Tag Archives: Tibet


Anatomy of an Image #4

Window Light Portrait in Tibet

Buddhist Monk in Potala Palace, Lhasa, ibet

Many of you mostly know me as a wedding photographer.  Many years ago, I also worked quite a bit doing adventure travel photographer for magazines like Outside and National Geographic Adventure. While spending nearly two months traveling in Asia, I made a number or portraits throughout Tibet, China, and Nepal.
Sometimes a photograph takes a lot of planning and preparation. Other times it is just a matter of just seeing it and making it happen. I saw this monk sitting by a window inside of a monastery in the Potala Palace (the Dali Llama’s winter home) in Lhasa, Tibet. The light coming into the monastery through a dirt covered window.  It made an excellent softbox.  I couldn’t ask the monk directly if I could take his picture since I didn’t speak that much Tibetan, so I gestured to him and to the camera, and he nodded his approval.  In order to achieve the Rembrandt lighting I was looking for, I just took a small step into the room so he turned his head away from the window just enough to allow the small triangle of light to fall on his cheek bone.
This is actually the second image I made.  In the first one, the monk was smiling just a little, but I felt like it didn’t quite fit the mood of the lighting.  Instead just as I lowered the camera, I made this second image in which he had a much more natural expression on his face. That is a “trick” that I have used repeatedly in my career, especially when photographing weddings. Many times the expression in the initial image looks forced, while a split second later, it is much more relaxed and natural.

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I Can Order Beer in 10 Languages


My wife, Carin, and I really enjoy traveling.  I wish I was one of those cultured individuals that could carry on a conversation in dozens of languages as I traveled the world.  Sadly, that just isn’t the case. What I can do is go is order beer in Mandarin Chinese, Nepali, German, French, Tibetan, Spanish (both Castillian and Mexican,) Japanese, and of course, several variations of English.


Beer might be one of humanity’s oldest inventions, dating back at least 7,000 years. and has been credited for the existence of civilization because it was safer to drink than water.  As it turns out this was likely due to the fact that water needed to be boiled to make the beer, thus they ended up unknowingly killing the microorganisms. (It’s easy for the chemist in my to geek out on beer.)


It is almost universally enjoyed in every civilization on earth dating back to Mesopotamian times. Each culture has its own variation on it from the darker and heavy ales of England to the light and crisp beers of Asia.  I may be biased, but I still think the best beers from from the United States, and particularly right here in Colorado.
Once, when Carin and I were in London, we stopped in at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub in a dark alley off of Fleet Street. The Chesire Cheese has been in the same location for just shy of 500 years, and it definitely feels like it on the inside complete with gloomy rooms and coal burning fireplace. The cellars supposedly day back to the 13th century. While there we met a lovely couple from the country that was in London to see a play. After a beer at the bar, we ended up dining together, sharing stories, and even stayed in touch through letters for several years afterwards.

But I digress. When traveling, there is nothing better than sitting down with new friends over a glass of beer, and sharing stories and traveler’s tales. I remember playing pool in Tibet with our guide and a few locals while sharing some beer. I spoke almost no Tibetan, but my ability to order beer was enough to open the door to a fun night.  When you have games to play and beer to drink, you don’t need a common language to enjoy the company of new friends.

On another trip, Carin and I decided to take a drive through the south coast of Spain and visit some of the smaller out of the way villages.  We had no plan, no guidebook, just a map and the desire to get lost in the countryside. In some ways, Spain was more difficult than Tibet, because I speak just enough Spanish to get in over my head.  The thing is, I can walk into a restaurant, say hello, ask how the weather is, ask for a table, and order beer with just enough of an accent to sound like I might speak the language.  Unfortunately, my entire 3 years of high school Spanish was exhausted in that initial exchange. When our waiter asks us something else, I am left completely clueless.  I think I need how to say the following phrase in Spanish:

My apologies, but I think I may have misrepresented my ability to speak your language. May I have a beer?

If you ever run in to Carin and I while we are out traveling, pull up a chair and join us. The first round is on me.

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Living the Dream and Remembering to Work

People walk in to my shop in Breckenridge every day and remind me how lucky I am to be able to live the dream and turn my passion in to my profession, and they are absolutely correct. In reality, I don’t need any reminder as to how lucky I am. Photography has brought me into the lives of countless people, through portrait and wedding photography, and has enabled me to travel to far corners of the world and experience things that would have been impossible if it wasn’t for me being a professional photographer.

Out of the last year, I’ve spent over four months travelling in order to photograph.  I spent a month of that time in Tibet, where I was able to stay in guest houses sipping yak butter tea while watching the sun rise on Mount Everest.  I spent two weeks on a road trip to California with my wife, during which time, I alternated between days of photography and rock climbing.  For nearly two months I explored New England during the peak of the fall colors. I have photographed 2 weddings in Nepal, one in Washington D.C., another on the beach in Southern California, not to mention countless weddings across Colorado.  This to me is what living the dream is all about.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of how this is all possible.  Part of that is realizing that photography is only a small part of the equation.  There are many things that most people don’t know about that are required in order for me to be a successful photographer.  So much time is spent on budgeting, it borders on ridiculous.  For instance, when I traveled to Asia this past year, I incurred a lot of expenses.  I had to weigh the option of having a magazine pick up the tab, or paying for the trip myself and having more freedom to photograph what I want.  Then there is the question of whether or not I could pay for the expense with income earned from the project.  This is an exceedingly impossible task due to all the variables involved.

Also, there is this illusion that photographers are self employed.  People say that it must be great to make my own hours.  A lot of time it is, but I also work pretty hard.  It isn’t unusual for me to work 20 hours each day when on a project or photographing a wedding.  With wedding photography there are no second chances, do overs, sick days, or good enoughs.  It has to be perfect the very first time.  With each wedding, I photograph, hours of time is devoted to planning every detail ahead of time, because I know expectations are nothing less than perfection.

That all being said, I do love my job.  I am getting to live my dream, but sometimes I need to remind myself of all the work that goes in to it, because the last thing I want is to become complacent.

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Faces of the Himalaya Show January 9th, 2009 at Altitude Gallery.

I love the mountains and the outdoors, but my favorite thing about travelling (aside from eating exotic foods) is getting a chance to meet with people from different cultures around the world. Before leaving for Asia, I had planned on photographing landscapes, mountains, rivers, and ancient monasteries. However, after a few days of travelling through Tibet, I was really drawn to the people there.

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