May 29, 2018 – Visakha Bucha Day

I had a pretty busy day yesterday. In the morning I was out documenting the 2018 planting season, and in the evening I was at the local Buddhist temple photographing the most important Thai Buddhist holy day of the year. The former was a piece of cake, the later was a nightmare.

In the part of rural Thailand I live in the fields are plowed when the ground is soft enough for the machinery to till the ground with relative ease. This means the rainy season. This is the traditional way, even though today tractors are used instead of hand plows or water buffalo. Not only does the wet season make plowing easier, the moisture obviously waters the seedlings as they grow.  Even though today tractors are common for preparing the soil, the seeds are planted by hand, for the most part.

Hand planting corn.
Hand planting corn. 
Changing tractor blades.
Changing tractor blades. 
Planting corn by hand. 

Most of the day in the fields I was shooting the Leica stoped down to compensate for any slight focusing errors.  – That is where the old  “f8 and be there” saying came from. By using a small aperture focusing is not as critical and by using the distance scale, sometimes focus is not needed at all !
After shooting in the fields most of the day it was time to switch gears. I put the Leica M240 battery in the charger, a little insurance to make sure I had enough gas for the event, and after 2 hours headed to the temple. As I said above these type events are a photographers nightmare. Inside the temple there is enough light to shoot at ISO 1600 at 1/30 sec., but outside there is only the light from the candles. In years past I had used a tripod and long exposure with a very wide angle lens to capture the procession. Using blurred movement of monks and candles. This worked well enough to sell the image to a couple of  magazines, but this year I am shooting almost exclusively with the Leica M240 and a 50mm lens. There is another old saying that good photography is overcoming challenges. Tonight would be one of those challenges.

Thai Buddhist monks lead the congregation in a prayer procession around the temple as they celebrate Visakha Bucha Day. 

I often tell students that if you study pulitzer prize winning photography from years past you will learn many things. A good photo does not need to be in focus, have perfect exposure, or be framed perfectly, the only thing it absolutely must have, is that it has to be interesting. In times like tonight with zero light, I try to keep that statement in mind.

The prayer procession around the temple. 
A child lights a candle and incense at the base of a Buddhist statue during celebrations for Visakha Bucha Day, an important Buddhist holy day. Nakhon Nayok, Thailand. May 29, 2018. 
Devotees light candles and burn incense at the base of a Buddhist statue during celebrations for Visakha Bucha Day, an important Buddhist holy day. Nakhon Nayok, Thailand. May 29, 2018.

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