Welcome to our India Photography Holiday to Kerala  सलाम करना

Kerala is where India slips down into second gear and reveals a beauty with few rivals. Coconut-studded coastlines meet canal-like backwaters, further east the undulating evergreen tea-carpeted hills. Little wonder it’s nicknamed ‘God’s own country’ – the perfect backdrop to our India Photography Holiday.

But it’s not only Kerala’s scenic wonders that will capture your heart, also the friendliness of its humble people, the oh-so-wonderful Ayurvedic treatments and that lipsmacking cuisine.

Join us for 10 days of journeying around its highlights – snoozing in luxe colonial mansions fronting the Indian Ocean, sampling tea from the highest plantations in the world, then venturing into the myriad backwaters in a luxury houseboat (plus plenty of those rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments to boot). Each handpicked location offers breathtaking opportunities to learn the art of photography, and like all Creative Escapes, we’ll indulge, learn and explore the finest this region has to offer.

National Geographic Magazine picked Kerala as ‘one of the thirteen paradises on the earth’. It’s diverse landscape provides lush tropical scenes at every turn, from the lagoons and rivers of the backwaters to the palm tree-lined coast.

It’s also India in second gear. Far from the frenetic pace of the north, it promises a gentler, more relaxing and less taxing introduction to the wonders of India.

You’ll snooze in some impressive places, from colonial estates to eco beach resorts, and in between put your feet up drifting quietly through the myriad backwaters. Our trek through the high-altitude forests around Munnar, a hill town in the Western Ghats, is an unforgettable way to reach the manicured tea gardens and cardamom plantations. The tea’s not bad either.

From shooting ‘street’ in the ‘Venice of the East’ in Cochin, tea workers on a mountain, locals paddling in the snoozy backwaters and life along a to-die-for beach, we’ve handpicked the best ‘God’s own country’ has to offer. And then some.

All our material is hand-crafted from years of professional photography for top brands, magazines and galleries – and as far away as possible from the monthly magazine ‘tip’. We don’t ever tell you the ‘5 best ways of …’ doing something;  instead we find your way – our small groups allows us to teach each of you independently, at your own pace.

Whether you are an absolute beginner or seasoned shooter, we use a mix of visual examples, 1-to-1 teaching and mentoring, and regular, detailed reviews, to push your work to levels you never thought you could reach.

From 2017, each trip we offer has completely different material – across all skill levels – so if you’re coming with us again, it’s all new. If you’re just starting out, we’ll get you fully to speed, manually using your camera quickly with confidence, and then some. We spend only a fraction of the holiday on the technical (actually its pretty simple when you know how), the rest learning the art of taking great photographs. It’s the most interesting bit, after all.

On your Creative Escape to Kerala, you’ll

  • Shoot ‘street’ in the old alleyways of historic Fort Cochin
  • Capture behind the scenes of a Keralan dance drama, before the show starts
  • Long exposures at dusk, fronting the 500-year old Chinese Fishing nets
  • Learn how to shoot pictures that tell a story, beachside when the catch comes in
  • Climb the world’s highest tea plantation, shooting candid portraits of pickers
  • Explore backwater villages by luxury houseboat, photographing families in homes
  • Roll up your trousers, and shoot rice pickers in situ
  • Attend a religious festival, capturing magical scenes in rich candlelight
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Highlights.

Itinerary.

Touchdown into Kochi on the first day of your India Photography Holiday – and transfer to the city’s elegant old town, Fort Cochin, a stunning Caribbean-like port amongst myriad canals and lagoons. Here, we check into the elegant Brunton Boatyard, a plush 26-room boutique hotel carefully restored to an eco-friendly boutique hotel, with private balconies overlooking the harbour and antique four-posters to relax into after a long flight. Here we’ll start slowly, understanding every facet of our cameras (in a very non-techy fashion) before heading out to explore the narrow streets packed with old Portuguese houses and the crumbling remains of the British Raj.

Later we’ll taste the first of many lip smacking dinners – Bruton’s renowned chef lets us sample from over 30 varieties of cuisine; a dining experience Mr & Mrs Smith called ‘sublime’.

After a restful sleep, we’ll sample some Keralan-style breakfast overlooking the water, then take a look at some composition tips that will really make your images sing. These tips are about as far away from the ‘rule-of-thirds’ as you can get, secrets used by our team on commercial jobs that really make your images pack a punch.

Later, we’ll try out our new found skills touring the backstreets of old Cochin, meeting spice traders bartering in the back alleys, still doing business the old way, then stop by an old temple and witness Hindu worshippers – capturing modern life in an ancient setting.

We round off the day with a sunset boat tour around the isles of Cochin, chance to drink in this incredibly atmospheric iconic town.

We’ll start just after dawn, with a trip to a local auction, right on a beautiful beach on the outskirts of Cochin. This secret location is far from tourist eyes, so chance to mingle amongst locals, and capture some of the vibrant scenes of trade, bartering and customs that have existed for centuries. Your tutor will guide each of you individually to massively improve the visual impact of your pictures (and a few tricks often used by the pros), before returning for a detailed review, then some tuition on street photography, and inspiration from some famous street images from all across India.

Armed with our new found skills, we’ll head into the Jewish Quarter, and to a 400-year old Pardesi Synagogue, smack in the middle of this bustling port area and centre of the spice trade. Here, we’ll practice the art of contemporary street photography, before meeting the artisans who operate the Chinese Fishing nets, unofficial emblems of Kerala, and the orange-hued cinematic scenes around them at dusk.

We round off this fabulous day of shooting with some portraits of local Kathakali performers, a classical Indian dance originating from the 17th century, before sampling some of the fish caught fresh from the nets.

 

 

Munnar is the nature-lovers paradise, a quiet and restful resort snuggling in the green and serene Kannan Devan hills. We set off early, and arrive at the Windermere Estate Plantation & Resort in time for lunch, dining with panoramic views of low flying clouds and mist-filled tea-carpeted valleys. You really see why Kerala was dubbed ‘Gods own country’ – simply spectacular landscape.

Our environmentalist guide will take you for a tour of the estate cardamom plantations, and chance to get some incredible landscapes of the region from our viewpoint.

Later, we continue your photographic education, with a detailed session in the library on portraiture – including lens choice, where to stand, what to say, and how to craft something truly authentic.  Next day, we’ll swap our transport to 4×4 jeeps, and take a private tour of Kolukkumalai Estate, one of the highest tea plantations in the world.

We’ll mingle amongst the tea pickers clipping tiny leaves across this carpeted vista, putting into practice all we have learned. Later, we’ll stop for a cuppa and see how the tea is processed from field to cup, then descend to Poatthamedu – the perfect viewpoint to capture the whole region. Munnar still retains all of the charm of colonial times, and it’s easy to see why this area was a favoured spot – it is simply beautiful here.

Kettuvallams, stitched rice boats built entirely without nails from teak and palm fronds, are the best way to experience the colourful backwaters of Kerala. Historically, these  large barge-like boats were laden with spices and coir and carried trade through the canals of Alleppey.

Today, they are floating five-star hotels, and our boats are a cut above the rest. Wet rooms, four poster beds, expansive dining and relaxing areas, plus a staff ratio of 1:1, we’ll arrive in time for lunch,  spend the day heading deep into the backwaters, exploring remote villages and settlements, in search of portraits of the many faces of Kerala. Back on board, your personal chef will serve you dinner in your private dining room, and concierge will see to your every need, before retiring to your bed, letting the lapping of the waves gently drift you into a deep sleep.

Next morning, we’re up early to shoot portraits of local life at dawn, and the wildlife – especially birdlife – is phenomenal here. Where most boats stay out for a single night, we stay on, sailing deeper into the backwaters, far from tourist attention, chance to really capture the true life around this myriad waterways.  Later, we’ll hold some 1-on-1’s, so your tutor can give you some individual feedback on your progress, then it’s chance to truly unwind as you drift through the backwaters lounging on your personal daybed and doing absolutely, marvellously, nothing. It’s just heaven.

This morning, we’ll leave behind our floating hotel and take a drive to meet the Hugging Mother, at her Ashram in Kollam. Mata Amritanandamayi – low-level Dalai Lama and “Mother of Immortal Bliss” and disciples will personally greet you, leading you on a tour of the hermitage. Later, we’ll check into our final hideaway, the beach-fronted Marari Beach Resort, a favourite of Paul McCartney and the ultimate Indian coastal hideaway. Over cocktails, we’ll host a group review under the stars, editing down our images from the backwaters, and learning how to create a series that tells a compelling story.

Next morning, we’ll start work on our final project, to be shown in a pop-up exhibition and gala dinner for our final night’s celebration, chance to put into practice everything we have learned on the trip.

You’ll swing by a local festival to capture the energy and light of these fantastic Hindu celebrations, meet local artisans crafting coir and wood into incredible handmade products, or head beachside to document bustling trade under sun kissed rays.  Time for one last 1-on-1 with your tutor, to see where your art should head next, then there’s time to relax on the beach after our final celebration party, and catch some rays before boarding the plane back home.

These are ten glorious days of adventuring like you’ve never done before.

Details.

5 – 14 May, 2017
Places available

18 – 27  August, 2017
Places available

10 days. 9 nights. Starts and ends in Cochin, India.

£2195 sharing / £2675 single

Price includes 
10 days, 9 nights accommodation at listed hotels
10 full days tuition from our UK-based professional photographer
Professional guiding in Cochin and Munnar
Full board on the luxury houseboat
All transfers to and from the airport
All transportation to shooting locations
Backstage access to Kathakali, the Keralan dancers
Entrance and 4×4 transportation to Kolukkumalai Tea Estate
Multiple 1-on-1 tuition sessions

Price excludes international flights, lunch and dinner.

 

There are no direct flights to Cochin from the UK, but there are great options with Emirates and Etihad. Prices start from £500.

"Fabulous locations, amazing hotels & great memories. Thanks to Creative Escapes I have moved from taking a gazillion bland photographs to images I am really proud of. Already thinking about my next trip!"


Lorraine Byrne, Kerala 2016