South India Photo Tour

with Elisa Paloschi
January 2016, 15 nights (start date mid Jan. tba)

For more info

South India is a land of colour and contrast, where the faces are darker and the saris more brilliant than its neighbours to the north of the prodigious peninsula.  This quintessential part of the world is a photographer’s paradise where a camera becomes the prefect enabler for full emersion into the tropical pace of the lands, culture and people. 

Turmeric painted cows grace the streets as they saunter randomly and fearlessly in traffic, nibbling on tufts of grass that sneak through the dusty earth and cracked pavement.  The haunting, ever present smells change quickly from the incense that wafts out of a prayer room, to the sickly sweet jasmine being strung into garlands on the street corners by nimble fingered women, to the eye watering nose piercing smoke of rancid burning garbage.  A constant procession of drummers following religious festivals, merge into song with the beat of a metal worker hitting steel, the claxon of the auto-rickshaws and the bells of prayer being rung ceremoniously.

The cities of Cochin and Mysore are bustling and exploding with excitement like a cinema corn popper.  And although the edition of the Lonely Planet I had with me during my first visit to South India 6 years ago described Mysore as “a quiet and sleepy town”, there was no calm or half-awake to be found.  Instead, you’ll discover, like I did, that the cities are full of colour, active fishing ports, fragrant markets, royal palaces alit at night, colonial mansions in decay and the opportunity to photograph a world like no other.  Just sitting still in a city watching life pass by through the lens is a kaleidoscopic burst.  The scene morphs in front of your eyes as the milk vendors, flower sellers, knife sharpeners, rag pickers, barefoot women with baskets teetering on their heads and men shouting out “papaya”, shuffle by and constantly surprise, even the most seasoned visitor.

But there is also quiet in South India and we’ll find it in the land, in the hamlets of the tribal forest nomads hidden away from the well-traveled paths, and the villages that dot the main roads like mala beads.  Between those towns, for the photographer’s eye, the ever-changing landscape of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu is a stage where the men, women and children work its soil.  The coconut groves and rice paddies are aglow with lush brilliant green, and become the back drop to the red and pink sari glad women who sing their way through their toils.   The Western Ghats, scattered with temples and shrines, border Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka are blue with gum trees and mist, and home to elephants and forest dwellers.  They are also home to the spice and tea plantations, which crisscross along mountain ridges, and with their bushes create textured captivating lines, which become geometrical compositions in the viewfinder.

Exploring the backwaters of Kerala by local ferry and private motorless boat provide intimate experiences of life in this idyllic and remote area.  Families use the narrow channels and tiny islands as the setting for public display of what we from the west would consider private activities.  Clothes, body and pot washing occur side by side with dug out boats and huge Chinese fishing nets which haul in the day’s catch.  And with few roads to speak of, there is constant movement of boats crossing the water from dawn till dusk.

Then there is Mumbai, an intoxicating study of contrast.  We will discover the city through the workings of the ‘every day’ by observing the dhobi wallahs (laundry workers) and following the dabba wallahs (lunch box delivery men) on their morning journey, and the people who inhabit the bazaars selling and buying anything from elegant embroidered silk to a rusty piece of scrap metal.

From the early morning mist of the Ghats, to the brightly lit Royal Palace of Mysore by night, to the glowing green paddy fields of Kerala's Backwaters, to controled chaos of Mumbai, this tour will show how India is both hard and soft, and diverse and complex.  Our tour will touch down on a few special and carefully chosen places to give a true glimpse of the South and a feel for India.  We can’t see it all, and wont’ even try,  our goal being to move slowly, to take time to wonder and to wander, and hopefully to help nurture the beginning of a life long love of South India.

The overall format of the tour includes a balance of early morning, day and evening field trips to a diverse range of scenic locations.  Elisa will accompany participants every day to give suggestions and advice on working with natural light, composition, color and shadow. She will work with people on techniques of photographing people in busy markets and streets helping to develope the comfort and confidence required to create strong environmental portraiture and street photography in a new and for some, intimidating environment. There will also be plenty of free time to allow for personal exploration.

This tour is for anyone interested in photography, from novice to experienced amateur or professionals, who want to expand their vision, improve technical skills, and change the way they see. As instructor, Elisa’s goal is to help participants see the world in new, active and deeply meaningful ways. This tour will provide an opportunity to meet with people who are totally immersed in photography, exchange ideas and share enthusiasm with others involved in the medium. Time spent as a group can be a journey both visually and emotionally - a time for the soul to get away from the daily routines and refresh the creative energies.

Elisa is a Toronto based filmmaker and photographer who spends much of her time traveling far from the city.  She feels very much at home in India and has traveled there 10 times in as many years.  She has taught photography in Mysore to help empower trafficked women and children and she is currently working on 2 documentaries films in Karnataka about survivors of human trafficking. Her work is fuelled by an impetuous desire to partake in the stories that unfold around her and she is consistently drawn to a world of new relationships, new beginnings and most importantly, stories with a human face. View her website

Surface transportation from Cochin to Mysore (does not include flights from Mysore to Mumbai)
Breakfast every day, 10 lunches, 8 dinners, (local cuisine)
Standard fan cooled rooms based on double occupancy


airfare from your point of origin to India
airfaire between Mysore and Mumbai
meals where not specified
cancellation and medical insurance
transportation to and from the airport and transportation outside the scope of the organized tour event.
addition fee for less than 6 participants

Please contact us to request a booking form or for further information. We will email the application forms, once they are returned with your deposit, your booking will be confirmed. Payment may be made by Canadian cheque, cash or Paypal with an additional fee.

ITINERARY January 15 – 29 2014

Base 1. Cochin  (coastal city life, back waters, fishing villages, spice bazaars) - 5 nights
Base 2. Munnar (tea and spice plantations, small mountain station towns) - 3 nights
Base 3. Mysore (flower and produce markets, rural communities, larger city life) 4 nights
Base 4. Mumbai 3 nights

We will explore rural, cosmopolitan, coastal and mountainous landscapes and the historic and contemporary places where the local people live, work, play and pray.

All content © 2015 Elisa Paloschi