Thursday 18 October 2012
The plane skimmed over the Himalayan mountain tops, so close you felt you could reach out and touch them, and a few minutes later we were on the tarmac in Paro, Bhutan. The sun was shining, the welcome warm and soon the group of us was bundled into a cavalcade of six comfortable vehicles: two guests, a guide and a driver per car. It was a great way to travel.
Within a kilometre, the cars in front stopped and I wondered what had happened. The answer was photography, of course, and Robert van Koesveld had his photographers out photographing the locals harvesting their wheat. We stopped a few more times above the airport to watch the few planes take-off and navigate their way through the narrow pass, back over the Himalayas.
We spent a little time in the village of Paro. I walked into a shoe store and asked if I could photograph the storekeepers, to which I received a friendly yes and a request for copies of the photographs. This would become a recurrent theme and I made up a list of prints required upon my return.
The cloisters above the main quadrangle, Paro Dzong, Bhutan. Intricately carved, there is not a nail to be found in the construction. Ravens in flight above the roof.
After lunch, we drove to the 7th Century Kyichu Lhakhang (temple). Difficult to shoot as an architectural overview, there were some interesting characters sitting around the temple grounds. An 85mm wide-open produced some interesting portraits and while one lady insisted on payment, the others were gracious in being photographed. At least, I think this was the case as our conversations were all based on body language and smiles.
Monk standing in courtyard inside Paro Dzong, Paro, Bhutan.
Next was the Paro Dzong where the movie Little Buddha was filmed. And I can understand why because it is a spectacular location. The late afternoon sunset created three amazing photographic opportunities. In the main courtyard, back-lighting lit up the monks as they scurried from room to room with their meals. Lower down, sunlight pouring through windows that looked out over the valley below created a fascinating pattern of shadows on the stone paving. I managed to sweet talk a young monk to stand in position between the columns. And then immediately behind, the huge white facade of the main tower was directly lit by the setting sun, creating more great shapes and silhouettes.
We drove from Paro to Thimphu as the light declined, stopping to shoot a small temple with a couple of bridges crossing a ravine in front. For a first day in Bhutan, I felt it was a pretty incredible experience. I couldn't wait to see what the next day would bring.
Late afternoon sunrays over the small town of Paro, Bhutan.