Stupa, Mihintale, Sri Lanka

A beautiful Stupa, surrounded by palm trees, in Mihintale, Sri LankaHasselblad 500CM classic camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Ektacolor 160 film

A Land of Serendipity

Here's an image I made in around 1992 in Mihintale, Sri Lanka. I also photographed a huge Buddha statue at the same site. It's one of my favorite photos and I'II post it here tomorrow.

The former name for the country of Sri Lanka was Ceylon and, prior to that, Serendip, from which the word Serendipity comes. And the word that describes the good fortunate associated with making beneficial discoveries, seemingly by chance, is absolutely an apt description of Sri Lanka. Should you journey there you took will likely experience many happy accidents.

Medium Format Hasselblad Film Cameras

Both photos were originally made on color negative film with a Hasselblad medium format film camera. While considered to be the bees knees of cameras for its time, I always found the Swedish made camera to be clunky. Nevertheless, the quality of the associated Zeiss (German made) lenses and the camera's relatively large negative size (6cm x 6cm) offered outstanding image quality.

Squares and Rectangles

One thing I particularly liked about the classic 120 film-based Hasselblad camera was its square format. I often feel that images composed within the bounds of a rectangular frame, whether portrait or landscape orientation, somehow effects the way the image is read. I'm suggesting that meaning, to a degree, can be associated with image orientation.

In the world of the graphic designer horizontal lines suggest stability, steadiness and repose. Picture a horizon in a seascape. Vertical lines are a little more aggressive and powerful. Think pin strip suits and ties in the corporate world. But, in a different context, such as landscape and architectural photography, vertical lines also suggest spirituality. Placing a vertical line on top of a horizontal base produces interesting results. Reliability and safety are suggested which are the notions life insurance and traditional banking institutions would want you to associate with their brands. And you can be sure that's a part of the brief given to graphic designers vying to produce that institutions logo.

Re-Orientating Your Frame of Reference

As far as the photographic frame is concerned I see horizontal orientated images as being somewhat grounded and portrait or vertically oriented images offering a potentially more transcendental or spiritual reading of the image. Does choosing one orientation over the other embed it with these qualities. Of course not. But just as light, color and gesture effect viewer response so to does composition. And image orientation is a key to good composition. It's just another thing to consider when your intention is to make compelling images that explore or communicate a particular message or theme.

I always felt that the square format was unbiased, a truly blank canvas into which the image, together with any associated messages, themes or metaphors, is added.

The Promise of a Bright Future

I loved Sri Lanka. When I visited there were security concerns associated with the countries protracted civil war. Now that the war is over I hope for a safer, fairer and more economically stable society. The good people of Sri Lanka deserve it after so many years of hardship.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru