Novice Monks, Myanmar

Two young novice monks standing on a verandah in a monastry in Myanmar (i.e., Burma).

The above image of two novice monks in Myanmar was made in the grounds of a Buddhist temple in Myanmar on a hot, bright day. The common perception is that this is the ideal weather for photography. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bright light is the death of photography. It reflects off the surface of the subject taking with it much of the subject’s color and texture. In the case of a portrait direct sun produces specular highlights on the subject’s forehead and deep, black shadows under the eyes.

Once permission was given for me to photograph the two young novices I moved them into the shade of a porch. I then spent quite some time positioning them to make an interesting composition that allowed the light to feather across their robes and illuminate their faces. Desiring a somewhat candid feel I gave very specific instructions for where I wanted the boys to look. This was a very difficult image to produce, but the result is one with which I’m very happy.

The image was made on the medium format Hasselblad 500C camera with a Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar lens and Kodak Portra 160VC film. While not always easy to work with I love the unbiased nature of the Hasselblad camera’s square format. It is not so much the orientation of the frame, but the elements within it, that emphasize notions of movement, restfulness, etc.

The 150mm lens is roughly the equivalent of a 100mm lens on a 35mm film camera or a full frame DSLR. It’s a wonderful focal length for portraits as it draws the face in a flattering manner, foreshortens the nose and provides a comfortable camera-to-subject distance.

The original color negative image was scanned then processed in Adobe Photoshop CS3. I feel the black-and-white rendering of the image enhances the relative innocence and purity associated with younger people.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru