Meet your fellow traveler: Joe Lam

Are you wondering what kind of people join our workshops? Here, you will meet our Better Moments guests – your fellow travelers on our photography workshops. We take pride in welcoming guests from all around the world, no matter their gender, religion, or nationality – Better Moments is all about the one thing we all have in common: the passion for photography.

Better Moments traveler Joe Lam in Ethiopia
Passionate photographer Joe Lam from Canada, Better Moments Ethiopia workshop 2019.

Traveling with Better Moments to Nepal and Tibet in 2018 has brought my photography and travel experiences to “new heights”, literally and realistically. We reached Mt. Everest Base Camp #1 (altitude, 5150 m) and visited Rong Phu Monastery, the highest monastery in the world. No doubt we were gasping, not only for the breath-taking scenery, but also for air because of the lack of oxygen. Sucking in oxygen from a funnel attached to a “can of compressed air” that was handed to us on the tour bus was heavenly!

Well, I can vouch that photography experience during this tour was top notch. Sisse Brimberg and Christian Nørgaard are real professionals; both have constantly provided sound advice and inspiring suggestions on how to take better photos. More importantly, there were plenty of adventures that make this journey unforgettable.

Passioante photographer Joe Lam with an oxygen mask in Nepal
“No doubt we were gasping, not only for the breath-taking scenery, but also for air because of the lack of oxygen.” – Joe Lam in Nepal.

About Joe

Joe is a retired professor of microbiology from Canada. Since his retirement in 2017, he focuses his time on traveling to many places in the world and improving his photography skills. He enjoys portraiture the most but is also intrigued by the challenge of photographing wildlife, especially birds in flight, and capturing beautiful nature.

Joe typically shoots with Nikon cameras (Z6, D800, and D500). So far, Joe traveled with Better Moments to Nepal/Tibet, Ethiopia, and Burma. He will join our Slovenia and Svalbard workshops next.

Yak dumplings and an almost-missed flight

The whole Nepal-Tibet journey was an adventure beyond one’s expectations. While Better Moments had planned the Workshop Tour to a T, there were so many unexpected twists and turns. Here are a few highlights:

1. traffic in Nepal is unbelievable and crazy; we were happy to be alive after our stay in that city when our mini-bus taking us to a temple on our first outing was almost broad-sided by a big truck shortly after we left the hotel;

2. one of our accommodations was at an “ice hotel” because the whole town near the Mt. Everest Base Camp had no electricity the day before we arrived,

3. we ate Yak dumpling for brunch one morning in a restaurant where dried “cow dunk/manure” was used as fuel to heat the kettle to make tea,

4. we were crawling on the floor at one of the monasteries at 5 am to take photos of monks setting up and selecting the verse from their holy books to say their chants and prayers for the day; and

5. while we were treated to staying at Shangri La Hotel in Lhasa for our final night, one of us had inadvertently dropped the passport in the room of the hotel when we were leaving, and the entire travel group were stuck at the Lhasa International Airport and not allowed to board the plane; well, after panic phone calls were made by our local guide to the hotel management, the passport was located and later delivered by a taxi to the airport (1.5 hr away from the city); it arrived at the 11th hour” when they almost closed the gate on us. We sang “Hallelujah” when we got onto our seats in the plane.

Well, these adventures had made the journey absolutely unforgettable. Would I travel with Better Moments again, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll keep coming back for more Workshops? What would be the fun of going on a journey without adventures?

Monks browsing chants, Tibet
Monks browsing chants
We got to the monastery at 5 am (before sunrise anyway) to watch the process of the monks running back and forth to select special verses to be approved by the elders and use them for their chants and prayer of the day. I took this two photo while crawling on the floor (I did not bring a trip-pod, it was in my hotel room); it was taken when the camera was hand-held. I guess this had challenged my hands to be steady. Hence, these two photos were memorable.

“A worshipper outside the Buddhist Shegar temple
Shegar Temple worshipper
After capturing images of sunrise of Mt Everest hanging around Base Camp #1 for a bit, and gasping for air walking up about 70 steps to get to Rongbuk Monastery, the highest monastery in the world, the Better Moments travel group was offered cans of oxygen to breathe into our lungs to replenish what we all lack in our blood stream. It was a most unforgettable experience! The group was then transported down the mountain and reached a temple in a small town. By then, it was early afternoon, and natural light was really harsh in the courtyard outside the temple. Joe spotted a man wearing a horseman’s hat and a brown silk outer coat; this man was leaning against the wall and saying prayers using a chain of beads. Joe was intrigued by the natural pose of the worshipper and snapped the photo. Joe would have loved to take a series of close-up portraits of this individual, unfortunately, the intended subject was not receptive. The only to do was to back off to look for other subjects to take photos of. | Nikon D800, Nikkor 24-70mm VRII, f/2.8
Settings: ISO 320, 70 mm, 0 ev, f/8, 1/200 s


More about Joe Lam

Joe’s photography journey began at age 14 when his brother-in-law, Franz (an accomplished pianist and a self-taught photographer) who lend to him a Nikkormat film camera and taught him how to develop negatives, and print B&W photos in a home-made darkroom. In his career as a microbiologist, Joe’s research involved electron microscopy; hence, he continues to use the dark room to developed negatives, print micrographs, sometimes requiring dodging and burning to help reveal particular nano-size cell structures in an image for publication in scientific journals. Joe still owns many film cameras (all still in working conditions) including a Nikon FTN, a Canon AE-1, and a mid-format Mamiya 645. Naturally, Joe has moved on to using digital camera systems as described earlier.

A must-have piece of equipment for Joe these days is the Nikon mirrorless Z6 camera, which he travels with, regardless of where his flights take him to. The one thing that he wished he knew when he started taking photos is to be patient, read the manual and spend more time getting to know all the functions that a new high-tech camera has to offer.

Better Moments Nepal & Tibet workshop

Our Nepal & Tibet workshop with Better Moments founder Christian Nørgaard is one of the highlights of our workshop portfolio. Although arduous at times, each of our stops will make it worthwhile. Christian Nørgaard has not only been to Nepal and Tibet numerous times, he – fun fact – even wrote a book about Mount Everest. With him, you have an experienced traveler and photographer by your side, who knows the best locations for photography along the route.

You would like to learn more? Read more about the workshop here or view the catalog below.

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Bepar to four story