Landscape Photography, Astrophotography, Travel Photography and People / Festival Photography Tour Ladakh India

Overview of Zanskar Photography Tour 2022


The Zanskar Valley photo tour is one of the most scenic tours in India but one of the less visited. The Suru Valley and Zanskar Valley is not as popular due to bad roads and poor infrastructure but one of the best tours in terms of photographic opportunities. 

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These places are about to be hit by mass tourism, so visit these places before they become another Pangong Tso crowded by insensitive people. Zanskar is a part of Ladakh with no areas sharing the border with our neighbouring countries, hence no development. Hardly any Indian tourists. After travelling to these areas for more than a decade, in 2021 was a shock for me. New roads have opened up with new photographic opportunities. The amount of development I saw this year is unprecedented. It's good in a way for the local people, but will also bring a lot of insensitive people as well and spoil it. You should visit these places before they become another Pangong.


Photographic Opportunities


If you are interested in Landscape Photography  (Mountains, Rivers),  Milky Way and Star Trails - Astrophotography, Beautiful Villages, and People Photography, Ladakhi festivals, this tour is for you. This is less popular compared to our Ladakh tour but no less in terms of beauty and photographic opportunities. And you will not find many tourists around at least for a couple of years. 

Why Join Us for the Photography Tour? 

We will make your DREAM COME TRUE - your dream to witness the great play of light and shadows and the amazing night skies and MILKY WAY and to capture them. We will also take some great portraits of the locals.

We will be going the right places at the right time. I will suggest you the right settings for taking pictures and will personally assist you so that you go back with some great shots. We also do post-processing and feedback/review sessions whenever possible, during the tour.

Saurabh has been visiting these regions for almost a decade and has great knowledge about the place. 

You will also be in the company of some great fellow travellers and will make friends for life.

A private 1:1 tour can be arranged on demand. 

Itinerary and map of Zanskar Photography Tour 2022 

Day 1 Arrive in Leh (3,524 metres / 11,562 ft), travel to Kargil  (2,676 metres / 8,780 feet) (Distance 217 kms)


We arrive in Leh by the morning flight and leave for Kargil from the airport. We will cover the Lamayuru monastery and Mulbekh monastery on the way.

We reach Kargil by evening, relax and get familiarized with our gear to prepare for the eventful nights ahead.

We also try to do long exposures. It's a great opportunity to get familiarised with settings and the equipment like the tripod and the intervalometer that we are going to use during the trip. 

Day 2 Kargil to Drang-Drung Glacier Campsite 150 km (3,657m /11,998 ft) (Distance 126 km)

This is a long and very eventful day. 
We wake up early, have breakfast, and leave for Penzi La and Drang- Drung Glacier. This road is very scenic and untouched by commercialization. 

We pass by the beautiful Suru Valley. We shoot the people at Sankoo market. 

After some time, we get to see the mighty Nun - Kun peaks and the Parkachik glacier. 

After having lunch at Panikhar, we drive past Rangdum monastery and cross the Penzi la pass (4400m / 14435ft), the highest pass on this route.  We visit the Drung Drang Glacier on the way. It is the second-largest glacier in India after the Siachen Glacier.

This campsite is one of the best and presents you with one of the darkest skies.


Day 3 Drang-Drung Glacier to Padum 50kms (3,657 metres / 11,998 feet)


We get ready and pass by the plains leading to Padum. We stop at Sani Gompa, one of the oldest in the region. We also see the newly built statue of Padmasambhava. 

We reach Padum, have our lunch and go to a nearby village in the evening. It is a nice stroll and a good opportunity to meet people and photograph them.

 

Day 4 Drive to Gonbo Rangjon via Bardhan, Kurgiak


Early morning drive towards Gonbo Rangjon. On the way visit Bardan monastery and Lungnak valley. We pass by Shilla, Reru, Changpa, Purne, Kargyak. Watching the Milky Way and doing Astrophotography at the majestic Gonbo Rangjon is an experience you will remember for your lifetime.

Our stay will be in camps.

Day 5 Phuktal / Phugtal Monastery Trek (3,669m / 12,037 ft), Back to Padum

Gonbo Rangjon to Padum via Phuktal Monastery. This is one of the most scenic and secluded monasteries you might have ever seen.

This trek is not for everybody. Only those who are physically fit and have good trekking shoes (no sneakers or sandals) for this. and will proceed to the Phuktal Monastery. The road is narrow at places.

Trek to Phuktal from Purne 2.5 hrs to go and 2hrs back to Purne.

We travel back to Padum and take a rest today.

Day 6 Padum to Lingshed o/n Lingshed  (3800m / 12500ft)

We will travel to Lingshed and will stay there overnight in camps. Lingshed is a beautiful village with a 1000-year-old monastery. This village was accessible only by trek before. This is a new road that has opened up. Astrophotography at Lingshed

Our stay will be in camps.

Day 7 Lingshed to Leh 


This is a beautiful drive with amazing landscapes. We cross the two passes Singe La (Height 16590 feet) and Sirsir la (height 15700 feet). This road is newly done and is challenging.

This was a very popular trek route from Lamayuru to Padum, but now there is a motorable road to these places.

We reach Leh by evening and relax.

You can go to the Leh market and do some shopping for your friends and family.

Day 8 Fly Out

Its time to say goodbye to all the participants who go back not just with some great pictures but an experience of a lifetime and some lifelong friends too.

NOTE:

This tour is for people who are okay to compromise with luxury to see something that not many have seen and be in places where not many have been. It is not for people who are looking for a relaxing and luxurious vacation. The roads are also bad, though getting better.

We are going to spend 3 nights in tents. If you are new to camping, this will be an experience. These are basic movable camps that will just accommodate you and your bags, not luxury camps that you see in Pangong with attach toilet and bath. 

Toilet tents will be available for attending to nature's call. These tents are not permanent luxury tents like the ones you see in Pangong. These are basic movable and basic ones. There will be one toilet tent, which is basically an enclosure with a hole dug in the ground which is covered when we leave. We will have a toilet chair, so you can comfortably sit and finish your call. We try to do as little damage to the wilderness as possible. There is no facility for taking bath in camps.

We will have comfortable sleeping bags to survive in low temperatures. However, if you want to use yours, you can bring one for yourself.

There will not be any electricity, so having backup batteries is a must. However, we will be having AC charging facilities in our vehicle in each seat.

Our crew will prepare healthy food. Most places will not have any hotels/eateries. In those cases, we will have a packed lunch.

This year's (2021) pictures from Zanskar tour are HERE. You can see the camps as well here in some of the pictures.

Must read  - my blog for more pictures and detailed descriptions.

Zanskar Photography Tour Review from Recent Participants

 

Completed yet another wonderful photo tour to Zanskar with SIA Photography! With camping every other day, astrophotography in the middle of cold nights, braving near-zero temperatures, and treks/hikes at high altitudes, this wasn't a leisurely trip by any means, but the experiences were absolutely incredible! As always, having Ssaurabh as a lead made the trip - his years of experience of the terrain, people and culture prepared and motivated us to photograph the best moments. Him taking care of everything let us appreciate the beauty of the landscapes without worrying about the logistics. On-field photography knowledge sharing from him and the others helped me see and capture frames that I'd have missed otherwise!

Last but not least, a fun-filled photo tour such as this was possible because of the group with 4 other highly motivated and energetic individuals. Can't thank everyone enough for making it such a memorable trip!

Aranya Sen, Entrepreneur, Hyderabad

I just returned from the 2022 Zanskar Valley Photography Tour with SIA Photography. Ever since I heard about the beautiful Zanskar Valley couple of years ago, I had always wanted to visit the place. But then I was a bit apprehensive about the tour due to the high altitude, cold conditions, and rough roads. However, after reading the reviews of the previous year’s participants and after talking with Saurabh, I decided to do the trip.

For me, this trip was once in a lifetime set of experiences. Traveling through the wild and beautiful valleys, snow-capped mountains, the high mountain passes, massive glaciers, village visits and interacting with the locals, visiting monasteries and monks, and viewing the milky way.. I had a great time shooting a variety of images. Saurabh is an award-winning photographer and has travelled this route for years and shot images extensively in this region. But then the excitement with which he shoots the images at each location is as if he is seeing them for the first time. The intensity and focus with which he shoots images is a pleasure to watch. He is a great mentor and teacher and a very humble and great human being.

I would highly recommend this tour to anyone who wants to visit the Zanskar Valley, especially for photography due to the following reasons.

1. Carefully selected locations, optimized for photography based on research and years of experience in traveling in these regions.
2. Small compact groups resulting in great interaction, bonding, and one-to-one attention.
3. High amount of flexibility to stop the van anywhere to shoot an image rather than pre-defined locations.
4. Opportunity to shoot Landscapes, Mountain Scapes, Large Glaciers, High Mountain Passes, Great Green Lush Valleys, Monasteries and Monks, Villages and People, Milky way and Star Trails.
5. Individual attention and on-the-spot feedback on your photos.
6. Excellent logistics and arrangements for stay and food at various locations.

Thank you Saurabh for a great tour. I really had a wonderful time. And most important of all, experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Rajendran Valappil, Cochin.


I just completed an amazing trip to Zanskar valley organized by Saurabh. Feel totally privileged to be in the company of Saurabh with the experiences/learnings and of course enjoying the trip at the same time. Though it was a program that lasted for a week, not a single day we faced any hassles. Thanks to the well planned/managed itinerary. Each day seemed to be a new experience altogether capturing amazing pictures all along. Enjoyed the camping experience something that was a first for me along with Astro-photography shoots (cannot forget the late-night Milkyway captures). Enjoyed the trek toward Phuktal Monastery.

Saurabh's detailed documentation ensured we were all equipped with the right clothing, camera accessories, and medicines (if at all needed).

Thanks a ton Saurabh, for being a great inspiring mentor throughout this wonderful journey. Truly an amazing trip with a group of inspiring and like-minded friends. Would be more than happy to recommend this well-planned tour to aspiring friends.

I might even repeat this tour next time around :-)

Looking forward for more trips in the future.

Sunil AK, IT Consultant, Bengaluru


Zanskar Valley - A hidden gem, no more

A valley at an altitude of 13154ft, hidden from the world, covered in snow for 7 months a year and only way to commute are the frozen rivers. Some called it a hidden gem. I was introduced to Zanskar by Saurabh Chatterjee of SIA photography, and I can not thank him enough.

This is a mesmerizing place with beautifully coloured rivers, lush landscapes and centuries-old monasteries. Among all I still can not forget trek to Phugtal monastery besides the sparkling Tsarap river, the blue sky at Drang Drung glacier, and the incredible Mt. Gonbo Rangjon. The place is no more remote, beautiful roads are now stretching and welcoming many tourists. A must-see place like no other.

Saurabh is an incredible guide who not only guide but push you to take incredible pictures, shooting milky way and star trails with him is an experience everyone should have.

Apart from being just a guide he is a wonderful friend and great organizer who makes sure everyone is comfortable during the trip. We had wonderful food during the trip even when we were in camps.

Saurabh's trip usually consists of small groups of highly enthusiastic photographers, this group of ours was no different. It was a joy to be with ever enthusiastic Vinaya Mathews, super cool Rajendran Sir, man who knows his stuff Aranya Sen, and humble and eager Sunil AK. The trip was a memory I will cherish for ever.

Kishore Parhi, IT Consultant, Bangalore

Zanskar Tour 03 – 10th Jun 2022 By Vinaya Mathews
Actually, speaking I was very nervous to join the tour because of several reasons like a new rule of carrying only one check-in baggage of 15 kg (how to accommodate warm clothes & tripod in that was a big issue), high altitude issues, no experience of camping, only lady in a group, new camera….etc. But still I took a decision of joining only on the basis of one factor i.e., full confidence in Saurabhda & my decision is proved right, the tour went on so smooth & so successful from photography point of view. Y’day, I participated in one salon & in that, out of 16 photos, 12 were selected from Zanskar tour.


In 2019, I had covered Pangong-Handle belt of Ladakh, again with Saurabhda. In the comparison with that belt, Zanskar valley was tough to travel & less picturesque. Mainly because of huge infrastructure work in progress in the region. Up to 2021, almost all places of Zanskar was connected only with trekking routes. No motorable roads were available. But from 2021, road connectivity is undergoing on large scale. Because of that, the roads were very bad, and dusty.

2nd I found Zanskar valley is more famous for shapes, patterns, and textures of the mountains & one needs the eye & expertly to capture that. Not so easy. But with the same time, Zanskar is an unexposed region for tourists/ photographers & so one can capture very unique landscapes. Similarly, the tour covers the three fantastic places, visiting them is a lifetime experience & memory treasure.

Those are Drang-Drung Glacier & that too during evening blue hour, a stand-alone lofty rocky, Gonbo Rangjon mountain & the very famous Phuktal Monastery. Visiting & photographing these three places makes the tour memorable & lifetime experience.


Very friendly tour participants were the major factor to make all eight days enjoyable. Journeys uses to be of long distances but during travel, whoever used to feel the scene capturable, we used to get down. Of course, full credit goes to Saurabhda to give us that liberty rather to encourage us for that & the most important, our very patient young tempo driver.

We got hundreds of unique, candid moments to capture, during road journeys.


Not only hotel stay arrangements were very good, the tent arrangements at camping sight were quite comfortable.


The last but the most important factor of Saurabhda’s all tours was the great opportunity to learn photography. Saurabhda not only is one of the great travellers & equally passionate photographers of India but a superb teacher too. One can learn so many aspects of day as well as night photography in one tour. The Zanskar tour was not an exception to it. The tour itinerary itself consists full day, blue hour & night photography. We tried our hands on all genres of photography under guidance of Saurabhda.


The moral of the story, I would like to join Saurabhda’s any tour, any time & will blindly recommend to others too. All the best Saurabhda!


Vinaya Mathews, ex Banker.
MFIP, MFIP- Nature, EFIAP, GAPU, PPSA, BEAPF, Hon APF
vinayamathews.com


 

Zanskar has always been a part of the list of places I wanted to visit. It is a Shangri La of sorts, an elusive land of mystery, out of reach of the ordinary traveller. I had been to Spiti with Saurabh earlier and having enjoyed that particular trip I immediately joined in when I heard that Saurabh was leading a trip to Zangskar. The itinerary was hand-picked by him and there were experiences built in that one would find hard to replicate even on the most expensive, curated trips.
The colorful Suru valley with its array of wildflowers and the magnificent Suru made the perfect start to the trip. We had a magical time crossing Rangdum and Pensi La and camping under the stars next to Drang Drung glacier. Hopping ancient monasteries, after a brief halt in Padum, we landed up on the foot of the Holy Ganbo Rangjon. It is peak unlike any other and we camped in a site that can match the best camp-sites anywhere, by a free-running river, amidst blue poppies. We stayed the night in awe of the peak and dazzled by the brilliance of the stars and the milky way. An experience to savor for all our lives! The next day we trekked from Purne to Phugtal Monastery, walking next to the azure waters of Tsarap. Over the course of the next few days we crossed other uniquely lovely ruins and monasteries, traversed the Zangskar’s path, followed our way through newly opened paths past dizzying passes, meeting happy people, seeing new traditions, and culture.
Our group had people aged between 18 and 70 and we did not feel any age difference. The hosting was impeccable and the photography exquisite. We made friends and had life-enriching experiences. If I could recommend this, I would exhort all people who love what I have described to make this trip. It will change soon, and this experience will never come again!
Diptesh Ghosh, Traveller.

Dear Saurabh,
As always, it was wonderful travelling with you. And of course, Zanskar is an absolute delight. For the adventure seeker and the photographer like me there can be no better place to visit in India. The itinerary you had planned was amazing. I got the opportunity to shoot the night sky at a place where hardly anybody would have shot earlier. I also thank you for the excellent planning and logistics during the trip. I am sure that if and when I travel to Zanskar again, I'll travel with you. Thank you and all the best.
Santanu Majumder, ace Astrophotographer

I had always dreamt of visiting Zanskar, but was not sure how to go about it as it is quite off the beaten track. When I came across Saurabh Chatterjee's website - SIA photography - I found that he arranges photo tours in this region of Ladakh. Saurabh is a very well-known travel and portrait photographer. He arranges this tour in some of the least travelled and remote areas of Ladakh. It was a meticulously arranged tour. There were loads of photographic opportunities all along the route, be it landscapes, flowers, monasteries, people, Milky Way and star trails. I learned a lot from Saurabh. He is always ready to teach you and clear your doubts. I look forward to travelling with him to capture more such less travelled places in the future.
Neeta Taskar, Secretary, FOTO CIRCLE SOCIETY (FCS), Thane

Dear Saurabh

There are no words to express my appreciation for your efforts to plan that wonderful trip to Ladakh.

The breathtaking landscapes, unpolluted crystal clear skies, the highest mountain passes and Buddhist Monasteries.
As I mentioned it earlier, two eyes are not enough to enjoy so much of BEAUTY.
I enjoyed the trip thoroughly in the company of stalwarts like Santanu and Diptesh who spent so many years capturing beautiful and extraordinary pictures. Singing session of Amit, Diptesh, Santanu and Smita was jolly good. Neeta and Aditi were good travel companions.

Regret could not join you on that trek to Phuktal. Great presentation by Smita.
Thank you from bottom of my heart and wish you many more such glorious tours.Regards,
Amarnath, Retired, full time traveller.

My photo trip to Zanskar with Saurabh was very beautiful. It was really well organised. Photo tour like this gives you lot of opportunity to learn and sharpen your photography skills. Entire region of Zanskar is most scenic with lot of diversity in culture, it was wonderful to experience all this with SIA Photography. Looking forward to many such photo trips. Amit Senegar, Financial Consultant


I had an amazing experience in Zanskar Photo-tour 2021. As this was my first trip I was a bit nervous but the moment trip started I was feeling good. I got to learn so much whether it be staying in a tent or settings for shooting Astrophotography. Now I'm looking forward to join more such tours and see the inner beauty of India. Thank you so much Saurabh Sir for this excursion trip.
Aditi Jha 18 years, youngest participant. Photography Student.

 

This is fantastic tour including adventure, tracking, camping, star gazing and above all photography for which we all United. I would love to join many more tour like this in future.
Dr.Nirmal Jain, Indore

Thanks Saurabh for organizing such a superb photo tour,we all were engaged only in shooting no worries about stay and meals arrangements.
Zanskar valley is a hidden gem every photo lover must visit, I recommend to go with Saurabh.
Ravindra Puntambekar, Indore

Ticked off a bucket list item... Fortunate enough to experience Zanskar this intimately, before it gets popularized... Very well planned and executed! Thanks again ✌️
Rajarshi Mitra, Mumbai

I just concluded once in a life time trip to Zanskar Valley with Saurabh. He is synonymous to photography trips to Ladakh and Zanskar valley. The choice of locations, internary and planning is immaculate. Some of the locations have been unexplored and breadth taking. He is passionate mentor and provides an excellent support to participants. We covered Astro, landscape , culture and people photography in same breadth.

Satish Kumar

I had an amazing trip with Saurabh to Zanskar. Saurabh is not just a great photographer - he is also a great mentor and deeply knowledgeable about getting the best out of the places we were visiting. As such the itinerary was a very well planned one and I wouldn't change anything. Overall, a fantastic trip- Saurabh is highly recommended and I would certainly like to repeat and go for more trips with him.

Udit Dugar

It was a great trip we had. I made many memorable moments with all my mates. Everybody was very helping towards each other and the accommodation, transportation, camping, hiking was also very good. Overall it was an amazing trip. Special thanks to mentors. I recommend to go with Saurabh Chatterjee.

Ranvijay Kumar, Zanskar valley trip, 1 August to 12 August

Dear Saurabh,

I can’t thank you & SIA Photography enough for giving me this once in a lifetime experience! For this young at heart travel & photography enthusiast, those 7 nights in Zanskar valley wasn’t just a photo tour, it was an adventure, especially those 3 nights at the moving camps. The entire route planning as well as alternate night hotel stays was well thought out. In spite of the wide age & background difference of the members our group was well knit , easy going & well managed.

For those of you who are reading this post & still thinking if you should go to the Zanskar tour or not - just contact Saurabh & book your place for the next tour. One item from my “bucket list” is ticked off 😊

I have prepared a small photo album of this unforgettable trip which I have shared with all my friends & family. Am attaching the same for your perusal & comments.

My love & best wishes to you & Smita – keep discovering new places & share the experience with all of us. Good luck

Sugato Chandra

 

Must read-my blog for more pictures and detailed descriptions.

Must Read - Blog by an 18-year-old girl Aditi who was learning photography and was on her first tour to the Himalayas.

Itinerary -

Day 1
Friday, June 03, 2022
Arrive in Leh and travel to Kargil via Lamayuru
Day 2
Saturday, June 04, 2022
Kargil to Rangdum / Penzila / Drang Drung
Day 3
Sunday, June 05, 2022
Penzila to Padum, via Sani o/n Padum
Day 4
Monday, June 06, 2022
Early morning drive to Gonbo Rangjon on the way visit Bardan monastery and Lungnak valley.
Day 5
Monday, June 07, 2021
Gonbo Rangjon to Padum via Phuktal Monastery. Trek to Phuktal from Purne 2.5 hrs to go and 2hrs back to Purne. Drive from Padum to Gonbo Rangjon 4 to 5 hrs
Day 6
Wednesday, June 08, 2022
Padum to Lingshed o/n Lingshed
Day 7
Thursday, June 09, 2022
Lingshed to Leh.
Day 8
Friday, June 10, 2022
Fly out of Leh

Cost: Rs.63,000/-
Only 7 participants on first come first serve basis.

Cost includes

Twin sharing accommodation and All Vegetarian Meals. Inner Liner Permits, Monastery Fees And Taxes, Surface Transfers for the Entire Journey Leh to Leh.

Single rooms can be arranged on request.

Note: Females will share rooms only with females.

Expert Photography Mentorship by Ssaurabh A Chatterjee.

Cost does not include

1) Travel from your city to Leh and back. 2) Mineral water, any additional beverage ordered.

Payment Policy

Rs.20000/- booking amount.
Rest 45 days before the date of the tour.

Cancellation Policy

30 days prior to departure of the tour, advance amount is non-refundable.
30 days to 15 days prior to departure of the tour 50% of total tour cost.
14 days to 07 days prior to departure of the tour 75% of total tour cost.
07 days to 01 days prior to departure of the tour 100% of total tour cost.

There will be no refund for NO SHOWS.



PICTURES FROM Photo tour to Ladakh - Zanskar Valley 2022


Video


FAQ


0. Why are we travelling on the same day from Leh? Isn't it advised to take a rest for a day before venturing out?

You are right, we should take rest for a day because of the sudden altitude gain. But, we are traveling to Kargil, so we are losing height from 11500ft to 8500ft. It will be very easy for the body to adapt. The best would be to arrive a day earlier. This will give you proper rest and you can explore Leh city. Most people have time constraints and hence this itinerary.

1. Do I need to be physically fit to join this trip?

We will be traveling by SUVs with hardly any physically intensive activity except the Phugtal Monastery trek. If you think you are not fit for the trek, you can skip it. However, we will be traveling at high altitudes. Please consult your doctor first.


2. Is this trip only for Photographers?

No, anyone can join. We will spend a lot of time taking some great pictures though. I'm sure everyone loves doing that. We have had non-photographers on our previous trips and they enjoy as much.


3. I have no knowledge of Photography. Will I get some help? Yes, absolutely. Saurabh will be assisting you all the time. He will help you with how to take some great pictures. So, you will learn while having fun on the go.


4. I don't have a camera. Can I get a camera or lenses for rent? Yes, Cameras / Lenses can be arranged. Subject to availability.

5. Why is the tour expensive?

Zanskar is a very remote part of Ladakh with very few facilities. The roads are bad and hence the maintenance of the vehicles are more

Also, we are staying in moving camps for many nights. We will have a separate vehicle for carrying our cooks and camps so that they go ahead and keep the camps and our food ready when we reach after taking pictures on the way.

Exclusivity - Zanskar is still a place not many have been to. Be a part of the tour to enjoy the exclusivity that not have experienced.

How much cash should I carry?

From the time you land at the airport to the time our tour finishes, you don't need to take out your wallet. There is no hidden expense. At the end of the tour, we collect money and tip our driver/cooks.

If you do any shopping in Leh, then you will need cash. There are SBI, ICICI, HDFC ATMs in the Leh market, but please don't depend on them. Sometimes they get dry very soon because of tourists. Bring cash, whatever you require. To be on the safe side 10k is more than enough.

PLEASE READ Travelling to Ladakh - Tips and Tricks.

Pictures and Blog from Ladakh


6. How cold will it be?

It will be cold, really cold especially during the camping nights. The minimum temperatures might drop to around Zero degrees celcius. Please carry your warm jackets and wind proofs to survive the weather.


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