James Kao’s amazing photos of Bhutan

I met James Kao at the Traveler’s Bookcase bookstore about a month ago; he drove all the way to West Hollywood from Long Beach on a week night for a Radio Shangri-La reading (If you live in LA, you know that’s devotion, but Bhutan seems to do that.) That night, he showed a few of us some of his gorgeous photographs of Bhutan from his trip there in 2010. I share them with you now. He doesn’t shoot photos for a living but man is he good!

'Scarecrows in Wheat Field' I was hiking up to a small farming village in the Tang Valley called Ugyen Chholing and it had just rained. The colors of the new wheat really were an amazing chartreuse color and I spotted this purple 'scarecrow' in the field. I applied a filter for this shot to give it a more painterly quality and to emphasize the pattern of the wheat.'Proud Grandfather' In Bhutan, babies are strapped on backs.'Boy with Phallus' In Bhutan, caricatured penises are often painted on the walls of homes and important buildings. Surprisingly, these are not fertility symbols, but painted in homage to one of Bhutan's favorite lamas, Drukpa Kunley. The phalluses are said to ward off evil.'Three Stooges' These three young friends were hamming it up for the camera in a village on the way to Jomolhari on my trek.'Window Doodles' Took this at a store on the trek to Jomolhari. The colorful windows frame what look like child doodles of a yak on the left and a number game on the right.'River Route' This is what much of what yak country looks like with spare vegetation, trees and rocks. The large rock in the river was as big as a house!

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