For outsiders, Bhutan society appears to have a complicated heirarchy, not only within the monasteries, but in the secular world as well. What I like about this angle is that it is quite complex and takes a little time to understand. There are several different levels in the image that in some small way relate to different levels of society.
Of course, this is purely the imagination of the photographer (me) and I can’t expect anyone who hasn’t visited Bhutan to really understand what the photograph says to me. Then again, that’s not something I have control over in any photograph.
The portrait was taken during a festival and, down stairs in the courtyard of the dzong, an elaborate series of costumed dances were being performed. While photogenic in their own right, I found the things happening around the periphery to be even more interesting. During the festivals, the locals are used to seeing a few tourists and aren’t too worried about our cameras. In fact, these youths had been following me around for half an hour or so, hence their engagement with the camera.
What struck me about this location is the way the light comes from both above and below, plus I loved the angles of the architecture, but to capture it required an ultra wide-angle lens. This was shot on a Nikkor 14-24mm and I’m thinking the new 11-24mm Canon will be every bit as useful.
However, it’s not as sharp as it could be. My exposure was 1/40 second at f2.8 and ISO 800. Things were happening quickly and my camera wasn’t set correctly for this situation. I should have pushed the ISO higher to give me a faster shutter speed, which would have ensured my subject was tack sharp, but on the other hand, everything else about the image is what I like.
So, while this might not make the cut for a competition entry, it will definitely feature in my book and audio visual on Bhutan 2014. Technical perfection is something we should strive for, but far more important is the mood, the gesture and the story. We should all give ourselves permission to keep shots like this with our personal favourites.