Traveling around Ladakh on a motorbike for three months allowed me to visit a lot of Buddhist monasteries.
In fact, once you leave the main tourist trail in this part of the Himalayas, there are not many guesthouses or hotels and so I ended up staying in quite a few monasteries. The temptation to photograph a monk or two is something very few travel photographers visiting this Buddhist state can resist, myself included.
However, by spending so much time with them, I saw quite a few unexpected sides to their life. My personal favorites were their heated debates, during which monks battle with logic in an attempt to confound their opponent into intellectual submission. Each debate is accompanied by frantic gestures, shouting and loud hand clapping, things that I previously had not associated with disciples of the Buddha.
Capturing the monks during the animated debates needed a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. The shot of the balloons needed a wide-angle lens to get as many in the frame as possible and I also shot it from low down to add to the drama.
Knowing the right speed, aperture or indeed lens for any shot can only come from constant practice so that it all becomes second nature – just like the monks learning the skills they will need.