Wow. The first word out of my mouth when I looked at the Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan, and one of the last things we did while in the country. Some people come to Bhutan just to see this one thing, which is certainly a shame, because there is so much more to the country than this one place (and I hope I’ve been able to show that with this series). That said, there is a reason people come here. It’s jaw-dropping.

The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, or Paro Taktsang as it’s known there in Bhutan, isn’t the prettiest of the temples in the country, it’s certainly not the easiest to get to, and it’s not the highest one (as you can see in the map, there are two others that sit ABOVE the Tiger’s Nest)… but there is something about this precariously placed set of buildings that captures the imagination, and boldly says “Bhutan”.

One of the things I appreciate (notice I didn’t say ‘love’… because it can be quite frustrating) about travel photography is that it pushes you to be creative. In popular places like the Tiger’s Nest (and quite frankly, this could be said of Cades Cove as well), it can be REALLY hard to come away with a picture that looks unique. When thousands of visitors have stood in the same spot, and pointed their cameras in the same direction, scenes start to look really familiar, really quick. Not that that’s a bad thing! You want a shot to remember the occasion, by all means take it! As a matter of fact, when I talk to people about how to think about situations like this, the first thing I say is take the “postcard shot”. Get a good one, and get it out of the way. Then we can get outside our comfort zone and push ourselves creatively… because we’ve already gotten “the shot”. What I like to do next, is get close, and then go WIDE. For this particular composition, I started out standing where everyone stands, but to go wide meant I’d have to capture partial poles from these giant prayer flags (similar to those in last week’s shot) and a big tree that sort of hides the left side of the image. To get around that, I started down the stairs (yes, you go WAY down stairs on the side of the cliff, just so you can climb right back UP stairs on the other side… brutal) until I found an open view of everything I wanted to capture. One thing *I* felt was missing from all the other images I’d seen of the Tiger’s Nest, was a view big enough to see just how high this temple sits, as well as the majesty of the surrounding mountains. And then we waited. As the sun started to descend behind the mountains and the shadows started to consume the valleys, rays of light began to reach across to the temple and bathe it in a nice golden light. It was awesome, and well worth the wait!

Did I get something totally unique? I don’t know… but I sure am happy with it, and that’s what counts! 🙂

–Dan Thompson

Tigers Nest