Photographing a Resting Yogi in India

Black and white portrait of a yogi in India resting in the grounds of a temple complex by the banks of the Hooghly River in Kolkata.

I met and photographed this yogi in India in the grounds of a temple by the banks of the River Hooghly on the outskirts of Kolkata.

He was a gentle soul and I’m really happy the yogi allowed me to make his portrait.

The scene itself was mostly devoid of color. The shrubs were mostly dark green in color, which wasn’t particularly uplifting.

Sunlit greens are a different thing, but green foliage in deep shade is usually quite dank and uninspiring.

It seemed obvious that this image needed to be rendered into black and white. By removing the color the light, which is crucial to the success of the image, becomes even more dominant.

I may end up adding a deep sepia tone down the road aways. I think the nostalgic feel associated with a sepia tone would be appropriate to this image and to the sense of calm and serenity this travelling yogi emanated.

What Is A Yogi?

A yogi is the name given to a wandering religious ascetic in India. In Hindu mythology the god Shiva and the goddess Parvati are depicted as an emblematic yogi-yogini pair.

If you’re looking for a definitive yogi definition you might be in trouble.

In fact there are a number of different meanings for the word yogi across Hinduism, Buddhism, Pali, Sanskrit and Marathi. Here’s just a few:

  • A transcendentalist or advanced practitioner of yoga

  • One who practices meditation

  • One of the 108 names of Krishna, the Supreme Master

You should never be worried about approaching someone so different to yourself. Just remember you are at least as interesting to them as they are to you.

And that’s true whether you’re in Kuwait City, Kansas City or Kolkata.

Clearly it’s important that your intentions are pure.

But it’s also important how you go about making your photos.

As long as you’re able to make your photos quickly and without making your subject uncomfortable or overly self conscious you shouldn’t be concerned.

That’s precisely how I went about making this photo of the yogi and a key reason underpinning the success of the photo.

The Luminous Yogi

Photography is all about light, but it was fading fast and I had to move quickly to make the photo.

The yogi was already sitting, so it was a simple matter to ask him to turn so that the low angled sun illuminated his eyes and the top part of his face.

Cameras That Make Composition Easier

Can you see how the line that separates light from dark is basically following the line of his beard.

Composition is important to me.

A camera with a large, bright and high resolution viewfinder makes it easier to identify important elements of composition within the frame.

By making subtle movements of the camera it’s then possible to control placement of those important elements.

If you don’t put your eye right into your camera’s viewfinder it can be really hard to judge the exact moment when the subject’s eyes and expression are optimal for the result you’re seeking.

Travelling Yogi Meets The travel Photography guru

But even with a full frame camera it's still possible to miss important details.

As he seemed shy by nature I made the photo of the yogi quickly and moved on.

It wasn't until I processed the image back in my studio in Melbourne, Australia that I realized that what looks like a tail coming out from his lower back was, in fact, a very long ponytail. Incredible!

Kolkata is a city steeped in history with a rich culture. This was just one of many surprises that came my way as I explored this deeply spiritual city.

New India Photography Collection

If you haven't yet seen it just click to see my new India Photography Collection.

Where possible I recommend looking at these images on a tablet or, better still, a large screen monitor.

You’ll see lots of Kolkata street photography and portraiture from Kolkata and Chennai.

Hindu Deities, Chennai, India

About to Travel?

See the Yogi, Nice And Big

By the way the same is true for any of the photos appearing on my blog, including the photo of the yogi.

I make photos on this site as large as I can, but I also have to allow space for text and extra information within each blog post.

Clicking on any of the images in my regular blog posts will enlarge that image onto a clean, black screen where it can be viewed large and without interference.

I recommend you do this whenever you see a photo that you like.

I’ve photographed priests, nuns and monks from a variety of religions around the world. But it was during this trip to India that I had the good fortune to meet and photograph a yogi.

I really hope I get another opportunity one day soon.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru