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Wheel of Law_Lhasa_Tibet

Hasselblad 503CWi camera and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC Professional film

The Wheel of Law represents the teachings of the Buddha and the endless cycle of death and rebirth known as Samsara. The hub represents moral discipline, which stabilizes the mind; the spokes wisdom to dispel ignorance; and the rim training in concentration to hold everything together. The wheel’s eight spokes are also a symbol of the Noble Eightfold Path from the Buddha’s teachings while the motion of the wheel is a metaphor for the rapid spiritual change possible by adherence to these teachings. The Wheel of Law is often a central element in a Mandala, which is a geometric representation of the Buddhist universe.

The wheel or chakra is a significant symbol in Buddhism. The Buddha’s teaching are referred to as the Dharma, so the term Dharmachakra, which literally translates as the wheel of law or transformation, symbolizes both the Buddha and his teachings. When flanked by two deer, as is commonly the case in Tibetan Buddhism, the wheel symbolizes the Buddha’s first sermon at the deer park in Benares, known today as Varanasi, in present day India.

Today’s image features the Wheel of Law photographed on the rooftop of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. The image was made with a Hasselblad camera on medium format color negative film. After scanning the image was processed in Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Towards the Border_Tibet

Canon New F1 camera and Canon 24mm lens with Agfachrome 100 film

The last leg on that momentous 1988 journey from Lhasa to the Nepalese border, via Chomolungma (Mt Everest), and then onto Kathmandu and beyond found my friends (Liz and Lee) and I driving for the last few hours on a steep descent down to the border. The hard and mostly barren landscape and the dry, rarified air of the Tibetan Plateau were being replaced by gentle, green water-filled views and moisture-laden air as we continued our descent towards the border. I remember feeling invigorated and extremely alert. It’s amazing what a dramatic change in landscape and a heck of a lot more oxygen will do for ones sense of well being. My skin was tingling with excitement.

Closing the aperture down to f22 provided the large depth of field (DOF) I required and, with the resulting slow Shutter Speed, allowed me to emphasize the speed and softness of the flowing water. It’s a fascinating concept be able to record movement within the still frame. Just remember the slower the Shutter Speed the more mist-like the water will appear.  It probably only took about 30 seconds to jump out of our 4WD and make the shot. And I’m glad I did. The trip was so long ago, and there have been others since, that a photograph is often the best way to trigger memories of places, faces and friendships. Here’s to more of the same for us all.

The original 35mm transparency was brought back to life through scanning prior to being processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Adobe Photoshop CS4 where I applied split toning to produce greenish shadows and subtle yellow and pink highlights.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Pic of the Week_River_Everest Region_Tibet

Canon New F1 camera and Canon 24mm lens with Agfachrome 100 slide film

My friends Liz, Leif, Lee and I crossed this river, with the aid of a 4 wheel drive and our Chinese driver, on the way to a night spent at Base Camp in the valley directly below Chomolungma (Mount Everest) in Tibet. This was 1988 and our 1,000km trip from Lhasa to the holy mountain and then beyond to the Nepalese border involved passes of around 5,000 meters above sea level. I thought this was a pretty fair achievement for a lad from a small town in Western Victoria in South East Australia. Then I met a young western woman (possibly Swedish, though I can’t remember with any certainty) who was undertaking the trip on horseback.

On our arrival I remember passing an English mountaineering expedition who were not very happy with the fact that we would be camping closer to the mountain than them. I befriended an Italian climber who asked me to join his team for breakfast. He was a really nice guy and made sure the team’s doctor checked me over as I’d had trouble due to the high altitude.

My friends and I were treated with a wonderfully clear night by which to view the north face of Mount Everest. We then spent a very cold night huddled together in our tiny tent, prior to the last leg of our journey down to the Nepalese border.

The original 35mm transparency was scanned prior to being processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Adobe Photoshop CS4.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Memories of Shangri-la_Part 1

Canon New F1 Camera and Canon 50mm f1.8 lens with Agfachrome 100 film

This image was made during my very first overseas trip. Some folks will recognize the Potala Palace, the former winter palace of the Dalai Lama, in the background. The year was 1988 and I was 26 years of age. Now, I need to take a moment to apologize for several things. Firstly, the hat I’m wearing in this picture. Akubra hats, made popular by golfer Greg Norman, were popular with some types of Aussie tourists during the 80’s. I was a bit young for that demographic, but was sold the hat by legendary Collingwood footballer Bob Rose, who my mum loves to say danced with her at the Collingwood town hall in 195o something. She even mentioned this fact to him at a function in the 90’s. Surprisingly he didn’t seem to remember. The second thing I need to apologize for are the photos themselves. I was an experienced wedding and portrait photographer with some extra experience as a newspaper photographer. But I had little experience in landscape and photojournalism. Finally, camera problems and poor processing ruined most of the images I made during the trip.

Nevertheless I believe there’s value in what I have to share so I’ve decided to outline some of the more memorable moments from the 3½ months trip over 2 separate posts. Part 2 will be posted a week from today, while part 1 can be summarized as follows:

Melbourne to Hong Kong

The day before the trip’s commencement I began to feel ill. I ended up flying with what seemed to be the worst flu I have ever had. My sinuses were blocked and the pain suffered was quite severe. None of the drugs in my substantial medical kit seemed appropriate to the task.

My trusty guidebook recommended backpacker accommodation in Kowloon for some unbelievable price, I think around US$3 or US$4 a night. To this day I’ve never met a local, either now or then, who believed that price. It was an absolute dive and most of the people who stayed there, one room for guys and one for gals, were pretty sleazy. They seemed to spend most of their time involved in a range of dodgy activities with the sole aim of extending their stay and, as a result, avoid returning home. Small time black market activities including currency exchange and off-loading hard to buy electrical goods in nearby countries seemed to be popular activities. The thing is they never seemed to do anything of value. They existed rather than lived.

The highlight of my stay was a trip on the Star Ferry where I met Stephanie, a local gal who a few years later moved to Vancouver because of her families concerns regarding Hong Kong’s re-unification with China. We became good friends and stayed in contact for many years afterwards.

Hong Kong to Shenzhen

I took the train into Shenzhen; one of the then newly established special economic zones. Upon arrival I looked for accommodation. With no luck I headed back to the railway station at dusk. The area seemed to be deserted. I was immediately surrounded and harassed by a bunch of thugs outside the railway station. Weighed down by a 20kg backpack on my back and holding a camera backpack and tripod I was forced to do a Lancelot and swing the tripod around. There were so many of them that, if they really wanted to hurt me, I’m sure they could have. Nevertheless, it took all my wits and a dash of post-colonial bravo, to get out of that one.

After about a week in Shenzhen, most of it spent at a brand new, soulless and extremely expensive hotel on the outskirts of town my sinus infection had eased enough for me to get back on the road. Though it is a condition that returns to this day I’ve found ways of managing it. Understanding what your body can cope with physically and being better able to manage stress can help protect your immune system from attack from such debilitating and prolonged illnesses.

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Photographing Strangers


Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron Aspherical lens with Kodak Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

When approaching strangers it’s important to accept a refusal for what it is. Not a personal rebuttal, insult or negative reaction to you as a person, but an indication of how your potential subject feels on the day in question. It may be that business is bad, that they are unwell or that they’ve just had an argument with their partner. Alternatively, they may never have had the good fortune of being photographed in such a way to produce a pleasing likeness. How would you feel and respond in similar circumstances?

When approaching strangers it’s important, except in the case of cultural sensitivities (either yours or theirs), to ask for permission in a clear and straightforward manner. You may find it helpful to state your name and the reason for wanting to make the picture. It’s always a good idea to include a compliment as part of your request. For example:

Hi, my name’s Glenn. I’m on holidays and noticed the wonderful hat you’re wearing. We don’t have anything quite like that where I’m from. I’d really appreciate it if you’d allow me to make a photograph. Or, alternatively,

Hi, my name’s Jenny. I’m a student photographer studying at the @#$% Institute of Photography and this week’s assignment is to photograph artists and their artwork. I noticed your gallery from across the street and now that I’ve seen your exhibition I’d be honoured if you’d allow me to photograph you with one of your paintings.

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Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm-M f2 Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Hasselblad 500CW camera and Hasselblad 150mm f4 Sonnar lens with Kodak Professional Portra 160VC film

I discovered this mantra carved onto a rock on a hill overlooking the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Often carved as a kind of meditation, I believe the process combines religious and artistic practices. It is for this reason that I consider such pieces to be art rather than craft.

I cropped the original medium format (square) color negative into landscape format prior to rendering in black-and-white. I feel the resulting image better conveys the significance of the mantra as well as the dramatic beauty of the country’s harsh climate and terrain. I employed Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop CS3 to process the image. Subtle split toning was applied to warm the highlights and cool the shadows.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Tibet on two occasions. In 1988 I travelled from Lhasa to Kathmandu, Nepal including a side trip to Everest Base Camp on the Tibetan side. In 2000 I further explored Lhasa and visited the recently restored Ganden Gompa (Monastery) at 5,000 meters above sea level. I look forward to my next trip, which I expect will include the new train journey from Beijing to Lhasa. I can’t wait.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography  

Cleaner, Lhasa, Tibet


Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

I made this image during my second visit to Tibet. I noticed the elderly lady sweeping a hallway out of the corner of my eye. Because she was backlit by quite bright light I knew she would photograph as a silhouette. All I had to do was to ensure that my composition allowed enough of her body shape, and that of the broom, to stand out against the near white background. The trick when making silhouettes is to ensure that your subject forms a graphic shape. In the absence of color it is this important design element that provides the dynamic that moves the image away from the individual towards the iconic.

The original image was made on a Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm Summicron-M Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film. I employed Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop CS3 to render the original color image into black-and-white and then add a warm tone to the image. I’m happy that such a quick and simple snap (that’s all it was) can convey the concept of hard work and a positive view of the elderly.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography 

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