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Lama Jamga



Lama Jamga is the 64 year old head of religious instruction at a small nunnery in Kham, Tibet. He is a follower of the Nyingma (ancient order) school of Tibetan...
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Lama Jamga is the 64 year old head of religious instruction at a small nunnery in Kham, Tibet. He is a follower of the Nyingma (ancient order) school of Tibetan Buddhism. They trace their lineage back to the 9th Century.
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Awards

Contest Finalist in Exploring Spirituality Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in Beards and Mustaches Photo Contest
Contest Finalist in The Photojournalist Photo Contest
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Behind The Lens

Location
At a very small Buddhist nunnery in Gaze district, Sichuan province. Formerly known as "Kham", eastern Tibet.
Time
Approximately 3pm
Lighting
It was a small room filled with cushions, low wooden tables, shrines of the goddess Tara, hanging coloured banners, and other paraphernalia of Tibetan Tantric Buddhist traditions of the Nyingma sect. "Nyingma" translates as "ancient order". They claim to be the earliest surviving school of Buddhist in Tibet, dating from approximately the 8th century AD. I was working in a very small, dark space with only natural light from one window. The subject had come to the room to receive donations from myself and my Tibetan guide and driver. The 16 nuns in attendance chanted, and Lama Jumga officiated the event. I asked him to sit by the window, looking out. Besides never sitting for a portrait, he did not want to be distracted from his duties. I was given perhaps two or three minutes to position him and adjust settings. A coloured sheer curtain was causing a cyan glow on his face, which had to be put out of the way for the second or third photograph.
Equipment
My only equipment was a Phase One IQ280. I recall it was a 55mm/f.2.8 No flash, tripod, ect.
Inspiration
I had hoped to shoot the nuns chanting, but the room was too dark with bare eco bulbs hanging to further complicate matters. I had a flash, but there just wasn't time for a proper set up.
Editing
I'm a generation or so behind front line processing plug ins and programs. This was opened in Capture One v.9, and some adjustment was made to lower register carpet and rosary. There was a hanging plastic bag on the rear wall which was removed. Some additional work on skin tone to remove the cyan glow caused by a greenish curtain on both sides of the window.
In my camera bag
Too much, but I frequently travel in very remote areas, and the opportunity to replace something isn't an option. So I carry a Nikon D800 for emergency back up ( also low light situations) with only a 24-70mm and 105 macro lenses. Main camera was a Leaf 50 Credo which gave up the ghost on the first day of arriving in eastern Tibet. So I had to use my Phase One 80 mpx medium format back up when lighting conditions permitted. Lenses for Mamiya/Phase one are usually 35mm, 55mm, 80mm, 110mm, 150mm, 75-150mm, 210mm and a 240mm. Tripod, monopod, 2 x A1 prophoto lights, Lee filter kit, foul weather gear, tape measure, torch, usual cleaning equipment, and @ 9 spare batteries for the Phase One. a
Feedback
Find an interesting subject in an interesting setting. If the setting is unattractive or distracting, gently request the subject to shift to a better position or location. If possible, spend a few moments to help the subject get comfortable with posing. In my case, it's a first time experience for them. And if their friends are around, it can be a very useful and supportive addition, particularly for women. I try to avoid imposing myself on isolated women so they don't feel threatened. These kinds of portraits have to be done quickly. As subjects can be uncomfortable being the focus of attention and that nervousness comes out in the image. Many times if I'm unsatisfied with the first attempt, I show the subject their photo on the live view LED screen. Many times that pleases them and they become cooperative for a while longer. In Asia it is imperative that we do not use our hands on their heads or faces to guide them into a pose we prefer. I always apologize before asking them to shift. If the setting isn't interesting, I open my lens a bit more for bokeh and subject accentuation. Now I use longer lenses, i.e. 150mm for portraits so I'm a bit farther from the subject for their comfort. Avoid the impulse for a close up if their body language indicates their comfort zone is being breached. Always, always, show the subject the final photo and thank them. Ideally, when the circumstances merit, with a gratuity or small gift. Visiting villages and remote locations I always pack small gifts for children. Gift giving is more critical in Asian societies than it is in the west, and besides, I'm departing with a wonderful gift of their photo too. Smiles and generosity. I make myself the butt of my jokes, play the fool a bit to lighten any nervousness. Good luck and happy clicking.

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