Wat Pho  (the reclining Buddha)

 

 

Wat Pho is perhaps best known as being the recognized learning center for traditional Thai massage.  Students come from all over the world to earn certification in Thai massage and carry the knowledge and techniques back to their own country.  Wat Pho is directly adjacent to Wat Phra Kaew where the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace are located in their own compound.  Wat Pho also features the largest stand alone Buddha figure in the Kingdom, The Reclining Buddha.

Wat Pho is perhaps best known as being the recognized learning center for traditional Thai massage.  Students come from all over the world to earn certification in Thai massage and carry the knowledge and techniques back to their own country.  Wat Pho is directly adjacent to Wat Phra Kaew where the Emerald Buddha and Grand Palace are located in their own compound.  Wat Pho also features the largest stand alone Buddha figure in the Kingdom, The Reclining Buddha.

As you enter the gates from the parking area you’re greeted with a beautiful compound filled with temples and structures.  Sculptured trees and bushes are everywhere.  Vivid colors and complex designs abound.

As you enter the gates from the parking area you’re greeted with a beautiful compound filled with temples and structures.  Sculptured trees and bushes are everywhere.  Vivid colors and complex designs abound.

 

From the perspective of a photographer you’ll want to carefully note every structure, color, texture, and pattern as you make your way through the complex.  Great photographic opportunities are everywhere.  The more time you take to study the area, the better the chance you’ll find an uncommon and interesting perspective which hasn’t already been captured a million times before.

From the perspective of a photographer you’ll want to carefully note every structure, color, texture, and pattern as you make your way through the complex.  Great photographic opportunities are everywhere.  The more time you take to study the area, the better the chance you’ll find an uncommon and interesting perspective which hasn’t already been captured a million times before.

 

I especially enjoy the sculpted trees and bushes.

I especially enjoy the sculpted trees and bushes.

 

It’s often not even necessary to enter a structure in order to effect a good capture of the main attraction.  This Buddha shrine is situated in a small room and if you actually go inside the structure and approach the shrine you’ll find yourself needing a very wide angle lens.  From the door way an actual 24mm (35mm equiv) lens was needed and it must be a good one to avoid distortion.  If you step inside the structure you’ll find yourself needing from a 12-18mm (35mm equiv).

It’s often not even necessary to enter a structure in order to effect a good capture of the main attraction.  This Buddha shrine is situated in a small room and if you actually go inside the structure and approach the shrine you’ll find yourself needing a very wide angle lens.  From the door way an actual 24mm (35mm equiv) lens was needed and it must be a good one to avoid distortion.  If you step inside the structure you’ll find yourself needing from a 12-18mm (35mm equiv).

 

These two extra-large leprechaun looking statues are not of Thai origin.  Centuries ago ships from China required heavy items to act as ballast and keep their boats from tipping and wisely they also wanted the ballast to be able to trade as commerce or have some function.  They loaded a couple of these characters aboard as ballast and then used them as gifts to their Thai hosts.

These two extra-large leprechaun looking statues are not of Thai origin.  Centuries ago ships from China required heavy items to act as ballast and keep their boats from tipping and wisely they also wanted the ballast to be able to trade as commerce or have some function.  They loaded a couple of these characters aboard as ballast and then used them as gifts to their Thai hosts.

 

Last week I mentioned that it was hot.  How hot was it?  My hand held kestrel showed 44c!  48c if you take into account the humidity.  This was hot enough to bake the clay tiles and bring out umbrellas to shield the locals from the sun.

Last week I mentioned that it was hot.  How hot was it?  My hand held kestrel showed 44c!  48c if you take into account the humidity.  This was hot enough to bake the clay tiles and bring out umbrellas to shield the locals from the sun.

 

I didn’t understand the full story concerning this fountain, but I did make out enough to know it has magical properties

I didn’t understand the full story concerning this fountain, but I did make out enough to know it has magical properties.

 

And finally we make it outside the temple that houses the Reclining Buddha, deposit our shoes, and enter the structure along with hundreds of others.

And finally we make it outside the temple that houses the Reclining Buddha, deposit our shoes, and enter the structure along with hundreds of others.

 

The first view you’ll see is from the head.  Flowers are placed on the shrine near the face, and the feet are quite a ways down.  Everyone had some sort of camera.  Most had the common point and shoot compact which I’m sure captured some quality of image, but a surprising number of local Thais were there with the small Canon 450tsi (Rebel) DSLRs.  Using their pop-up flash and 18-55mm (29-88 35mm effective) kit lenses they seemed very keen to capture as many shots of the big guy as they could.

The first view you’ll see is from the head.  Flowers are placed on the shrine near the face, and the feet are quite a ways down.  Everyone had some sort of camera.  Most had the common point and shoot compact which I’m sure captured some quality of image, but a surprising number of local Thais were there with the small Canon 450tsi (Rebel) DSLRs.  Using their pop-up flash and 18-55mm (29-88 35mm effective) kit lenses they seemed very keen to capture as many shots of the big guy as they could.

 

Notice how the sunlight filters in through the many windows and gleams off the gold patina?  This beautiful natural light provides exactly the look the original designers of the temple/Buddha intended the viewer to experience and I wouldn’t think of violating this beauty with any sort of “pop-up flash” or any artificial light whatsoever.

Notice how the sunlight filters in through the many windows and gleams off the gold patina?  This beautiful natural light provides exactly the look the original designers of the temple/Buddha intended the viewer to experience and I wouldn’t think of violating this beauty with any sort of “pop-up flash” or any artificial light whatsoever.

 

I had brought along a tripod in order to get the best natural light captures possible, but it turns out it wasn’t needed.  Shooting at 12mm through 24mm I was able to handhold the shots at ISO 200 through 400 by simply bracing my elbows on the wooden barrier which was conveniently at the perfect height for a six foot tall man to use for such purposes.  I had to smile as the ever friendly and helpful Thais (and several Japanese) approached me and told me I was sure to get terrible pictures because I wasn’t using a flash.

I had brought along a tripod in order to get the best natural light captures possible, but it turns out it wasn’t needed.  Shooting at 12mm through 24mm I was able to handhold the shots at ISO 200 through 400 by simply bracing my elbows on the wooden barrier which was conveniently at the perfect height for a six foot tall man to use for such purposes.  I had to smile as the ever friendly and helpful Thais (and several Japanese) approached me and told me I was sure to get terrible pictures because I wasn’t using a flash.

 

In this image you can see the wooden barrier I braced on, and the long walk down to the end of the temple where the Reclining Buddha’s feet are located.  Notice the colorful patterns on the walls?  Also notice the perfectly balanced exposure that let me capture the bare light bulbs so you could see the filaments inside, vs. a bright blown out ball?  Details count.  It also helps in such shots to use people for scale.  Try not to let any get too close, but by having a person 10-20 meters away, and then more 30-40 meters away, it shows scale and the depth of the temple.

In this image you can see the wooden barrier I braced on, and the long walk down to the end of the temple where the Reclining Buddha’s feet are located.  Notice the colorful patterns on the walls?  Also notice the perfectly balanced exposure that let me capture the bare light bulbs so you could see the filaments inside, vs. a bright blown out ball?  Details count.  It also helps in such shots to use people for scale.  Try not to let any get too close, but by having a person 10-20 meters away, and then more 30-40 meters away, it shows scale and the depth of the temple.

 

The feet/toes are directly behind me at this point.  I’m once again bracing on the wooden barrier looking down the full length of the Reclining Buddha.  I angled for the best reflection of light along the base possible, which shows the intricate patterns and scroll work.

The feet/toes are directly behind me at this point.  I’m once again bracing on the wooden barrier looking down the full length of the Reclining Buddha.  I angled for the best reflection of light along the base possible, which shows the intricate patterns and scroll work.

 

A few meters from the feet is the exit door and the hot sun awaits.  Here you can collect your shoes and wait for the others in your party to finish up.

A few meters from the feet is the exit door and the hot sun awaits.  Here you can collect your shoes and wait for the others in your party to finish up.

I really enjoyed photographing Wat Pho.  Even though I ended up overheated and passed out, it was a remarkable experience.  I’m not thrilled with most Thai temples and find them boring.  Wat Pho was different.  It is very nicely done, well maintained, and items of interest are everywhere.  More, there are many unique photographic opportunities sure to keep you busy and smiling at the same time.  You’ll certainly want to add Wat Pho to your list of attractions to see in the Bangkok area.

I really enjoyed photographing Wat Pho.  Even though I ended up overheated and passed out, it was a remarkable experience.  I’m not thrilled with most Thai temples and find them boring.  Wat Pho was different.  It is very nicely done, well maintained, and items of interest are everywhere.  More, there are many unique photographic opportunities sure to keep you busy and smiling at the same time.  You’ll certainly want to add Wat Pho to your list of attractions to see in the Bangkok area.