10,000 Buddha Pagoda revisited – what a difference a lens makes!

Those of you that have been here for a while would remember my article Ten Thousand Buddhas and a Smoking Monk. If you haven’t read it yet, now’s a great time to check it out!

Anyway, I took a trip back there the other day with a mission. On my first trip there, I had nothing but my camera and a 24-70mm zoom lens. I found (as you’d have seen in the article) that I took a lot of detail shots from the pagoda, but there weren’t really any photos that showed the big picture.

This time, I came prepared with my 16-35mm lens, with the aim of capturing the exact same place in a different way. I’ll admit it was partly due to an upcoming project where I’ll be contributing photos in panoramic format (in this case, 1×3) for a book on Saigon.

Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda

But what really surprised me was the way I began to see differently as soon as I attached the wider-angled lens. I noticed details I hadn’t really paid much attention to previously, and the distortion the wider angle brought to the scene actually gave it a great feel. My whole impression of the place changed as I went from looking at the small details to appreciating the way all of those details worked together in the large space.

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I felt I could convey the feel of the place better – the scale, the intricate but vast design, and the way all the elements interacted to create an impressive space. Elements like the lights, the ceiling tiles, the thousands of buddha figures in their little grottoes – many things that had little context in the photos from the previous trip – all became one unified whole.

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I had used the same lens (the 24-70mm one) for so long, that I had grown complacent and predictable. The excitement had been lost from my photography. It’s amazing what a breath of fresh air it was to simply go back to using the other lens. I felt like everything was new again!

Big Buddha

I learnt that when things aren’t quite working out, when I feel I lack inspiration, or when I just feel myself getting into a rut, changing just one small detail can create a world of difference! Habit kills creativity! While there’s nothing amazingly new or fresh about these photos, they are very different to the ones I took here last time. When I was taking these ones, I felt as if it was my very first time discovering this place.

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I even had fun shooting the mundane stairs!

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So next time you feel things getting stale – try changing something simple. Do a shoot entirely in black and white (or colour if B&W is what you generally do). Shoot at a different aperture or focal length. Take some photos intentionally out of focus and see what other elements you can use to make a cool photo. There’s so many things we can do to keep the joy in the craft!

I look forward to hearing about what you come up with…

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