Ladakh, Dark Monasteries and Portraiture using Rim Light

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I was in Ladakh, leading a photo tour in 2014. My group was fully immersed into the peaceful atmosphere of the Thiksey monastery , south of Leh. Thiksey has some windows on the west direction. Though them. I love to see the green farms and the dark narrow crisscrossing roads in between. Beyond that a wide open yellow desert, ending at the mountains standing on the back. Most times I chose the late afternoon here, so all this can be seen in a beautiful warm, low angle light.

Well this low angle light also has an advantage here. Monasteries are usually dark with a very few windows. When the angle of sun to the earth is low, I love how this light penetrates into the dark walls. Then all the sculptures inside start glowing at their edges. I love to look for this situation and obtain a lovely portrait with the “rim light”. On this tour my participant, friend and one of the most beautiful soul I have known, Mr. Faizal was walking and quietly admiring the structure and the sculptures. Before my group goes inside I give some ideas in advance, so inside I let them explore by themselves, very rarely disturbing their mind fully engulfed into exploring or photographing. So, I saw Faizal walking against this window, and stopped in front of one of the Buddhist idol.  I was too observing the light traveling over him, as he moved. Just as he stopped I decided to photograph him. Quickly adjusted my angle and of course all the necessary technical settings. Two shots and he realized that I was photographing him. We then went ahead and had a nice session on how to photograph with the rim light.

Here is Faizal, a low key portrait:


Notice the light just barely touching the edges of his face forehead, nose, cheek and chin. Notice how the light from the hat and  his glasses define him more as Faizal, than anyone else.Such rim light has always been my favorite light and have taken many portraits of the people and idols whenever I traveled. Dark shadows and rim light in my opinion is a wonderful way to bring out the personality.

I took this on 7D and on my favorite 55-250 lens, a light and sharp lens, cheap but performs great. I used ISO 2500 and f5.6 at 1/50 seconds handheld.

Before you go, notice how the light reflecting from his chin softly brushes the bottom edge of his earlobes, that break the monotonousness of the shadows, had they continued to be present till the frame ends on the left. Look how I kept plenty of space in front of his face.  Look how light starts from the top of his hat and reach the bottom edge as it travels over the zipper of his jacket, completing it.



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