*ooof*: Hero Worship

Once again Guylty reacts to the events in RL and overthrows her schedule. My little reunion with RARA is not happening. With Sir Ian McKellan and Orlando Bloom leaving the Hobbit set, and in light of yesterday’s overdue Hobbit vlog, the topic of the week is Thorin. And even more so when faced with Armitage’s conspicuous absence from the fun and games of the vlog. Yes, we saw him doing a couple of stunts and rehearsing with Sir Peter, but no snippets or interviews. Awww. So for today’s *ooof* I have chosen a Thorin still. (That is if it really *is* a still – it looks remarkably like footage from the film, but for the purpose of this *ooof*, let’s assume it is. A previous *ooof* on Thorin was featured here.)

84-HobbitAUJStill-01The Majestic Hero Himself. Richard Armitage in a still from The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey. Source.

The image displays all the signs of an outdoor shot and hence my comments on the technical aspects of it will be sparse you’ll be delighted to hear. Illuminated from above left, we have Armitage acting Thorin Oakenshield in a decisive pre-plot scene that depicts the Battle of Azanulbizar. This is the scene that explains how Thorin gained his surname Oakenshield – with the said oak branch in his left hand, ready to defend himself against the killer of his grandfather, Azog. Thorin covered himself in gore and glory in that battle, cutting off Azog’s hand and winning the day.

Appropriately, we have a classic hero-shot of Thorin to conclude this sequence. The prince of the dwarves is seen here mid-action, his hair blowing in the wind (or in mid-movement), sword and shield in strong grip and a determined glare on his face. The photography makes use of perspective to convey the sense of witnessing a hero/heroic act: Thorin is shot from below, the typical perspective for the depiction of a hero. Symbolically, the perspective (already) places the subject on a pedestal. The viewer literally has to look up to him – as we usually have to if we worship at an altar or a sculpture of a deity. Or as was the case when approaching a monarch. The perspective thus references a couple of Thorin’s traits – placing him above us characterises him as a hero in his own right and as a descendant of kings.

The perspective from below also causes Thorin to be depicted in front of clouds. The clouds, of course, make for an ideal photographic backdrop: They are largely neutral space against which the solitary figure stands out with no distraction. However, we can read more into the decision to place nothing but clouds behind Thorin: The perspective implies that there is nothing that reaches beyond Thorin. Nothing is higher than him – neither trees nor buildings and certainly no other living beings. Nothing transcends him. Simultaneously this also places him in proximity to the realm of God, as heaven is where the deities dwell. Too far-fetched? Well, maybe the stormclouds behind Thorin stand for nothing else but his stormy temper…

The imagery is a classic example of hero-worshipping that makes use of a number of symbols that all apply almost too perfectly. The picture embodies Thorin’s heroic status and his claim to the throne with many fitting symbols. The cult of personality that surrounds Thorin in the story finds its expression in an idealised, heroic image. As is typical for such images, the depiction is characterised by unquestioning flattery, praise, adoration and admiration (in the film also expressed by Balin’s voice-over ending on “There is one I could call king”…). The cult of personality is something we are all familiar with. It has most often been associated with totalitarian regimes in which a single leader, who is seen as god-like, was invested/invested himself with the achieving of a vital goal for his nation (cf. Fidel Castro liberating Cuba, for instance). In this case we have Thorin on the quest for the re-taking of Erebor. Connected to that is also the interpretation and symbolic depiction of the hero as the “guide” – in Thorin’s case he is literally the one who can find the way to Erebor, as he has been given the map that shows the way. Occasionally, the cult of personality also found expression in the symbol of the benign father figure. (The cult of Stalin would be an example from RL.) The story and the dramatisation allow for that in the carefully depicted relationship between Thorin and his nephews Kili and Fili.

The still here is everything but still. This is Thorin caught in movement, raising himself, getting ready to attack. The detail that conveys most movement in this shot is Thorin’s hair, blowing in the breeze. Much has been made in fan circles about Thorin’s flowing locks. When compared to the other dwarves in his company, Thorin’s hairstyle looks rather plain. However, there may have been a reason for that. The flowing locks allow for dramatic “hair acting”, which has been used much in the film. A more braided, styled hair-do would have looked less dramatic in the fight scenes – another example of which we have just been given yesterday in the short glimpse of Thorin being hoisted onto a rock (?) where Nori catches him. (See Serv’s post from yesterday.) It is also quite possible or even probable that the scriptwriters were familiar with the symbolic quality of hair in the Middle Ages. Hair held divine power! For the Merovingian kings, for instance, long hair was a symbol of their sovereignty, their independence, their divine right to rule and the strength of their Royal power. (Thus, when the reign of the Merovingians came to an end in the 8th century AD, the last Merovingian king’s hair was publicly shorn off in a demonstrative show of the power of the Karolingians who took over.) In the context of this, Thorin’s long locks become a symbol of his physical strength, and his god-given right to assume the throne as an heir of Durin. Never mind the associations of unrestricted sexuality that the image of wild and flowing locks also evoke…

Props only take secondary roles in this image – we can see the eponymous Oakenshield in Thorin’s left hand and the hilt of his sword in his right. Fittingly, the sword comes with a number of interpretations in iconography that apply pretty well to this hero, too. The sword, after all, stands for omnipotence (noooo, not *that* kind of potence, girls *tuttuttut*) – a characteristic associated with a king, a leader and a hero. It is also a symbol of justice, which applies here in the sense that a king is often seen as the highest authority for the settling of disputes. Lastly, the sword also symbolizes ire – and we all know that Thorin is a cantankerous, temperamental sort of man. In Christian iconography, btw, the sword is the symbol for a martyred Saint – how fitting is that in the context of our dwarven hero?

Does all this talk of the cult of personality remind you of something, ladies? Let’s all blush collectively for a second. Yes, our own fandom is certainly familiar with hero-worshipping and the cult of personality. My rational side is screaming in frustration as I write this. We have honed in on one particular person whom we lavish with – and I shamelessly quote myself now – “unquestioning flattery, praise, adoration and admiration”. Well, no, that is a bit over-stated. But there are elements of hero-worshipping in the realms of fandom, too. Armitage doesn’t make it any easier for us to desist. He keeps playing heroic characters that more often than not get martyred and thus live on as shining examples of strength, character and power. Ooops, am I confusing the man with his roles? No, I am not. There is a massive difference between the two. But Armitage’s photographic “oevre” – or should it be called “modelling portfolio”? – certainly perpetuates the cult of personality through the cult of beauty. Maybe it is time to see more down-and-dirty Armitage? Sunday-morning, bed-hair, dirty tracksuit kind of pictures. As it stands, I suspect that we would even worship that as a feat of heroicism…

~ by Guylty on July 2, 2013.

75 Responses to “*ooof*: Hero Worship”

  1. FIRST! Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Yes, Thorin and his lock should have had separate billing. πŸ™‚

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  2. You can bet on it dear! A still sleepy RA with bed-hair? Yep, where can I find him? πŸ˜›
    Very nice post, as always. I’m not sure it is an outdoor shot, I think I remember seeing RA walk and rise after Aza*** battle (I can’t really remember that name) in studio. I’ll try to find the video, don’t remember if it is one of the 9 production video or not. But I could be wrong, of course. I’ve seen so many videos that my mind is a total chaos πŸ˜€
    Thanks for your *ooof*!

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    • You could be right – they probably filmed this in front of a green screen. The clouds are CGI. Thanks, Micra!

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      • I think I found it: min. 1:33 in “Xbox SmartGlass Exclusive: The Company of Dwarves”. I think it is “that” scene from what I remember

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  3. I really enjoyed this character ooof Guylty- it’s such a classic cinematic shot, isn’t it. You can imagine someone like Charlton Heston in this pose. It certainly captures the resoluteness and courage of Thorin as he stares down the enemy. The free-flowing locks?- oh yes, thank you PJ- you sure gave us a stunning, enduring image there.

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    • Oh, yes, heroes rock. I suppose we are culturally indoctrinated to love that kind of shot, anyway. And the long hair was definitely an inspired idea…

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    • I prefer to to associate him with Gregory Peck; he was a true gentleman, as is RA. Charlton Heston gives me a queasy feeling! But yes, definitely a classic pose upon which to dream…

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      • I actually don’t know that much about Peck. Must look him up. Thanks, Chai πŸ™‚

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        • Check out Roman Holiday and Spellbound, Guylty. He’s as mesmerizing on screen as RA…It’s hard to take your eyes off him, even when he’s sharing the camera with Ingrid Bergman or Audrey Hepburn.

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          • Roman Holiday is on my wishlist as a re-make that RA should be cast in. Have adored that film ever since I saw it as a teenager. – Had to look up Spellbound. Oooof – the young Gregory Peck… wow.

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  4. Holy shrimp! I just upgraded to a 21″ monitor this was the first image I looked at – spectaculous!! I love the commentary on the symbolic importance of hair…you can trace it back to the Hebrew Bible with Samson, whose power was directly connected to his unshorn locks, and probably earlier.

    ooof indeed πŸ™‚

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    • Oh, completely forgot about the Bible. Typical, I am really not well-versed at all, which is a shame when discussing symbolism in Western art…
      I am imagining you in front of your brand-new panorama monitor, unsuspectingly clicking on the *ooof* – and being blown away by the sight of a towering RA. Whoa, sounds like a really nice experience…

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  5. I definitely do NOT see Thorin as Fidel Castro. Must erase that sentence from my mind forever!

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    • Sorry, Fabo – I actually thought to myself that mentioning Castro could cause controversy. Tbh, I find the thought of Thorin as Stalin more disturbing… The moustache, alone… *shudders* Anyhow, I meant that as a comment on the iconography connected to the mentioned leaders rather than any political comment.
      PS: Young Castro was not really *that* bad. But if it helps, you can also imagine the Che πŸ˜‰ He was certainly not hard to look at.

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      • Thanks for trying to make things better – Che is just as bad for me – and I especially loathe, loathe, seeing that photo everywhere – but we’ll leave the politics for another day and another time and maybe another life πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

        I know what you were trying to say, about the “allure” of the image though

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  6. I’ll have you know I’ve just spent the past two hours falling down the endless Wiki rabbithole you prompted by mentioning Frankish history. Clawing my way out with effort now. Thanks a lot. πŸ˜›

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    • *ggg* Love to hear that, Alyssa. Now, Serv of course is the expert here. In pre-history, when I still had pretensions of being a historian, early medieval history was one of my specialisations, particularly the Karolingians. I remember researching the Merovingians and being fascinated with Chlodwig I. and how he was devested…

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      • You probably know as much as I do. Although I did force my students to read Gregory of Tours when I taught that half of the western civ survey. πŸ™‚

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  7. Sunday morning RA with bed-head and sloppy tracksuit… or maybe just the tracksuit pants… yes, please. I’ve been a very naughty girl and I deserve a treat. I mean, nice girl. Nice! Well. And naughty too.

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    • Hm. I have the impression that my suggestion for a photo-op from hell somehow doesn’t quite work. Not really sure why I came up with the image of bed-head and sloppy tracksuit – that is totally *yummy*. (I was probably thinking of myself with bed-hair and baggy tracksuit – a sight I would not wish on my worst enemy *um*). Is it actually *possible* to picture RA in an ugly situation/look??? Maybe something like a really bad late-70s mullet with proper fringe, wildly patterned shirt with pointy collar, flared brown cordurouy trousers and platforms, holding a beer can? Might possibly turn me off. Possibly not. Hm.

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  8. Well RA himself says he looks better dirty… πŸ˜‰

    There is one ugly look – the ghastly facial hair in the BTS flashback sequence.

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    • The dirty Thorin really was quite yummy. Or Porter, all sweaty and scratched and covered in camouflage paint did not put me off. The beard in BTS – well, not his best look, I agree. But even there I am not totally put off.

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  9. I woke up today and said to self, oh good it’s an *ooof* day. I just got to my computer, but still something to look forward to on a Tuesday.

    A very looking Thorin here. You can just see his flowing locks, well flowing.

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    • Tuesday is *ooof*day, you bet, Katie πŸ™‚ You know, I had a similar experience yesterday. I was trudging home from doing errands, slightly stressed and bogged down, and suddenly I thought “Wait, it’s Monday. I can write my *ooof* today!” That brought a big smile to my face and really brightened up the mood… The flowing locks were my reward πŸ™‚

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      • RA can brighten my day any day. I get the shopping stuff as I did that today thinking that it may not be as busy today two days before the 4th of July in a resort town,hahaha. WalMart was so packed that I had to hunt for a packing spot and the other local supermarket with a Mc Donalds next door was the same. It was a mad house and yesterday was even worse. Tomorrow will be just a bad. I came home unpacked, ate, called Hospice for my dad and then read your post. So Thank you and I guess this post saved both of us from the errands blues.

        I think I need one more look at the picture before supper.

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        • Opps its parking spot, but it really felted like we where being packed into the parking lot.

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        • Where do all the people have the time to do all their errands two days before the holiday??? – RA is a great excuse for taking a minute to relax.

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          • Their on holiday ans don’t have a care in the world. I was back in on Wednesday to talk to Hospice and had to drive though town a nightmare. RA take me away.

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  10. I *ooof* like a steam machine, Guylty! Thank you πŸ™‚
    SHH! who is making that noise?!…ah it was me ,again..

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    • LOL – I like that image of you, huffing and puffing, Joanna. I sometimes feel like that, myself. Ah, who am I kidding – I *always* feel like that *ooof* *hnnnng* *ooof* UNF *whoa*…

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      • πŸ˜€ yes, but if you want you can also describe your feelings very eloquently. Thanks for that !

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        • I occasionally suspend my slightly more basic articulation and attempt to keep up the pretense of being equipped with brains beside ovaries *ahem* πŸ˜‰ I am delighted, however, that I am in such good company with both the articulate and the more – shall we say – “earthy” expressions of appreciation. UNF all the way though, ha!

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  11. Oh_Oh
    I certainly have a soft spot for his Royal Highness. I fell for him after having seen him in TH for the first time. Curiously checking out all the guys from the cast as I wondered how they look like in real life. Immediately stumbled into all the stuff online about glorious Mr. A.
    And BANG: armitaged.
    In real life I do not think I would give a second glance to a dishevelled, gritty and dirty guy. Long hair and beard? Thanks. I mean No, thanks (maybe that is because I never met a dirty guy who pulled off heroic and majestic. The dirty guys I have met were loosers. all oft hem).
    But Mr. Oakenshield, Mr. Porter and even Mr. Gisbourne manage to make me feel very teenagefangirl. *sigh

    Thanks for the great *ooof!

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    • Ouch! Trust i.f. to come up with a rather valid point! Despite all my assertions that I find the dishevelled and dirty look very sexy on RA, I have to wholeheartedly agree with you. (Is that a first, btw???? ;-)) If truth be told – if I saw a wild-maned man covered in dirt and grime like Thorin in RL, I’d think him a tramp. The look is probably only compatible with cinematographic presentation. And in context with a medieval-ish time-period. I probably wouldn’t look twice if someone looking like that crossed my path on the street… I wouldn’t mind seeing Mr A rough and ready at his favourite past-time, though, DIY. I love creative and handy men. And I don’t really mind a bit of grime here and a splash of paint there. Can all be scrubbed off. Oh, the mind wanders…

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      • Hehehe, first ones are hard to forget *ahem.
        Yes, DIY guys do have something. Childhood conditioning on my side to be blamed.
        As for the bed-hair look… I found proof he looks absolutely astounding. *ggg/lol
        Cannot recall where I stole the pic from, but treasure it highly. If he really looks like that when waking up in the morning it is verrry hard for any partner to deal with that. I guess it is an arranged shoot (no screencap) but looks so laid-back and effortless that I spilled my coffee over the keyboard when I first saw it.

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        • i.f.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *screams* You can’t just regale us with your impressions of a delectable early-morning-bed-hair shot and not back it up with proof. Where is that picture? Can you temporarily upload it and send the link (photobucket or something like that). Or describe it more – maybe we can figure out which pic you mean… Oh my oh my, the mind not only wanders but positively boggles πŸ™‚

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          • *ziertsich
            Not sure, if I really want to share. What will I get?
            lol
            If I had any idea how to upload or send I would. Can you assist? I would love to hear your impression on that pic.

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            • Hahaha, a bargain? *ggg* I could do a public *ooof* on it, of course :-D. If it is easiest, you could just send me the pic by e-mail – guylty (at) photographer (dot) net. And we can take it from there.

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              • consider it done

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                • Yay!!! πŸ™‚

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                  • You’d better believe the rest of us are following this development with intense interest.

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                    • Ooooohhhhh big dissapointment. Big as in B.I.G.

                      Photo seems to be a fake. *shakesheadindisbelieve
                      My day is ruined. Although it is a very good fake and still makes my brains switch to vegetablemode.
                      I sincerely apology to all and everybody who expected brilliant news to be splashed. Nix da.

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                    • I hate to be the bearer of disappointing news, i.f. But no, don’t let this ruin your enjoyment of the picture. After all – in *all* images the message is construed both by what we see in the shot AND by our simultaneous interpretation and own associations. Besides – the picture is extremely well edited and I am sure that the picture pose is realistic enough.
                      For all who are wondering – we were talking about this little “fantasy”: http://i.imgur.com/3B6ju.jpg Can somebody remind me who the creator of the image is? I have a hunch, but can’t quite remember…

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                    • It appeared first on Richardsbabe’s doodles.

                      http://richardsbabesdoodles.blogspot.com/

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  12. I always miss the best conversations hear while I’m sleeping!

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    • That makes two of us, Obscura! I always miss the best conversations that you guys have across the pond on Servetus’ posts or on other American-based blogs… Damn time difference!!!

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      • Grumble, grumble…of course the whole world kind of falls apart without it I suppose :). I occasionally pop in on one of my overnight bathroom excursions, but since I’m not fully conscious, I elect not to comment…probably wise!

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        • “Luckily” for me, I never sleep!

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          • Extra time *with* Richard Armitage might be the sole benefit to insomnia! (I don’t think you’re alone in that in these parts either…I give you all tons of credit for being able to function in any capacity – me without sleep is totally useless.)

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        • Hm. I’d love to test that πŸ˜‰

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          • What? Global time unification or my ability to be lucid at 4am? πŸ˜€

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            • The latter!

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              • Sleep, who needs sleep? The night owl is wide awake here in the States. Not the 4th yet. I love summer, I can stay up late and do my Richarding in peace, while my husband is at work or watching tv or e-baying. No one in this house goes to bed early in the summer, I have tried it don’t work when my husband is at work, I don’t sleep. Not that I can’t get up early when I have to, 5:00 am for work, but I still got to make myself go to bed as I can’t always live on 5 to 6 hours of sleep. I guess sometimes I need to sleep.

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  13. […] week’sΒ  “oof” installment, with it’s discussion of Thorin’s luscious locks started me thinking about […]

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  14. Hi Guylty,
    Nice!
    Kind of OT. But I noticed in looking at this Promo 2013 Nearmy portrait of RA that his right hand and thumb seem to be blurred. Odd for an otherwise lovely image.So I thought of you to investigate or explain, but I couldn’t find a link on your WP site to do pose my question. Here is the RANet original link:

    Cheers! Grati ;->

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    • Hi Grati, thanks for commenting :-). And thanks for pointing out that there seems to be no way of contacting me on my own WP page. Where did my “About” page go??? I have to rectify that.
      As for the “blurry thumb” – I actually wrote a whole *ooof* post on the photo you are quoting. Read it here: https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/ooof-saint-armitage/ I had a look at the picture to see what you were referring to. I am a bit confused because there is no right hand and thumb on view at all in that picture? Or are you referring to the yellow circle near his right hand? That, in fact, is lens flare, caused by photographing against the sun. (I discussed it in my earlier post).

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