Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

Tucked away in the Eastern Himalayas is nothing less than the crowning apex of nature’s grandeur. It is a country filled with myths and legends. Buddhism permeates every aspect of daily life, hidden valleys shelter age-old temples and monasteries. 

National Geographic photographers Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg spent two weeks traveling in the mountains of Bhutan, Druk Yul, (Land of the Thunder Dragon) documenting the life of Tibetan monks. Some of their traditions are disappearing from the rest of the Himalayan world, as Bhutan becomes more open to foreign visitors. The intensely traditional nation has been slow to adopt the modern world; their country-wide ban on television and Internet was just lifted in 1999, and it was only after the previous king abdicated power in 2006 that the nation had its first parliamentary elections. Bhutan, often ranked as one of the happiest countries in the world, is the birthplace of the concept of "gross national happiness," an alternative to the more traditional measure of gross domestic product. 

  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 3.5, Shutter: 1/4000, ISO 320)

    Close-up of prayer flags near Dochula Chorten used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 4.5, Shutter: 1/800, ISO 200)

    A young girl is working homework outside of a monastery in Bhutan.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 4.5, Shutter: 1/1200, ISO 250)

    On the mountaintop near Dochula Chorten, a traditional building is seen through steamed glass.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 4, Shutter: 1/1250, ISO 1600)

    A Buddhist monk stands in the kitchen where food is being prepared for a religious gathering in Thimphu, Bhutan.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 3.5, Shutter: 1/80, ISO 1600)

    Two Buddhist monks walk through the monastery in Trongra Dzong.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 5, Shutter: 1/800, ISO 1250)

    A single monk heads to daily prayer in the early morning light.

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  • Cotton & Sisse - Bhutan

    Cotton Coulson & Sisse Brimberg

    Bhutan: Kingdom of the Clouds

    Sony α99V, 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM (F-Stop: 4.5, Shutter: 1/640, ISO 640)

    Two Buddhist monks race for prayer in the narrow wooden hallways in the monastery in Trongza Dzong.

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