Monk in Solitude, Laos

It was a treat to stumble across this unexpected cave in northern Laos. I explored further inside the dark passages where I witnessed this monk, as he kneels in solitude while deep in thought, with light shining perfectly over him from a hole in the cave wall above.

Spending over an hour heading down a very bumpy dirt road on an old rusty push bike, I was told there was an amazing lagoon awaiting my arrival at the other end. Much to my disappointment, this lagoon turned out to be a couple of muddy holes in the ground, overcrowded with locals and tourists alike, it definitely was not the reward I was hoping for. With this in mind and determined to make my trip worthwhile, I headed off to climb up the mountain close by, scrambling along aimlessly in attempt to make my own adventure. Eventually, I came across a small opening in the mountain wall a few hundred metres up. Curiously I entered, and found a gigantic cave opening up in front of me. Inside was a little shrine with two Buddhist Monks praying next to it. I crept inside to investigate and observe. The two monks acknowledged me and welcomed me in.

I’d like to stress that this is not a staged portrait. I noticed the beam of light entering from a hole above, and one of the monks kneeling at a similar time. However, it wasn’t quite that simple as clicking that shutter. I had to quickly scramble over many boulders and rocks in very dark conditions without a light to get in the exact right position, and because I didn’t have a tripod, I had to rest my camera on my knee and lean against a rock to keep myself as still as possible. I stabilized as much as possible and then pressed that shutter release. Any cuts and scratches from all the scrambling definitely paid off with this one. It turned out to be one of my favourite photographs from 2013!

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