Beautiful Black And White Photography in Luang Prabang

A formal portrait of a Buddhist monk, bathed in window light, in Luang Prabang, Laos.

I photographed this monk in Laos in the small world heritage listed town of Luang Prabang way back in January 2000. From memory there are around 33 Buddhist temples in and around the town. I think I managed to visit around 30 of them.

The original image was made with a Leica M6 camera and Leica 35 mm f/2 Summicron-M Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film.

I positioned the monk in front of a Buddha statue and utilized window light as my main (i.e., primary) light source. Light hitting the subject from one side is wonderful for emphasizing shape and texture. In the above image the shape of the monk’s head and the structure of his face have been clearly defined by the side lighting.

The fact that the light is relatively bright results in all shaded areas photographing much darker than they would have appeared to the eye at the time of making the image. A good way to remember this is via one of my photographic mantras. It reads as follows:

The brighter the light, the darker the shadows will photograph.
— Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

I originally made this image on 35 mm color transparency film. After scanning I employed Adobe Photoshop to process the digital color file and render it into black-and-white. I love the dual sense of serenity and strength within the subject. Duality is one of the recurring themes in my photography.

Light And Shadow, The Beginning Of Photography

Notice how the window light has produced luminous skin tones, while the dense shadows have added a somewhat somber, mysterious quality to the image.

The secret to the quality of the light in this image is due to the fact that it's been softened by a large window. It's good to remember that the larger the light source, the softer the quality of the light will be.

Shadows, on the other hand, conceal information and, in doing so, add a sense of mystery to our images. What's more shadows enhance shape and bring a sense of three dimensional space to our photos.

Light and shadow are the most fundamental elements in photography composition. Paying attention to them can only enhance the impact of your own photography. 

I hope you enjoy the final result as much as I do. Because I've been photographing for so long most of my images go back to the days of film-based photography. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of negatives and slides I hope to scan one day. And I'd love to share those photos with you here, on this site. Now there's a big project for the future.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru