Monks on their Morning Alms Round in Luang Prabang, Laos
Most photographers in Laos will get up before sunrise on at least one occasion to try to photograph the Buddhist monks on their morning alms round. The most stunning place to see this ancient ritual is in the northern Laos city of Luang Prabang, where long lines of hundreds of monks will leave dozens of Wats, or monasteries, and silently pad around the town collecting gifts of food.
Sadly, the morning alms round has got so popular that on the main street of Luang Prabang, great knots of tourists, push and jostle each other, getting in the way of the monks and firing off flashes in the early morning gloom. If you choose your spot though, you can have a quiet and contemplative experience, and crucially be able to stand far enough back from the monks so as not to intrude or offend.
I was struck by the long lines of shuffling monks, and the economy of movement of the faithful who give out the alms. Partly due to the low light levels (which in the days of film was a much greater issue that when shooting digital) and partly to accentuate the movement, I opted for a long exposure. This was around 1 or 2 seconds, which was enough to blur the monks, but not the locals who were giving them alms. This was the perfect spot to photograph, as there were no other tourists around, and some of the locals were a little slow, so that the line backed up, forming a solid block of colour, and reducing the movement to give an interesting degree of blur.
It is sometimes strange to look back on shots that were shot on film, and to remember the thrill of finally seeing the developed results, rather than the instant gratification of digital. It was also much trickier in those days, as you had to get everything right in camera, without the help of histograms and LCD screens!
Nikon F5 with Fuji Provia 100 ASA film
Nikon 28-70mm lens
Exposure not noted
Words and image © Steve Davey/stevedavey.com 2014
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