The Songzanlin Monastery and Photos of Shangri-la, China

China has a funny way of chasing our emotions around.  One minute we’re completely annoyed by crowds, spitting, tour guides using megaphones as they lead their clients around natural sight, and just noise in general.  The next, we’re blown away by the sites.  I’d say, though, I’ve been more blown away than stressed.  And when I’ve been blown away, I’ve done nothing but wonder why people spend so much time in dull Southeast Asia when they could be in China.  My visit to the Songzanlin Monastery just outside of the city of Shangri-la was one of those “why aren’t there more people here?!” moments.  It was then followed by a “I’m glad there aren’t others here” evening of shooting.  In the video below, you’ll see how I photographed the Songzanlin Monastery, which is about 5 kilometers outside of Shangri-la, China near the border of Tibet in Yunnan Province. As is obvious by the video, I was both blessed with amazing light, and punished by flat light while taking my photos of Songzanlin.  The sky was so amazing during the day.  The clouds were perfect and the afternoon light was perfectly soft.  It brought out the colours of everything so perfectly.  And as amazing as it was to shoot, the monastery as equally challenging.  The building is just so big, that it was tough to get it all into my frame. Then, as the evening light came, the clouds disappeared which made taking photos of the monastery really difficult.  In the end, I’m quite happy with the images I got from Songzanlin, and Shangri-la in general. Check out the rest of my pictures from Shangrila below.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

Last one of the day. In the video, I said I was going to show you how to edit this one, but it came out kind of bland. I hardly touched the image on the edit.

Shangri-la China

This older lady was nice enough to let me photograph her. How could I not with a scene around her like that?

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

The alley way leading up to the Songzanlin Temple in Shangri-la. This girl ran into my shot, and made for the perfect subject for the image!

Shangri-la China

Temple downtown Shangril-la. I shot this one HDR to bring out the star in the sun and the colours.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

I think this is my favourite shot from the Songzanlin Monestary. A couple monks walked down the scene as I was photographing it. Made for a beautiful image. How about that sky too, right?!

Shangri-la China

A couple old men discussing what seemed to be fairly important details.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

Some Buddhist monks out with their iPad getting some photos in front of the Monastery.

Shangri-la China

Probably my favourite portrait from the city. The colours were just too perfect.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

Loved the reflection and the glow on the mountains behind the temple.

Shangri-la China

This is the side of Old Town that was restored after the January 2014 fire in Shangri-la.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

This is the photo I showed you how to develop in the video above. Such great light!

Shangri-la China

Up on the hill in Shangri-la, this temple was perfect to shoot with the prayer flags blowing in front of it.

Songzanlin Monastery, Shangri-la, China

I think this was my favourite shot from the evening shoot. The light was just right on top of the hill behind the monastery.

Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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9 Comments

  1. REALLY found this useful Brendan. And loving the new format to the blog. Keep up the sterling job you´re doing 🙂

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    • Thanks Colleen, I’m glad you like the new format. I’ve been a bit nervous that the change would scare off some people, but the numbers are up! Hurray!

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  2. You have such beautiful photography. Shangrila looks so beautiful. I’m going to the area soonish and am going to Dali and Lijiang, but not Shangrila. I wish I was now.

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    • Hi Zoe,
      Thanks for the compliments! Yeah, we heard nothing but bad things about the massive crowds in Lijiang, so we skipped it to do Shangri La instead. We feel like it was the best decision of our trip so far. Dali was really nice though. And though Lijiang is packed with tourists, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as well!

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  3. Very beautiful photos Brendan. You got the serious skill man. Incredible!

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  4. At the centre of a small village is the historical Songzanlin Si Monastery. The Monastery is dated back to 1679 and situated 3.300 meters above sea level.
    Although not easy to climb up the hundreds of steps to get to the top where all the monks are situated.

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  5. wonderful photography skills. loved all the photos. Thanks for sharing

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  6. Breath taking work! Keep it up 🙂

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    • Thank you Shanleenee

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