Redux: Kathmandu’s Boudhanath Stupa
Kathmandu is a strange mix of Hindu and Buddhist culture. With only a few days to explore my friend Jon and I are sticking around Kathmandu. Our hotel is right across the road from Boudhanath – one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Kathmandu, Nepal. It’s also the most photographed spot in the country, so how do you photograph it in a way completely different than (a) you’ve done before or (b) like no one else has done?
For me, it was trying to look through the obvious and observe what was happening. One of the first things you notice are the masses of people circumnavigating the stupa. I wanted to capture that movement. In fact almost every image of Boudhanath this trip has been about movement. I think it is because there seem to be people everywhere. I set up my tripod in one of the corners and shot with a slow shutter speed and used the Multiple Exposure feature of the X-Pro1 to show the crowds and the movement.
Later that day as the sun went down, Jon and I got on the roof of a nearby restaurant and waited them to turn on the massive flood lamps all around the stupa. We wanted that classic post sunset blue sky with the Stupa all a glow. But guess what? No flood lights this trip. We made do.
The next day we visited the hippie dominated Thamel part of Kathmandu. After being thoroughly uninspired we decided to return to Boudhanath early the next morning back to get another look at a different time of day.
Of course there is more to Boudhanath than just the big white stupa. It is the home to at least eight monasteries and nunneries. As a result there are many maroon clad monks and nuns roaming, praying, playing instruments and generally living life. Given this is such a heavily touristed spot the monks are understandably sick of having their photos made. So how do you photograph monk in a situation like this? There are several option. The first is to just put up the cameras. Not something I am fond of doing. Another option is to photograph the bigger picture – if you can’t photograph a monk, then photography life around a monk.
One way to do this is to let the monks wander into your photo. This is just what I did in the following three images below.
The moral of this lesson is take your time and rethink everything. Remember, there is almost always a way to get a unique perspective on an old image. Do this by looking at what is happening around you and try to photograph it in new and less obvious ways. When you do you will probably be surprised at what you come up with.