Photography Tips from a Himalayan Tubby Monk

March 10, 2017




                   When something looks interesting or beautiful, there is this natural impulse to want to capture and preserve it. I have my share of trigger-happy moments, years of addiction to a lens with only a hand full of images I even look at again without noticing my mistakes. And in this day and age, we are likely to reach for our phones and snap a photograph quicker than swiping left or right on another human being. 
         Though this might seem like an ideal solution, there is a big problem associated with it that I'm reminded of by an old photography colleague currently working on her art residency in Japan. (I am very proud of my creative tree-climbing friend.) Please check out her work at
        Memories of some of our experiences in the Netherlands reminded me, we're likely to be so busy taking these amazing photos for our projects, we forget to look at the world whose beauty and interest aroused us to take a photograph in the first place.
          These problems seem to be very much of today's snap-happy lifestyle most us find ourselves. A consequence of the small phones in our pockets. 
         But the consequence does get noticed after you've lugged around a camera long enough and take note of real beauty.

It takes some photographers a couple of years and some longer to take notice. Hell, it took me almost ten years! And many follies of losing devices and mind over the years to see more of a silver lining.  
         The camera-crazies, like myself, know the power of light and allure of cool buttons; mastering its wizardry is the glory! I was very impressed by cameras at first(and still get the itch when Canon or Mamiya announce a new release), but gradually I grew very suspicious of them, believing they blind us of the surroundings over time. A weird tunnel,or lens vision. Writing has since become a new friend to help tackle those demons. 
         To try to correct this blindness, I was reminded of an old tubby monk I use to hang out with in the Himalayas in India, and some pleasant memories of my past.
       When all my cameras broke on a bike ride, and I lost all my cellphones in the stupid Indus river, he wobbled up to me in his tubby monk ways and said "You should take up drawing or more writing. Not with the view to becoming great artist at these crafts but simply because through the act of trying to recreate on paper, what we see in the world! It will free you in a different way." Then he told me, I was too skinny to be in these mountains and hurry up, help with groceries!
         We study and see the world in a way we never do when we only take a photograph. Summing up what he attempted to do in his tubby monk teachings on drawing and writing. He said 'Let two people go out for a walk. One being a good sketcher, the other having no taste of the kind. A boy, like you, stupid with a camera." 
         "Let these two souls walk down a green lane surrounded by a beautiful lake. There will be a great difference in the scene as perceived by the two individuals. The one will see a green path and trees: he will perceive the tree to be green. Though he will think nothing about it but tinkering away on his phone, he will see that sunshine, and that it has a cheerful effect on folks around him, maybe snapping images on his nifty smartphone, and that's about it." Ouch, my tubby monk friend hit a nerve. 
       But what did the sketcher see? 
       Her eyes were accustomed to searching into the mysteries and cause of beauty; penetrating the minutest parts of loveliness. She looks up and debates how the beams warm her skin. How subdivided sunshine comes sprinkled down among the gleaming leaves overhead, till the lake glistens with an emerald light. She will see here and there a mystery emerging from the v
eil of leaves on her walk. She'll be able to see the jewel of the quickest hummingbirds and the variegated, fantastic flowered vines they explored. White and blue, purple and red, all mellowed and mingled into a single garment of beauty. Then floating cavernous trunks of driftwood and the twisted roots that grasp with their snake-like coils at the shallow bank and lakeside dock, whose turfy slope is inland with flowers of a thousand dyes fades away as boat departed.
          Are these not worth seeing? 
          And yet if you are not a sketcher or take notes, you'll pass through the green lane walk towards that dock, and when home again, you'll probably have nothing to say or think about it but that you went down a such and such lane.

           For respect to Tubby's teachings, no images on this post, but he's not the boss of :)


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