‘Spirit Smoke’ and the ‘Window Of Light’

At first this just appears to be a shot of a young monk sitting in a temple with a candle, but as you stare longer, you may see that something appears to be lurking above the left shoulder of the young monk. Can you see the face in the smoke? Once you do, it will be very hard not to see it again.

Read on to find out more of the story behind it!

I spent the best part of 6 days riding round the 2000 and something temples and pagoda’s on the plains of Bagan in ex Burma. 40 square miles of so many amazing light situations at different times of day to be discovered. It was a photographer’s dream that I didn’t want to wake up from. I knew I wanted to get a shot of the rays of light that entered the temples windows at certain times of day and knew that I wasn’t going to be satisfied to leave this part of the world, until they were found.

then there was light

I invested so much time riding round literally hundreds of temples, searching for the light to fit my imagination. I don’t think I have ever been so inspired and compelled to get up and out to spend time looking for the shots I had in mind. After about four days of searching, I stumbled across this west facing window that I knew would provide some amazing sunset light.

I knew the window of opportunity (excuse the pun) would not last long as the sun was setting and most days had interrupted light due to cloud cover. As quickly as my Chinese electric bike could carry me, I headed for the nearest monastery in search of a monk model to help me turn my thoughts into reality.


Spectrum of light in window.

After a frantic ride I stumbled across a couple of gentlemen sitting down near another temple entrance. I asked them where I might be able to locate a young monk to help fulfil my shot. ‘Wait here’ they replied as they took off. They returned around 10 minutes later with this rather un-happy looking robed boy.‘He’s pretty fat’ was the first thing they said to me, which seemed rather cruel at the time.
I tried gesturing ‘hello’, but he didn’t speak english, clearly wasn’t in a good mood and appeared even more disgruntled for my attempt to converse with him. Working with lots of young people from all around the world and enjoying the company of kids I thought ‘he will get over it, I’ll cheer him up, make him smile and in the end we’ll have a laugh together’. Boy, was I wrong!!


We jumped on my little electric bike bringing us closer together than we both probably wanted to be and headed off towards the temples steeple which could been seen in the far off distance.

A few minutes down the track we encountered some really soft sand. Hitting it with all the momentum my machine could muster we still got stuck, which as you can imagine did little to improve the mood of the young boy, as he struggled on and off the bike with his long robes. Things weren’t going quite as smoothly as planned when all of a sudden my electric bike decided it wasn’t too happy either. Struggling with the weight of us both on it, the bike started talking at me in Chinese language, clearly trying to indicate it was running out of battery. Constantly being reminded of our increasingly dying battery only furthered the bad energy of my fellow passenger. With every attempt to make him laugh failing dismally, I just prayed that we had enough juice to make it to the temple before we lost the light. Fortunately, we quite literally rolled up to the entrance as my bike’s battery died. I jumped off, dumped the bike and proceeded to get the shots I had in mind.

standing in the light

By this time I had tried on several more occasions to communicate with the young monk who was clearly having none of it and showing through lack of any attempt at anything that he wasn’t up for talking and basically just didn’t like me. It struck me as unusual for someone so young to be of such a heavy energy to be around, particularly a practicing buddhist monk which I thought was supposed to be a path to non suffering.Anyway, having come this far we entered the site to get some shots, which proved to be a lot harder and less fun than anticipated with my non compliant friend. Despite the perfect conditions after about 10 -15 minutes I gave up. Understanding by his body language and general energy he put out, that he just really didn’t want to be there, I decided it was best to call it a day. As we went to leave I forgot that I had overlooked the fact that my bike’s battery was flat, which led to another increasingly uncomfortable 30 minute wait together. I tried cheering up the young fella by showing him some of the photos I got of him, which at the time I thought were pretty cool, but still, he turned his nose up at me displaying less than zero interest. ‘Oh well’ I thought, ‘you can only try and can’t please everyone’. Not long after, we were picked up and dropped the young monk back to his monastery. As he left I smiled him nervously, thanked him for his time through a translator and made a financial offering.


Later that night as I lay in bed reflecting on the day shoot and images I had gotten, I zoomed into this photo to see if the young boy’s face was in focus. As I zoomed in, my heart almost missed a beat, when I saw what appeared to be a face of something lurking beside him. I did not notice the face at first, but after I had seen it i could not not see it anymore. I had placed some incense sticks in the wall of the temple to the left of the image to create some atmospheric conditions, but was surprised to see a smoke formation so far over to the right. What really amazes me about the face in the smoke is its symmetry and clarity, and clear structure of ears, eyes, cheeks, nose, mouth and chin.

I have been lucky enough to experience so many unexplainable moments in my adventures through life which have moved me towards the belief that there is so much more to our reality than we can understand through the distorted veil of perception that the 5 senses provide. I am a firm believer that we are not actually human beings having a spiritual experience, but instead spiritual beings having a human experience.

Call me crazy, call me what you will, but after experiencing this young boy first hand and the energy he carried around with him, I believe on this day the camera was able to see more than meets the eye and may just have captured what was upsetting the boy and not allowing him to be in best spirits.

Coincidence of smoke or spiritual attachment. you get to choose as we we’ll never really know! Either way, I just feel blessed to have experienced this breathtaking part of the world, captured some of my favourite photos and an image which still fascinates me to this day.!

What do you think?

Crazy huh?

If your interested in more of my shots and another crazy adventure from stunning Myanmar, make sure to check out my related post in the blog section: ‘Meditating Master Monk’.

Really appreciate you stopping by. Thanks so much for getting this far and supporting my work.

Create a great day.


‘Spirit Smoke’


Close up crop of the little fella’s face and suspect formation.



Window Of Light






Solar Eclipse
Homeless Child

Photo Blurb
Spirit Monk:
Canon 7d,token 11-16mm @11mm, 1/60 sec @f/2.8, Iso 100

Window of light:
canon 7d, tokina 11-16mm @16mm, 1/4 sec @ f/3.2, Iso 100

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By | January 31st, 2016|0 Comments

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