Banner Left Side Complete List and Schedule Digital Photography Schedule Domestic Tours and Workshop Schedule Worldwide Safaris and Tours Flash Photography Instruction Personal Instruction in Photography or Photoshop Stock Photography and Sales Seminars, Assemblies, Fund Raisers frequently asked questions







Snow Leopards in the Wild!

next tour: March 23-April 2,2019
Photo Expedition

An exclusive shoot limited to
only nine participants

Two Bases/Sites for potential viewing!

Price: 6595

Single Supplement: limited

snow leopard
Join us as we photograph one of the world's most elusive and charismatic predators.

snow leopard

Until recently, only a handfull of very lucky and very hardy people had ever photographed a snow leopard in the wild. As recently as five years ago I probably could have named every one of them. Snow leopards, dwelling in the high country of central Asia, and the Himalayas rimming the borders of India, Nepal, Pakistan, and China, were remote, and the country virtually inaccessible.

That is no longer the case. Join us on an extraordinary expedition to photograph this beautiful cat. Read our 2013 Scouting Report or the 2015 Snow Leopards Trip Report.

For our 2016 Snow Leopard Expedition we've changed the itinerary somewhat to increase our chances of success, as we will now be staying at two different locations. We'll be camping in Hemis National Park, a prime location where several valleys come together and where Snow Leopards are frequently seen as they travel the valleys and the adjacent ridges, hunting or seeking mates. We'll also be doing a Home Stay at the tiny village of Ulley, the site of our best Snow Leopard sighting in 2015. Ulley's cat sightings are getting better and better each year, and with a far greater exclusivity to the encounters. At Ulley we may also see and photograph Ibex and, if lucky, Gray Wolves.

Our female Snopw Leopard at Ulley - will she have cubs in 2016?

Hiking at elevation, between 11,000 and 14,000 feet, can be taxing, especially if you are carrying around a big lens. You will have the opportunity to hire a camera porter who will carry your gear. Because of limitations in the number of people at camps and at the Home Stay, we will have one porter per two participants, who can then split the cost involved. This charge is not included in the tour fee, but everyone in 2015 used the porters and loved having that luxury. The porters generally carry the long lenses in packs that you provide, while the photographers hike with smaller zooms or cameras (4/3rds systems), using the long lenses as needed.


A few sobering words for prospective travelers.

On our scouting trip our group had eight snow leopard sightings in the six days we were in country, which was an extraordinary number. The 2015 trip yielded only 2 Snow Leopards. As with all wildlife, nothing is guaranteed. Although we will be in prime snow leopard country, with animals that have become as habituated as a snow leopard is ever likely to be, there is the chance that we may not see a snow leopard, or photograph one quite well. We'll be doing everything possible to avoid this, but it could happen, and anyone doing this trip must approach it with a positive outlook, hoping for success but willing to accept disappointment if it would occur. If you read through the 2015 Trip Report you will see that there are other great photo opportunities that may somewhat mitigate this possible occurrence.

Monk at the monastery; Big-eared Pika; Lammergeyer

Gray Wolf; Red Fox


I had one of my greatest disappointments on our scouting trip when I made a stupid decision and passed on a possiblity of visiting a snow leopard kill. A very good friend, Angus Fraser, whose images support this brochure (see the images immediately below), went to the kill and made fantastic images, having an encounter that had me losing sleep with second-guessing for weeks. I learned from that mistake, and my lesson will benefit our fellow travelers -- I won't make a decision like that again!

The six photos below are courtesy of Angus Fraser, one of the
participants of the scouting trip and a great photographer.

s ss
All photos above, by Angus Fraser

A lot of Encouraging Words for prospective travelers

On our first trip, I arranged to have a camera porter for Mary, who helped carry our gear and made our travel through the high country much easier. Because this was a scouting trip we were unable to arrange porters for the rest of the guests, but for our 2015 tour everyone who requested a camera porter had one! There will be an extra charge for this optional perk, but we highly recommend everyone take advantage of this opportunity.

Further, we'll have Swarovski spotting scopes in camp which will provide our participants and the camp staff with quality viewing for either observing distant snow leopards or for finding cats that we'll hike to for photography. With several camera porters, we'll have the opportunity to scout out the small valleys where snow leopards may be sunning or feeding at a kill, and with radios we'll be able to get our group to the site. As I learned from my unfortunate mistake and my subsequent research, snow leopards will visit a kill for two or three days, giving us a good chance to be on site should one be located.

As you can see from the selection of Angus's six images above, I missed a great opportunity. I felt as if I missed the chance of a lifetime, but a few weeks later, while on our tiger safari, I bumped into one of the tourists who was staying in another camp quite close to our's. After we left, he had another great opportunity with a different cat, and made equally good images. At that point, I knew that my missed opportunity wasn't my only chance, that these wonderful experiences could happen again. In fact, in November 2013 one lucky group actually saw a complete, successful hunt, from start to finish!

s s
sheep urial sheep
Three views of the Blue Sheep and a small herd of Urial Sheep


In addition to the chance at photographing snow leopards, the area we'll be based at offers spectacular opportunities for another high country iconic species, the Blue Sheep. Similar in some ways to our Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, the blue sheep within hiking distance of our camp are quite habituated, and beautiful subjects.



Our Itinerary

The following itinerary was from our 2015 tour. Consider the following text
as a guide, the exact schedule may change slightly. With that in mind,
this will give you a rough idea on details for the trip.

Feb. 12th

We'll arrive in Delhi, India, and overnight prior to our early morning departure to Leh on Day 2.

Feb. 13th

We'll depart early, for a schedule 6:25AM flight to fly to Leh, arrivng at 7:45AM, and overnight at a hotel, beginning our acclimatizing to the elevation. We're likely to do a bit of sight-seeing by foot in Leh, perhaps visiting a palace in the afternoon, and photographing a Stupa at dusk.
Overnight: Hotel.


Feb. 14th

mWe'll continue our acclimating by more short trips and photo excursions to the local areas for landscapes and monasteries. After breakfast we'll drive to the Thiksay monastery, one of the largest and most impressive in Ladakh. In the afternoon we'll visit the Shanti Stupa and the Namgyal Tsemo Gompa, giving us a taste of the local culture and great photo opportunities, and more time for acclimatizing.
Overnight: Hotel

Feb. 15th

We'll depart in the morning for our two hour drive to the entrance to Hemis National Park where we'll meet our horse wrangler who will transport our camping equipment and luggage into our camp site. We'll hike to the camp site in Husing, inside Hemis National Park, a trip that takes between two and three hours, depending upon your level of fitness. We should arrive around noon, in time to move in to our tents and secure camp and to begin looking for Snow Leopards. There are three valleys that meet here, providing a natural corridor for snow leopards.
Overnight: Camping


Feb. 16-19th

For the next four days we'll look for snow leopards. You may elect to stay around camp and scour the hillsides with our spotting scopes, or make half-day, or longer, hikes into the various side valleys in search of blue sheep and snow leopards. Our snow leopard guides will be out hiking each morning looking for cats as well. If, or when, we find a snow leopard we'll make a plan for obtaining the best viewing and photography. Hopefully we'll have snow cover, which drives the ungulates - mainly Blue Sheep -- to lower elevations, and which the Snow Leopards follow to hunt.
Overnight: Camping.

Mary inside our tent; Mary wondering where everything is going to go!; The tent once set up (lenses go into the mess tent)

Feb. 20th

We break camp early and hike back to the entrance to Hemis National Park where we'll meet our drivers for the return trip to Leh. The afternoon will be free, although the group will likely walk into town for shopping and photography.
Overnight: A very welcomed Hotel.

Feb. 21st

We leave our Hotel for our final leg, into the high country to the tiny mountain village of Ulley. Along the route we may see Ibex, various sheep species, birds, and perhaps even wolf. Our objective on this day will be to photograph landscapes, but we'll be on the alert for wolves and wildlife as well. In Ulley we'll begin our next search for Snow Leopards.
Overnight: Home Stay in Ulley.


Feb. 22nd

We'll have the day to photograph the Home Stay activities, while we look for, and hopefully photograph, Ibex and Snow Leopards. Wolves, Lammergeyers, and Pikas are often seen here as well.
Overnight: Home Stay in Ulley.

Feb. 23rd

We'll drive back to Leh, and have the remainder of the day to sight-see in Leh, download images, and relax.
Overnight: Hotel.

Feb. 24th

After breakfast we'll head to the airport for our flight back to Delhi.
Overnight or Day Room: Hotel.

For more information on this trip and to have a great idea about conditions, opportunities,
and all sorts of details, please read our 2013 Scouting Trip or 2015 Trip Report.

The trip price includes:


  • Meeting/assistance at the time of arrival and departure at airport and during check in/out of major hotels. Included is your transfer to/from airport.
  • Accommodation based on double/twin sharing basis at all hotels.
  • All lodging beginning with the night of March 23 and concluding with a dayroom on April 2.
    • 1 night at the Radisson Blu (Superior Room)
    • 4 nights at the Grand Dragon Hotel, Leh
    • 6 nights at the Snow Leopard Lodge
    • 2 nights at Ulley Home Stay
    • Dayroom at the Radisson Blu
  • All meals beginning with breakfast on March 24 and ending with lunch on April 2 as indicated with B, L or D.
  • Airport transfers in Delhi by A/C Toyota Innova/ A/C Tempo Traveler or A/C Coach – depending upon numbers & transfers, drives during snow leopard trip in Leh by non A/C vehicles.
  • National Park/monuments/monastery entrance fees
  • All activities and all trekking excursions with English speaking guide and expert spotter guides and wildlife experts, local guides
  • Heating charges of dining tent
  • Ladakh Environment entry fee (subject to change)
  • 2-3 senior guide/trackers. Ideally an average trip would have one tracker. We will have a 3 increasing our chances of seeing snow leopards.
  • Round trip airfare from Delhi to Leh
    • SPECIAL NOTE: We are basing the cost of the trip on an airfare of US$362/person. If the cost of the airfare goes up before we purchase the tickets, there will be an additional surcharge.
  • Most of your tips for the trip including drivers/helpers/guides/transfer personnel/camp staff
  • Govt. Service Tax @ 3.50% on total bill.

Our Spotters: Our Ladakhi Snow Leopard expert will lead the field visit,
directing the viewing outings and tracking the snow leopards' movements.

The trip price DOES NOT include:

  • International airfare to India
  • Trip cancellation insurance

    Medical evacuation insurance: Mandatory for all international trips
  • Indian Visa
  • Overweight or excessive luggage fees on domestic flights
  • Overnight accommodations before the start of the tour or after the conclusion of the tour
  • Any meal other than what is specified above or anything not mentioned in inclusion above.
  • Any expenditure of personal nature like tabled drinks, camera fee, laundry, telephone calls, soft/ hard drinks.
Our Roles as Leaders, and Your Role

Mary and I know wildlife, and how to photograph it. We want everyone to obtain great photographs, and to enjoy himself or herself while doing so. Great photography requires patience, luck, and time, plus a degree of skill that our guides and Mary and I can provide. You can trust us that everything we do as your trip leaders will have those priorities - your photos and well-being as an individual in our group - in mind.

About Your Leaders

jMy wife Mary Ann and I strive to provide the most comfortable and thorough safari you will experience. Both Mary and I are professional photographers, and I'd hope you've seen our credits. These included National Geographic, National Wildlife, Ranger Rick, Natural History, Living Bird, Birder's World, and most nature/wildlife calendars.

As a husband/wife team, Mary Ann and I have won more times in the prestigious BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition than any one. To date we have had 15 firsts, seconds, or thirds -- and we have not entered every year. Our trips are not about us, however, they are all for you, but credentials seem to matter, and we have them.

Mary has written twenty-nine (29) children's books, including Leopards, Grizzly Bears, Woodpeckers, Flying Squirrels, Sunflowers, Cobras, Jupiter, Boas, Garter Snakes, Pythons, Rattlesnakes, Ducks, Chickens, Horses, and Cows, and a coffee table book, Out of the Past, Amish Tradition and Faith.

I've written several how-to wildlife photography books -- A Practical Guide to Photographing American Wildlife, The Wildlife Photographer's Field Manual, The Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, Designing Wildlife Photographs, Photographing on Safari, A Field Guide to Photographing in East Africa, and the New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, African Wildlife, Creatures of the Night, The World's Deadliest, and several ebooks. We have produced an instructional video, A Video Guide to Photographing on Safari with Joe and Mary Ann McDonald.

We are both editors for Nature Photographer magazine.

In addition to leading our trips to Tanzania, Mary and I personally lead photo safaris to Kenya, Brazil's Pantanal, Chile, Galapagos, Svalbard, India, Alaska, Rwanda, Yellowstone, Ecuador, Costa Rica, the Falklands, Antarctica, South Texas, Arizona, and some other spots, too!

As with any International trip, we strongly recommend you purchase travel trip insurance.

Contact us by e-mail. at:
Or Call (717) 543-6423 or FAX us at: (717) 543-6423