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Tibet – Dancing in the Dark

The Tibet gallery on my website (www.derrickchoo.com) is finally up!  You can find it under TRAVEL -> China -> Tibet.  Compared to the previous version of my website, I have expanded the Tibet gallery from 23 to 59 photographs.  Compared to all the other galleries on my website, this Tibet gallery has the largest number of photographs.  Many of these Tibet photographs have previously only been seen by a few people.  Do visit my website and check out the photographs.

For this post, I want to share some background information behind the following photographs, Dancing In the Dark.

The photograph was taken at the Samye Monastery on the 25th of February 2004.  We were staying at one of the monastery’s guest rooms for the night and had just finished our dinner when we were drawn towards the sound of singing in the courtyard outside.  We found a group of Tibetan men and women who hand-in-hand had formed a large circle.  One half of the circle was made up by the men and the other half by the women.  The men and women would take turns to sing as they danced around in the circle.  Seated in the center of the circle was a man who looked like he was in a trance.  There was a large container of Yak Butter Milk Tea beside him and once in a while, 2 men would go into the circle, scoop out some tea and pass them out to the men and women in the circle to drink.  The following are a few selected additional images I took of the dancing and singing.  The group of men and women sometimes broke the continuity of the circle as they danced so you can see the man sitting in the centre.




As a photographer, understanding and knowing the light sources available in the scene in front of me is very important.  It is normally the first thing I look out for and assess before I start shooting.  In this case, it was extremely dark in the courtyard with two main spotlights that seemed to alternate on and off once in a while. One would come on and then slowly fade to black and then the other spotlight would come on.  In the backlit photograph at the top of this post, you can see the scene being lit up by the left spotlight.  If you look carefully, you can see the other spotlight to the right side, which is off.  Knowing the direction and intensity of the light, I could then determine what kind of photographs were possible and how to get them.  For example, if I wanted a silhouette shot, I should take the image from here.  If I wanted to take photos of the shadows, I should stand over there.  If I wanted to take photos that showed the faces of the women, I should stand over the other side.  And so on.

I think I was either shooting with Fuji Neopan 1600 black and white film or Kodak TriX 400 black and white film that I pushed 2 stops to ISO 1600.  These shots were taken on my Leica camera with a 35mm lens.  I was shooting wide open (aperture set to f1.4) the whole time because it was so dark.  The Leicas were great for this trip; despite the cold and harsh environment (lots of dust and sand), I never had any problems with the cameras or lenses.  I cleaned everything daily and they worked flawlessly.  I think the small LR44 batteries in my Leica cameras lasted me the whole 7 weeks I was travelling.

As mentioned in the previous post, I have disabled the Comment feature of the blog due to excessive spam.  All the images on my website are available for sale as limited edition prints.  If you have any questions about the images or would like to check availability and pricing, please Contact Me.