Hi guys. Sorry for the delay since our last “Behind the Scenes” post! As promised, I’ll be sharing the back story, location, technique and thought process behind one of our photographs – today I’ll be talking about one of my favourite photos from Cambodia in the first half of 2017.
Behind the Scenes
I made this photo, “The Water Blessing,” on a trip to one of my favourite Buddhist pagodas in Siem Reap Province during one of our Beyond Angkor photography tours. For Cambodians, water blessings are a sacred, spiritual experience; it is a traditional practice that dates back to ancient times and is performed in most of the pagodas across Cambodia by expert monks. This kind of blessing involves vessels of blessed water being poured over your head while the monks chant. This ritual is believed to bring good luck and happiness.
With rituals like this, the buzzword is always “sensitivity.” You can’t go in all-guns-blazing, so to speak, and so it’s incredibly important to obtain the permission of your subjects before even lifting the camera to your face. Admittedly, photography isn’t as taboo here as would be the case in Europe or North America; Cambodians are an incredibly warm people and are known to be welcoming to curious visitors to their country. This meant I was able to get incredibly close while taking this photograph; using the “storytelling” perspective that I get from my Fuji X100T and 35mm equivalent lens to become part of the scene.
In capturing the scene you see here, I had a few key considerations. First of all, unlike a lot of other DSLRs and mirrorless cameras nowadays, the Fuji X100T has no weather-sealing. A few drops of water are fine, but it was important to prevent the camera from getting a drenching! The second issue I had was with waning light; at already 5:15pm according to my EXIF data, and with the sun dipping below the horizon at 6pm at this time of year, there wasn’t much light to work with. And what little light I had happened to be backlighting my subjects, which can cause problems in metering and also in obtaining focus on certain cameras. The metering isn’t so much an issue with the Fuji; that “WYSIWYG” (“what you see is what you get”) effect when looking through an EVF is one of the things I love so much about it! The AF performance is nothing to write home about, however. Lastly, I had to consider the shutter speed. I didn’t need to completely freeze the water droplets mid-air, but it was important that it was plain enough to the viewer that this was water being thrown.
Most of the time I work in manual mode, but this time, after a couple of test shots, I decided to go with aperture priority mode. I did this mainly because the light was constant, and while the scene was dynamic, it wasn’t subject to spontaneous movement and so I could be a little more adventurous with my depth of field, particularly as the backdrop played only a small role in the scene. I opened up my aperture to f/2 in order to allow more light to enter my lens; this also gave me a good balance between shutter speed and ISO, with the former being fast enough to freeze emotions and stop the water from blurring too much, and with the latter, I was able to stop the image from becoming too noisy.
With my settings primed, I waited for the right moment to shoot. The combination of autofocus single shot (I don’t find the continuous AF very reliable on the X100T… maybe something that will have been improved upon with the new X100F – Chris has had nothing but good things to say about the autofocus capabilities of his “new toy,” the Fuji X-T2). I did, however, set the camera to continuous capture mode; at 6 frames per second I was given the technological tools I needed to freeze the moment you see here…
… I did, however, completely forget about my first consideration; the splash from this kind of ritual can be rather large. In a hot and dusty country like Cambodia, I didn’t so much mind the dousing myself, any opportunity to cool off is always welcomed, and fortunately my Fuji lived on to fight another day!
Camera: Fujifilm X100T
Lens: Fujinon 23mm f/2 fixed focal length lens (35mm equivalent on Full Frame)
Mode: aperture priority
Shutter Speed: 1/140sec
Focal Length: 23mm
Processing: Adobe Lightroom 6