Buddhist Bhutan

Photo © Bob Krist

We landed without incident in Bhutan and that day, our group had a chance to actually photograph some chanting monks in a small temple in Paro. No flash allowed, and totally backlit. My histogram would have made a certified Photoshop guru weep.

But what can you do? You get the picture with the glow of enlightenment coming from behind them (yup, that’s what I’m calling it….you more technical types may call it “a ton of blown highlights”) or you don’t get the picture.

And of course, I had to shoot a couple of video clips too, so in the few minutes we had, I was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

What is it about red (or orange) robed Buddhist monks that so fascinates us? Photographers, myself included, can’t get enough of them.

Photo editors, on the other hand, have had enough. My friend Dan Westergren, senior illustrations editor of National Geographic Traveler, says he just glazes over when he sees a preponderance of  monk pictures in a portfolio.

The thought being that these are often “how can you miss” situations, and don’t really illustrate your talents in tough situations. In other words, it’s easy exoticism.

That is a pitfall for us travel photographers, the tendency to rely on the exotic nature of the subject matter at the expense of working the situation for moment, composition, and all the other qualities that make can make pictures shot in Bayonne (the one in New Jersey) as compelling as those shot in Bhutan.

I’ve worked long and hard years (including a five-year stint covering Bayonne, Union City, and Hoboken), so I relish the occasional pitfall and feel I’ve earned my monk’s robes.

(So if you’re reading this post, Dan, I’m hoping you’ll remember me for my hard-working pictures of more mundane stories, like Driving Pennsylvania’s Scenic Route 6, and forgive me my exotic lapses:-)).

For more monks, though, hit the jump. (more…)

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