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iamdat This journal is dedicated to the people and places whom I have had a chance to come across.

Lost in Bhutan - Day 6

BHUTAN | Monday, 27 December 2010 | Views [731]

Day 6 – Dec 9 2010

Today was a very special day of the trip. We woke up at 4.30 am to go and photograph the White Bellied Hereon. Much rarer than the Black Necked Cranes, these birds had a humble population of only 26 in Bhutan. According to an ecologist that we met on the way, the construction of hydro power plants had been disrupting the lives of these birds because they drove their predators to the small rivers where the birds laid their eggs.

As we could only spot one bird and I did not have a tele lens powerful enough, I decided to wander around and looked for a story about the people living by the river. I came across a lady who worked in the field since as early as 5.00 am till noon. Also, I joined a group of kids for an exciting dart-throwing game. While I was doing all these, Jason got some fantastic close-up shots of the highly sensitive bird.

In the afternoon, we visited the historic 17th century Fortress “Punakha Dzong”, the biggest Dzong in Bhutan. This visit made the day really special. Jason asked me to photograph things using his film rangefinder, mounted with a 35mm lens. Because we had been talking about old school photography, which included topics like Magnum photographers, composition and zone design system, he said this exercise would put me in their shoes. The experience was unexpected. I unfamiliarly looked through the viewfinder, feeling the unknown. Composition was tough as there was a thin small white frame within a big picture, so many times I was unsure how much to cut out or include in the photo. Manual focusing required fast reaction, especially with moving subjects, objects and I sometimes forgot to look at the centre focusing rectangle in the viewfinder. However, the biggest challenge was perhaps exposure. Shooting on aperture priority mode, I had to carefully select the different elements of different light intensities and choose the appropriate shutter speed. There was no preview so every time that I snapped the button was full of uncertainty. That was the core of the zone design system: calculating how to compensate the exposure correctly.

At the Dzong, we had an opportunity to go through a pictorial story about Buddha’s life. Inside the temples were wonderful architecture and textures, made up from all the artefacts and subtle lighting. Though we could not record and image inside the temples, the courtyard and architecture around were very captivating. Therefore, we all decided to skip lunch and stayed at that place throughout the whole afternoon. I shot around 25 frames and was very excited as well as worried about the result.  

Also, while using Jason’s rangefinder, I dropped by a local high school and met a guy called Wangdi.  He was taking his final year exam and I got a fun chat with him. We were of the same level so he was very keen to share with me about Bhutan’s education system.

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