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Field Notes
California Buddhist Temple
Photograph by Steve McCury
Steve McCurry

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

I've been photographing for National Geographic for the past 25 years, but this was one of the highlights. I enjoyed working with many of the people, and even took away some Buddhist teachings that have made my life better, such as the idea of really living in and appreciating the moment instead of obsessing about the past or future.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

I spent time with a group of monks who live in the forests of Thailand. They perform tree ordinations, which means they bless trees and wrap them with saffron-colored robes. There's a serious deforestation problem in Thailand, and the monks hope that these robes will make loggers think twice before cutting down a tree.

So to make sure that I would be on time for one of these tree ordinations, I slept over at the monks' bungalow. But there were no screens on the windows, and the mosquitoes were everywhere. I didn't have any insect repellent, so I just lay awake in the heat all night getting bit.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

The Dalai Lama gave a lecture in New York's Central Park a couple years ago and tens of thousands of people came. So I went, and as the Dalai Lama was leaving, he waved to all the photographers standing in the press area. I thought it was great that he acknowledged us. Then he walked over to me and said, "Didn't I see you on a National Geographic TV show? Are you the one who photographed that refugee girl in Afghanistan?" I said "Yes," and then he turned and introduced me to Richard Gere. So I've always thought that if I ever meet Richard Gere again, I'm going to say, "You don't remember me, but we were introduced by His Holiness the Dalai Lama."