WHEN THE LIGHT SHINES THROUGH – A perspective of Light

Before I begin my very first post for 2012, I just like to wish everyone here a very happy New Year and I hope 2012 will be a good and enjoyable photography year for all.

Back to my blog, I decided to create this post as a result of my ever-increasing interest in natural lighting in photography. I always have an intense interest in studying the effects of light (and sometimes the resulting shadows). Understanding the behavior and characteristics of light is of paramount importance in the journey of photography. Light is regarded as the chief resource for any photographer, and many have constantly devote a lot of attention to the phenomenon of light and what it can do. Proper use of available light can help to create the mood I want for my pictures. Very often, they do amazing things to the photograph if used correctly. After all, photography means writing with light. From the relentless power of full sun to the beams that break through a canopy, this natural resource is right here for all of us to make use.

Recently, I consolidated a number of photographs taken in 2010/11 during my travels over Asia. A selection of the photographs is attached in this post. These are some associated photographs I considered to have achieved the mood that I wanted, simply by making use of available light to cast the attention on my subject. Most of the shots are taken indoor, where lighting condition is a huge challenge. I am constantly on the look out for beams of light that breaks through from the exterior. They usually tend to give a more dramatic and mysterious mood to the image. When light appears, a section of darkness fades away and true beauty shines through. I wish to capture this light and therefore the beauty within the scene. It is about the people, the look, and the spontaneous moments that we will never experience again.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - At the corridor of the outer wall of the temple (near the entrance) stood a 3-meters tall statue of Vishnu carved from sandstone block. Beneath it is a collection box for donations, incense sticks, flowers, religious items and straw mattress for prayers. The corridor is relatively dim with only beams of light entering through the entrance and gaps from the stone windows. In the photograph above, local Cambodian kids entering the temple pay their respect and make donations. I took the shot when the two kids happen to stand within the ray of light while making donations. The smoke from the incense sticks gave a more dramatic mood and helped to enhance the ray of light.

Ta Phrom, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Ta Prohm was the temple chosen to be left in its ‘natural state’ as an example of how most of Angkor looked on its discovery in the 19th century. Near the entrance of the temple along the corridor, there is a little Buddha statue that sits adjacent to a window opening, allowing natural light from the exterior to cast a side lighting on it. The corridor is very dim and photographing inside is very challenging. This shot was taken when I caught a group of visitors walking passed the Buddha statue along the dim corridor. Shot handheld at 1.3 of a seconds.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Along the corridor of the inner wall of the temple stood many stone relics. Most of them had some parts of the body destroyed or missing. I spent a few hours wandering the long stone corridors and trying to capture the play of light with our lenses. The many window openings along the corridor allow natural light ray to brighten up the relics. The dark corridor also gave a mysterious mood to the photograph.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - Shot taken along the corridor of the outer wall of Angkor Wat. Again, a beam of natural light from the exterior caught this elderly native Cambodian man (who seem to be residing at the temple) planting incense sticks. He was constantly encouraging people to light incense sticks and wishing them good luck. The smoke from the incense sticks gave a more dramatic mood and helped to enhance the ray of light.

Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia - The two walls (outer and inner) that wrapped around the temple are covered with panel after panel of carvings, displaying various important histories. There are thousands and thousands of figures, relics and stories with amazing details that lined up along the wall. I caught these two stone figures that stood in the way of a direct beam of sunlight, revealing the texture and the cobwebs that wrapped on the carvings.

The Killing Caves, Battambang, Cambodia - This is the cave where hundreds of people were tortured and murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970's. Inside the cave, the bones and skulls are collected and exhibited in a cage as a monument. I walked pass the point from which mainly children were thrown into the deep cave. Bone splinters from these events are still visible. I continued down a long flight of steps, which led me into another cave, where a sleeping Buddha statue laid. There was also a caretaker at the cave (seen in the picture above). When I set foot into the cave, I spotted 2 strong rays of natural light that sip through from the canopy of the trees above the caves. The two rays of light gave a very dramatic feel to the whole place, revealing the details on the cave wall.

Patan City, Nepal - Saw this rooster (which appear from no where) running up a small flight of steps into a small opening. The natural light from the external gave very good side lighting and shadows to the rooster. The entire place was extremely dark actually, other than the small rim of light, which beautifully lit up the rooster. I caught it just in time before the rooster disappeared to the outside. Photograph shot hand-held at 1/13 of a second.

Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal - After exploring the stupa and its surrounding monasteries for a while, I felt that the spinning of prayer wheels caught my attention very much and it was a very unique action, which symbolized the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. This shot was captured in one of the monasteries adjacent to the stupa. The room that housed the giant prayer wheel was dark, with only a window providing for lighting to the activities inside. But it was just enough to cast the right amount of light on the wheel as well as the devotee walking round it. Photograph shot hand-held at 1/13 of a second.

Shwe Yan Pyay Pagoda, Inle Lake, Myanmar - The Shwe Yan Pyay Monastery (located a few kilometers north of Inle Lake, Shan State) is well known for its unique red painted, teakwood architecture. The monastery is an interesting structure on its own, with unique oval-shape windows, which serve as eye-catching frames when novice monks stand to look out. At the rear of the monastery is the living quarters populated by little novice monks who are there to seek the Buddha’s Order of Sangha (or monks). The living quarter is tidy and simple; with only natural light coming in through a few windows. It was enough to provide beautiful side lighting to a novice monk resting near the window and also show a glimpse of the environment.

Old village school, Ek Phnom District, Battambang, Cambodia - During the journey back to town after visiting Wat Ek Phnom, we passed by several local villages and made a stop at an old village school. This village school sits on a compound adjacent to the main road, which looked very much like a temple. Inside each classroom, wooden tables and chairs filled the dimly lit room that relied only on natural lighting. I caught a nice ray of light coming in from an opening near the ceiling of the classroom, coupled with the spontaneous look of this student (above).

Brick Kiln, Battambang, Cambodia - A bamboo train trip in Battambang took me to a little village at the end, with really just a few shacks selling drinks, some kids playing, and a couple kilns for brick making. Though simple, it provided a very good opportunity to photograph the locals at work in the kiln. It was extremely dim with natural light entering only from the small entrance and a ventilation opening at the top. The round ventilation opening allowed an excellent ray of light to enter, lighting up a worker perfectly who happen to be standing beneath it ready to receive a brick. Managed to catch this 'decisive moment' just in time.

~Editorial & Photography by Loy Chuan (Jan, 2012)~

Do you like this? Share it:
Lotus - 7 January, 2012 - 6:57 AM

Happy New Year Loy
Great post : Great shots!

Tony Pond - 9 January, 2012 - 11:35 AM

Once again, nice work Loy. The “ghosts’ of fleeting visitors in Ta Prohm is very effective as is the low POV in several of the photos such as the brick kiln, the school and the Apsara in Angkor Wat.

loychuan - 15 January, 2012 - 9:44 PM

Thanks Tony! Love your recent Myanmar Wharf slideshow too. Very nice work.

Foto Clipping - 18 January, 2012 - 4:34 PM

Great snap Loy! Keep iy up.

Andrew Graeme Gould - 29 January, 2012 - 1:49 AM

Beautiful use of available light in these exceptional images.
All the best from Chile…

loychuan - 30 January, 2012 - 9:34 AM

Thank you very much Andrew. Thanks for viewing!

Xue - 10 June, 2012 - 4:04 PM

Love this series, beautiful use of natural lighting to draw attention to your subject.

loychuan - 11 June, 2012 - 10:28 AM

Hi Xue, Thanks very much for your kind comments! Glad you like the photos. I had always enjoy playing with natural lightings to create mood for my photos. Have been quite a while since we met! Keep shooting ya.. Stay in touch! Cheers!

Sandhya - 24 April, 2013 - 10:30 AM

I’m an enthusiast photographer.. Came upon your site through a Google search on street photography. It’s a pleasure reading your articles, looking at your thoughtfully captured photographs and knowing about your use of light. Thanks for sharing your experiences. And all the best for more… :)

loychuan - 10 August, 2013 - 10:55 AM

Hi Sandhya, Thank you very much for viewing my photo blog and thanks for your kind compliments! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Keep in touch!

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