After writing a blog post about “Zen and the Art of Mobile Photography” for Grryo and The Huffington Post, a UK writer named Geoff Harris contacted me about contributing to N-Photo, an independent photography magazine for Nikon users. He was particularly interested in the work I had done over the years in Bhutan, so we spoke on the phone one afternoon and the result is this short feature that appeared in the November 2015 edition.
Nikon Singapore Ambassador Scott A. Woodward recalls an assignment in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan
I have been working with Nikon for more than 10 years now. As a Nikon Singapore ambassador, I work closely with the brand doing ads, workshops, and whatever else is needed. Along with my creative partner, Mike Rogers, who’s a filmmaker, I have recently been creating content for Nikon. Opportunities opened up for me when I started doing some TV a few years ago, including a series on photography and travel for The HISTORY Channel. So, Nikon asked me to create some host-led photo and video content for them – I act as host and photographer and Mike makes the films. So how did I end up creating content in Bhutan? Allow me to explain…
Back In Time
Going to Bhutan had long been a dream of mine. This enigmatic Himalayan Kingdom, tucked between India, China and Nepal, had fascinated me since I relocated to Asia nearly 20 years ago.
Mike and I first went to Bhutan in 2008, to shoot a documentary film project he was leading. It was the most special place I have ever photographed. Bhutan is in a time warp. As well as being tucked away physically, it’s tucked away philosophically and spiritually; it’s a Buddhist country, with the most beautiful, sensitive and welcoming people. The images I took there were also my most commercially successful, appearing in National Geographic, The New York Times and on the Adobe Photoshop website. The trip helped propel my career, and it felt as if it was an honest achievement, as this was the best work I’d done.
Fast forward to a year-and-a-half ago, and I get a call from Nikon Asia asking for a meeting. It was connected to the launch of the Nikon D4s. The marketing people asked me and Mike to take some pre-production D4s models and go on an extreme adventure in order to make promotional content. The only proviso was that we went somewhere
with extreme conditions. I immediately knew I wanted to do a trek in Bhutan.
Myself, Mike and our team flew to Bhutan, where we met up with about 10 local guides, 20-25 pack horses, the works. We ventured well above 4,000 metres in winter, something I’d never done before. It was an unbelievably rugged landscape. There were four remits: to test and document the D4s in extreme Himalayan conditions, such as snow and low light; to make a narrative film shot on the D4s, to show its video capabilities; to make a behind-the-scenes movie about the crew on location; and finally, to take a series of images to promote the new camera.
On Top of the World
A couple of images really stand out. After 14 or 15 hours of hiking, we got to our highest point, where there was a beautiful lake. That night there was a
snowstorm, and we woke up to snowy landscapes, a frozen lake and brilliant skies. I got great portraits of the oldest of our guides, who we called Yak Man. He was a real outdoorsman. He had this amazing yak hair clothing he made himself — even yak-hair sunglasses! As he showed us his yak herding skills and helped us get the gear ready, I took some portraits. It was a wonderful climax to our trip. I used the D4s, obviously, with a 24-70mm f/2.8 lens. While I do use prime lenses, depending on the job, for this trip I took three zooms — the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200 f/2.8. They’re all fantastic lenses.
My other favourite shot was taken at the golden hour, late one afternoon. We were cresting the top of the mountains as the prayer flags were fluttering, and I got a good shot of a crew member who we nicknamed ‘ST’. When I close my eyes, this is the image from the Bhutan trip I think of.