Posted to on September 23, 2019

Flying from Beijing to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, we landed and for security reasons or otherwise, were held on the runway for what seemed like days, but was probably only 3 hours.

I was sat by the window affording me a great view of a succession of people wandering about on the tarmac below. As is the fashion in this part of the world, men wear their jackets inside out so that all and sundry can see the label, furnishing the wearer with a degree of street cred within their peer group and beyond.

One man caught my eye as he loitered outside, seemingly unaware of the hustle and bustle of airport workers criss-crossing the ground around him.

As anyone who has been to Lhasa can vouch, at 3500m oxygen is at a premium and can induce breathlessness and headaches when first exposed to the altitude. This particular man seemed oblivious to his environment and waited motionless for who knows what – a lift?

Sensing a shot developing, I reached up to the overhead stowage and grabbed my camera bag and pulled out my trusty Canon 5D. Mimicking photographers of a bygone age, I pressed the lens and hood against the porthole window and put my coat over my head to stop any reflection from the glass. I composed the frame, checked my exposure, prayed that the window was clean and pressed the shutter.

The result? Well, I like the graphic nature of the picture, the sombre, almost monochrome palette. I like the way the three elements combine – shiny engine, distressed tarmac, silhouetted man. But above all I love the mystery – what was the man doing there, what was he thinking, why was he so still?

This was my first experience of Tibet and it ushered in fantastic memories – the landscape, the culture, and most of all, the fantastically cheerful Tibetan people. In spite of many hardships, they retain an innate good humour and welcoming nature that lives in the memory long after I boarded the plane home.

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