The Reality of Photographing the Himalayas: Acute Mountain Sickness During a Photography Workshop

One of the bucket list places to photograph for many photographers is among the giants of the world's 8,000-meter mountain peaks in Nepal. One of the things you can’t plan for is how your body will respond to those heights. What happens when you’re leading a photography workshop and your body won’t adjust to the altitude?

When you’re a photography instructor teaching students in the field, you want to make sure you have a backup plan for the many issues that may arise during a workshop. From emergency beacons to Wilderness First Responder training, you want your students to be safe during their instruction while learning and having a once-in-a-lifetime experience. What happens when you’re the one having the medical emergency? This is the exact situation that Thomas Heaton recently confronted on a photography workshop that he offered while traveling a route to the base camp of Mount Everest. 

Along the 20-day photography workshop, Heaton had to step away from his group mid-way for several days to combat his worsening AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), which if not treated by lowering elevation may lead to brain swelling, fluid in the lungs, or HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema). Backup plans are a fact of life when traversing beautiful yet dangerous areas, and Heaton did have one during this workshop by thankfully having a second photography instructor with him for the trek, Jonas Paurell

Definitely take a look at the first two videos in the series here and here that show amazing overlooks and some of the tallest mountains in the world while also following how the trek was going up until this point. 

Have you ever been on an amazing in-the-field workshop? Did you have to prepare beyond packing your photography kit to be up for the challenge?

JT Blenker's picture

JT Blenker, Cr. Photog., CPP is a Photographic Craftsman and Certified Professional Photographer who also teaches workshops throughout the USA focusing on landscape, nightscape, and portraiture. He is the Director of Communications at the Dallas PPA and is continuing his education currently in the pursuit of a Master Photographer degree.

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Backup plan is needed but a instructor/climbing/trek leader first check his/her fitness level and then proceed to conduct the group.