Friday, July 17, 2015

Lessons in Photography

Well, I think I will take a break from forever playing the messenger of doom. Acting the perennial soothsayer is no fun, particularly when one is most often reminded that the dogs may bark but the marauders will march on, regardless.

Lets turn to photography for a momentary respite from all the gloom and doom.

As usual, I woke up early only to find that whole of Thimphu valley had been blanketed under an all-encompassing swath of white mist. I quickly brushed, washed, brewed tea, gulped few sips of the steaming hot tea, grabbed my camera bag that is forever packed and ready, and ran out the door to start my car. Looking at the surreal scene in front of me, I was sure that there would be great photo opportunity at the Kuenselphodrang where the Buddha Dordenma statue sits in solitary bliss, surveying the valley below, with a look of infinite kindness and compassion.

Buddha Dordenma under construction at Kuenselphodrang, Thimphu: 17.07.2015

When I reached Kuenselphodrang, the statue and everything else was completely covered in mist. Nothing inspiring there. I parked my car by the roadside and waited and waited and waited. The mist adamantly hung on - like in animated suspension - concealing everything. In the meantime, my throat was getting parched from lack of the customary four mugs of hot black tea. I looked at my car dashboard to check the time - it was 7:33AM. I decided that I would quickly run back to my house and get my flask of tea that was sitting on my office desk.

As I reached Motithang, I saw an elderly man wiggling up the desolate road leading up to the Motithang gas station - with a empty gas cylinder strapped on him back. A most fitting scene, to be included in an article that I plan to do soon - on the common man's hardships of getting cooking gas refill. I was tempted to stop and photograph the person: the brilliant virginal morning light striking the solitary man wobbling up the desolate road, the downcast sweeping branches of the weeping willow shimmering tender green in the mini park to his right, made the whole scene even more alluring. But heck, I needed to grab my thermos and get back to Kuenselphodrang or I will miss my photo opportunity.

Thus, even while the temptation was great, I refused to stop to photograph the person. I rushed back to Kuenselphodrang - only to find that the darn mist had completely lifted and exposed the Buddha in all its stark nakedness!!! I cursed a foul “J----a” and sat down to drink tea, in complete defeat.

For those of you who are into photography, this is an IMPORTANT LESSON in the pursuit of photography - NEVER EVER BE DISTRACTED. If you are on to something - stick by it. Don't move away - let the hell freeze over - but stay put and get your shot. I was distracted when I ran off to get the flask of tea, in the process I missed a great photo opportunity. My loss was further aggravated by my second mistake - that of not stopping and shooting the gas man. In an attempt to get what I did not know was already a lost cause, I lost that other opportunity as well!

Despite a disastrous morning with multiple missed opportunities, I was still intent on getting something out of the morning’s sojourn. Even with the harsh light, the Buddha statue looked imposing in the morning sun. So I photographed a few frames. In the following photographs, there is another lesson for those of you who are aspiring photographers: a subject may look pretty all by itself … and yet, sometimes including something else in the frame can hugely improve the image. Notice that in the second photo of the Buddha, I included three morning joggers in the frame:

As you can see, the image is much more interesting - and the Buddha is no longer lonesome!

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