chanting and meditations with them, and see how they live in their devotions.

As our team was escorted up to the apartments of the women who live on the premises, we were ushered into a tiny top-level apartment.  In the dim light, the room’s solitary occupant quietly working her way through her prayer beads huddled in front of her oil heater.  When our guides led us in, our host began to recite her chanting a little bit louder and would interject endearing, self-deprecating comments into her prayers.  “I cannot see and I cannot hear very well,” she told us as we gathered around to listen to her work.

We snapped some photos and bantered with her a while when she suddenly slipped into a prayer giving thanks for the group’s work, asking for the success of our project and ultimately happiness in our lives. We were mesmerized.  It is not often that one experiences such an outpouring of blessing from such a fervent minister. From her bed, in front of the heater, she delivered a passionate blessing for our group that truly touched everyone in the room. Surely, this year’s workshop in Bhutan will be a great success, and we feel privileged to be here again to work with these wonderful students.

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