How to Photograph a Statue During the Middle of the Day

Black and white sepia-like image of the reclining buddha statue outdoors in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Here's an interesting conundrum that most folks face when they're traveling to exotic locations. It's the middle of the day and the bus driver has encouraged you to alight the vehicle, but to be back on board within 20 minutes. You look around and decide whether its worthwhile following the tour guide, which will likely involve more listening than it will looking (let alone seeing). If you're like me you'll be off exploring and making images that are much more than just records of the places you've visited.


During a visit to Thailand during 2011 I thought it would be worthwhile breaking with my usual solo travels to join a few one day tours, including one to Ayutthaya where I photographed the reclining buddha in the above photo.

From this photographers point of view the tour was, as expected, pretty average. Tours spend a lot of time picking people up and dropping them off, and tend to schedule events and locations around meals and the dreaded stop at a gem or carpet shop. So-called cultural shows are fun, but really pretty tame events that rarely provide more than a taste of the history or culture in question.

I usually hire my own car, driver and local guide. But, as I now run my own photography tours, I thought it would be an interesting experiment to experience a more generic tour where the needs of a photographer are really not catered for. I was not surprised but, as expected, was somewhat disappointed. Nevertheless, I made the most of it and worked hard to make good photos from pretty limited opportunities.

In the case of the above photo I used a few old-school techniques to make, as I like to say, something from nothing. It is an interesting statue, but its near panoramic proportions do not lend themselves to a detailed study of the statues expression, surfaces textures, etc. As a color photo the blue sky, which I enhanced with the application of a polarizing filter, provided a color contrast with the warm yellow of the stone. The trouble was that the sky became just as important as the statue and I really didn't see the image being about color. I say it more about tonality and texture.

To both add texture and help to frame the buddha statue I included some overhanging branches within the frame. As I say, old-school techniques.

Finally the decision to render the image into a sepia-like black and white helped to emphasize the tonal and textural qualities within the scene.

While not a portfolio image the above photo does help tell the story of the day and that particular trip to Thailand. It's amazing what's possible with a little effort and the preparedness to try something different.

When in doubt, just move. It gets the brain going and creativity flowing. And remember the creative process doesn't end in camera. There's a new world awaiting on the desktop.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru