Making this photograph wasn’t easy or relaxing at all, despite the idyllic setting and the calm vibe projected by the subject: a large Buddha in a fenced off grassy area where hotel guests do their morning yoga by the ocean. The hotel is the Four Seasons Resort in Oahu, Hawaii, where I was working in January, 2017. I know … tough life.
On my last day, I had a few hours before my flight back to Vancouver, so I walked around looking for something to photograph. I spotted the Buddha, opened the gate to the yoga area (it was empty at the time of day I was there), and walked in to have a look. Almost immediately a security guard came over and told me to leave. Really? I told him I was a hotel guest and just wanted to photograph the nice statue. Sorry, he said, this area is off limits except for yoga classes. So when is the next yoga class, I asked? Tomorrow morning, he replied. So I'm not in anyone’s way, I said. Doesn’t matter, he replied.
Reluctantly, I left, but I went to the hotel’s concierge desk, told them what happened and asked for “special permission” to photograph in this (empty) area for half an hour, without being harassed. The nice woman at the concierge desk apologized for what had happened and radioed to the head of security to let me photograph. I thanked her and went back to set up to photograph.
As soon as I returned to the Buddha, another security guard came over and told me to leave. It’s OK, I told him, I have permission, just check with your supervisor. He radioed his supervisor, and said that no one from the concierge desk had said anything about me. Amazing, I thought. I assured him I had permission, just please go to the hotel desk and confirm. While he did that, I continued. A few minutes later ANOTHER security guard came over and told me to leave. Seriously, I wondered? They really seem obsessed with guarding an area where people get bendy and sweaty every morning. In any case, I repeated that I'd gotten permission but again he said nothing had been communicated to the security guard team. Nevertheless, he told me I could have 5 minutes but then finish up and leave. Wow, such hospitality from the Four Seasons. Thank you SO much, I mumbled to myself.
Annoyed but undeterred, I set up my camera at a low angle to make this photograph. The sun at this time of day was low and shining directly into the lens, so lens flare was a problem. I tried to shield the lens with my hat, but I had to remove a lot of the flare in post. But the big challenge was composing and focusing the shot, since I didn't have my tripod with me and the camera was at ground level. I had to guess at the focus and composition, then set the camera down and do a test shot. After some trial and error (and with the guard breathing down my neck), I did my first 30-second exposure of the Buddha. I did another as a backup and the result (after a lot of post-processing) is what you see here.
I then packed up and joined my wife and work colleagues by the pool for some well-learned Mai Tais and proper hotel hospitality.
Technical Details: Nikon D800, Nikon 35mm f/1.8G, f11, 30 sec, 10-stop ND filter