Photography equipment for travelers and Silk Road tour itinerary

This is a follow up on my previous interview with Simon Foster about the Silk Road photography tour. Ewen Bell, the other tour operator has added some more details that might interest you:

James Trotta: What photography equipment should travelers bring (is a pocket size digital camera good enough)?

Ewen Bell: Yes a compact digital will do, but they will get the most from a Digital SLR. There are many advanced techniques people can learn quickly, when given the chance to be shown how and practice non-stop for two weeks! A regular Canon or Nikon DSLR will perform wonderfully, and when coupled with a standard lens and a wide-angle lens you have all you need. People tend to drift towards the fancy telephoto lenses, but unless you’re shooting wildlife they’re not very useful. A Nikon D40 with 18-55mm is good, or a Canon 40D with 18-55mm is also good. I like very wide angle, so a 10-24mm wide angle lens is a nice match here.

He also sent a long a more detailed itinerary of the tour:

Itinerary in Detail for Silk Road

Day 1 Xi’an

Theme: Get Closer

We’ll meet in the hotel lobby at 6pm and then head out for a delicious dumpling banquet! We’ll spend this first evening getting to know one another and discussing the objectives and structure of the tour. (D)

Day 2 Xi’an

Theme: Follow The Light

Today we’ll head out onto the lively streets of Xi’an, walking through the artist’s quarter and around the Ming dynasty city walls. The walk will also provide one-on-one time with the photographic instructor in order to assist you with any basic skills relating to SLR photography. (B)

Day 3 Xi’an

Theme: Still Life

Early this morning we’ll visit a fascinating antiques market before heading to the incredible Terracotta Warriors. The visit is included as much for your interest as for photographic study but a telephoto lens of 150mm is still sufficient to take photos of the warriors. Later in the afternoon we explore the lively Muslim markets where we’ll also dine and shoot further into the evening to capture the ambience. (BD)

Day 4 Jiayuguan

Today we’ll take a short flight west to Jiayuguan and then have the remainder of the day free to relax and review our work. (BD)

Day 5 Jiayuguan

Theme: Landscapes

The stark ochre ramparts of the Ming dynasty Great Wall Fort afford commanding views over the surrounding desert to the mountains in the distance and we start the day here. Later we head into the desert to a crumbling outlying section of wall dramatically perched on the edge of a gorge. (B)

Day 6 Dunhuang

Theme: Colour and Light

We set off early for the long drive through the desert to Dunhuang. During the journey we’ll have the chance to review our work, and then we’ll have the rest of the day at leisure in this laid-back oasis town. (BLD)

Day 7 Dunhuang

Theme: Candles

This morning we’ll explore the desert surrounding Dunhuang, including the huge dunes which border the town. After a free afternoon we’ll meet for afternoon drinks on the terrace of our hotel, which is a great spot for the classic dune sunset. (B)

Day 8 Overnight Train

Theme: Digital Techniques

After a free morning we visit the stunning cave art at the Mogao Grottoes a short drive from Dunhuang. No photography is allowed inside the complex so we’ll have the chance to rest our tired trigger fingers. We board an overnight train to Turpan. (B)

Day 9 Turpan

After a free morning we’ll explore the outlying desert, taking in the fiery Flaming Mountains, a hidden valley oasis vineyard and the graceful domes of an 18th century mosque. (BD)

Day 10 Turpan

Theme: Portraiture

Today we’ll visit the nearby ruins of an ancient desert settlement and have a chance to explore the dusty lanes which surround the town. The lanes are lined with grape trellises and are popular thoroughfares for farmers and their donkey carts. (B)

Day 11 Kashgar

Theme: Telling a Story

We drive to Urumqi to catch a flight to Kashgar, the quintessential Silk Road desert trading town. Its proximity to a host of other Central Asian countries lends the town a unique blend of cultures. Kazaks, Kyrgyz, Tajiks and Uighurs are all represented in the region and a stroll along one of Kashgar’s bustling alleys will reveal market traders, traditional artisans and daily life. Our explorations are landmarked by mosques and beautifully carved gates. (BD)

Day 12 Lake Karakul

Today we’ll make the long, steep drive along the Karakoram Highway from the desert to the 7000m plus mountains that border Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and northern India. We’ll overnight in a simple Kyrgyz yurt on the edge of breathtaking Lake Karakul at 3600m. (BD)

Day 13 Kashgar

We’ll rise early to enjoy the best of the light as it catches the ever-changing hues of the lake, backed by huge snowcapped mountains. After a simple breakfast and some time to explore the lake we’ll wind our way back to Kashgar where we’ll have a free afternoon. (B)

Day 14 Kashgar

Theme: Motion

Kashgar’s Sunday Bazaar has to be seen to be believed and affords a kaleidoscope of people, produce and photographic potential. We spend the morning here and then the afternoon at the former site of the Sunday Bazaar, now a huge covered market selling trash and treasure, new and old. This evening we head out for a traditional Uighur banquet to celebrate the end of our Silk Road journey. (BD)

Day 15 Kashgar

The tour ends after breakfast. Hotel rooms are held until noon — please advise us well in advance if you require an extra night or two. (B)

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