I am starting a new series of blogposts, where each week I will try to pick one of my best images and tell you my philosophy and work behind it. While I will briefly mention the technical details of that image as well, please consider these posts more of a philosophical journey to photography, rather than a technical one. Because I feel it is the philosophy and emotions which make an image, not a camera or other technical aspects!
Today I am talking about the following image of Maitreya Buddha, I photographed at Diskit Monastery in Nubra Valley (Ladakh.)
Let’s start with the technical aspects:
- This image was produced with Canon 60D DSLR with Tokina 11-16 f2.8 II lens, mounted on Benro T-800 tripod and a cheap Chinese wired trigger. I didn’t use my Hoya HMC UV Filter or for that matter any other filter, since I wanted to reduce flares.
- It is an HDR made with 3 images at following settings; 1/100 at f16 ISO100, 1/400 at f16 ISO100 and 1/25 at f16 at ISO100. I had to shoot HDR because camera sensors do not have the same dynamic range as our eyes.
- I shot these images in manual mode with lens set to 11mm.
- I kept the aperture at f16, since I wanted wide depth of field and wasn’t worried about shutter speed, since I was shooting on a tripod with plenty of ambient light.
However these settings mean little, since camera settings depend on ambient light, subject illumination and various other factors.
So let’s get on to why and how I made this photo.
I had somewhat envisioned this photo (at least a variation of it), when I had reached Habib Guest House in Hunder last evening and I was trying to photograph Maitreya Statue from there with my telephoto lens. Thanks to GPS and compass apps on my Moto G android phone, I knew where the sunrise was going to happen.
Since I wanted something in the foreground and it isn’t possible to shoot from behind the Diskit Monastery towards sun, I decided to keep Maitreya Statue as the location for morning shoot.
I managed to reach Maitreya Statue before 6:15am and was all setup and shooting by 6:30 and kept shooting till 8am in the freezing high velocity winds of Ladakh. Waking up and reaching the location before sunrise allowed me to take photographs before, during and after sunrise.
Concept behind this photograph was quite simple. Maitreya (Future Buddha) is supposed to symbolize complete enlightenment and as corny as it may sound, we often associate enlightenment with halo. Which is somewhat formed in this image due to rising sun from behind the statue, which also causes glowing effect on parts Maitreya’s crown.
Sun for me is the source of warmth, enlightenment and hope. So I wanted to keep it in the photograph as well, and wanted it to be one of the primary subjects of the photograph.
With the Surya (sun) and Maitreya (completely enlightened bodhisattva) as the primary subjects of this image, rest of the composition kind of fell into place based on the location, direction of sun and size of the statue.
While what I have written above might sound corny and abstract to most, it was the primary source of inspiration behind this photograph. And it was this inspiration which kept me going, despite having fever and feeling extremely cold and hungry at that time. Add to that, warmth of the rising sun and repeated chanting of OM gave me enough strength to keep clicking, despite having initially captured good enough photographs of the sunrise and Maitreya.