Photologue Thai Budhist Temple E-mail

Large Budhist Statue Budhist temples are, like any temple or church really, ripe with great photo opportunities that are there for your taking.  Whether your interest is the religious medition, the fantastic statues and ornamentation, or the contrast between the sophisticated and the simple, Thailand's Budhist Temples will give any photo-enthusiast a lot to play around with.  On a recent trip to Thailand I tried my hand at two of these religious sites...


The first thing to realize if you're not accustomed to Buddhist temples is that they don't have "opening hours", i.e. you can walk around at your own leasure at any time, whether it be midday or midnight, and this gives you the chance to explore all lighting alternatives. The pictures in this photologue were taken at dawn (around 6 - 7:30 am) in Doi Saket Temple just outside Chian Mai City and Wat Phrae Chae Hae in the afternoon (around 4:30 - 6 pm) just outside Phrae, both in North-Eastern Thailand.


Stairs Leading up to Wat Phrae Chae Hae - Click for full sizeBefore you stumble into a Buddhist temple there are few rules you should respect, especially if you want the best possible co-operation from the monks:


1. Take off your shoes before stepping up to a level where there is a statue of Buddha, both inside and outside (usually you'll see shoes/slippers at the bottom of the staircase leading up).

2. When a monk passes close and it's not very busy (e.g. if you're alone) then WAI him, he will not WAI bak, but he will probably smile and might chat with you and give you recommendations as to where to take pictures.

3.Do not interfere with any objects, whether statues, trees etc.  This includes havingLady Hitting the Bells - Click for full size a model lean on a statue...just don't do it, you're basically spitting in their faces if you do.

4. Wear long trousers and sleeves, but avoid anything the color orange/saphran as this is the monks robe color.


In a Thai Buddhist temple there are hundreds upon hundreds of statues of all shapes and sizes and for me personally these are the most exciting subjects (yes, I know, I'm dull).  All Thai Budhist Temples have one or more huge Buddha statues (5-20m tall) like the one on the top-left here.  These you will almost always get a bottom-up perspective on, which makes the Buddha an imposing figure.  Take some time to consider what angle you want...the straight on from in front is usually pretty dull.  The more petite Buddha statues give a level closeup opportunity.  Just avoid a top-down shot as being positioned above the Buddha is a direct insult to the believers.

Elephant at Budhist Temple - Click for full sizeEach temple is dedicated to an animal.  Whether it be a peacock,Small Tiger Statue - Click for full size tiger, snake or elephant you will find less high-brow versions of these as the small tiger shown here.  Notice the incense in the foreground of the tiger-picture, these are actually a praying device.  It's quite amusing to a westerner what constitutes a statue worthy of worship in Thailand, just about anything will do.  You might also note details in the ornamentation of the buildings themselves that clearly show the animal the temple is dedicated to. 

Don't be afraid to participate in the good-luck charm whether it be burning incense in front of a statue, putting coins in a long row of bowls or knocking on large iron bells with a stick (a most satisfying experience).  As a photographer you might want to capture some of the human activity going on, and especially the bells at Wat Phrae Chae Hae gave me great pleasure, especially as I noticed the oldest women are the most aggressive bangers.  I guess they have more frustrations to resolve?


YCoin Pots at Buddhist Temple - Click for full sizeou can also take pictures inside during prayer, but lighting is difficult and you don't Buddhist Monks Leaving - Click for full sizewant to disturb the soothing chants.  I tried my hand, but was too polite to be aggressively looking for angles.  Instead of good pictures I ended up with a fan and a tiny Buddha statue that a young priest gave me, obviously amused that there was a white man attending the chant session.

The monks don't generally mind being taken pictures of, but I generally am not too inclined to chase people-photographs when I'm travelling, simply because it quickly goes wrong, and it's frustrating to continuously try to correct.  Inanimate objects, and animals, are generally much easier to handle when travelling.  However, since I couldn't leave without some monks, I ended up shooting the elder monk being helped down the stairs and path by two younger deciples.


Human Sized Buddha - Click for full size


Before you leave the temple, take note of some of the words of wisdom, and try to look passed all the errors in English grammar and spelling.



Buddhist Words of Wisdom - Click for full size


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