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Travel Photography in Myanmar – a Photo Essay

What is most striking for a visiting photographer to Myanmar, beyond the legions of magnificent pagodas and monasteries, is its people. The 135 ethnic groups offer an extraordinary diversity of subjects to be sure, but it’s their welcoming nature and willingness to open their lives to the camera toting foreigner that never ceases to amaze. As a photography director for a travel company based in Myanmar, I have been fortunate enough to work all over this very photogenic land with its two most celebrated travel shooters, as well as a major award winning western photographer who knows it well.

All three photographers have distinctly different styles & approaches. Shooting with 3-time Myanmar Photographer of the Year Kyaw Kyaw Winn, is like hanging out with Yoda. He has an almost metaphysical knowledge of photography and photographic equipment, and carries a wide array of it on the road. What impresses me most about his skill-set, is his ability to shoot brilliantly in any style and in any light, including the harshest.

National Geographic contributor David Lazar on the other hand, is a minimalist, carrying only a single camera and lens. His primary focus is portraiture, and his much preferred light of choice is soft and even. David’s biggest asset in my opinion is his ability to relate to all kinds of people who don’t speak his language and have them feel comfortable in spending sometimes extended periods in front of his lens.

Hasselblad Masters 2010 public vote winner and National Geographic contributor A. P. Soe’s first love is landscape photography (he’s the only person I know who owns the complete Singh Ray filter set!). Recently, he has developed into an outstanding portraitist as well. A.P. is one of those guys you just have to marvel at, one of those guys who always seems to get the best shot of the day, even though you were standing right next to him and taking the same picture!

Below is a small sampling from each photographer in Myanmar, with more images and links available here.

NIKON D200 @ 100mm, ISO 100, 1/160, f/10.0
Myanmar’s Golden Triangle has been little photographed by foreign photographers, despite its stunning rice terraces and numerous tribal peoples. The main reasons are timing and effort involved in getting to many of the best locations. To capture yellow rice for example, as in this awesome image by Kyaw Kyaw Winn, you have maybe a three day window before it gets harvested. It’s also monsoon season, so weather also plays a role in getting there, along with a good guide. This goes for reaching the most interesting and remote tribal groups as well.

NIKON D7100 @ 36mm, ISO 3200, 10/800, f/2.8
One of those interesting tribes is the En. They are a vanishing people indigenous to Myanmar, and exist nowhere else. This award winning shot from yours truly shows an En woman tossing rice with her child asleep on her back. They are animists who often die their teeth black, a practice they believe helps to mark them as above the likes of lowly dogs and rats, among other species, who have white teeth.

NIKON D700 @ 38mm, ISO 400, 1/400, f/11.0
The following three images help to further illustrate the point. All are by David Lazar.

Canon EOS-1D X + EF24-70mm f/2.8L II USM @ 70mm, ISO 640, 1/640, f/2.8
Monks and nuns of all ages play a very important role in Burmese culture, and along with spectacular temples, are the most photographed subjects by travel photographers, foreign and domestic. In this superb portrait by A.P. Soe it’s easy to see why.

NIKON D800 + 24-85mm f/2.8-4 @ 34mm, ISO 1600, 1/30, f/4.0
Novice monks light candles at a reclining Buddha in Bagan.

NIKON D700 @ 35mm, ISO 400, 1/200, f/7.1
Monk in prayer at the Golden Rock, Mon State.

NIKON D70 @ 85mm, ISO 200, 1/400, f/10.0
Inle Lake in Shan State is home to numerous tribes. The most photogenic are the Intha, who first settled the lake some 800 years ago, and developed their standing one-legged rowing style in order to help them maneuver their dugout canoes while fishing.

NIKON D7100 @ 24mm, ISO 400, 10/2000, f/7.1
Intha Fisherman, Inle Lake

NIKON D700 @ 38mm, ISO 400, 10/500, f/3.5
U Bein Bridge at sunset, Amarapura.

NIKON D700 @ 34mm, ISO 320, 10/4000, f/10.0
Rice terraces in Shan State.

NIKON D3S @ 35mm, ISO 800, 1/20, f/8.0
Sunrise in Hpa An.

NIKON D3S @ 135mm, ISO 1600, 5/2, f/7.1
Senior monk praying in a Buddha cave sanctuary in Mon State.

NIKON D80 @ 70mm, ISO 100, 1/125, f/10.0
More than 700 uniquely designed Buddhist temples have been uncovered in the jungles around the lost dynastic kingdom of Mrauk U.

Chin woman in a remote village outside of Mrauk U, accessible only by river. The ancient tattoo branding among Chin tribes is no longer practiced, as shown by the background mural of this woman’s granddaughter.

Canon EOS 5D + 70-200mm @ 70mm, ISO 250, 1/20, f/32.0
The 2,220 ancient temples still standing in Bagan form one of the most stunning archaeological sites in the world, and is understandably Myanmar’s number one tourist destination.

Canon EOS-1D X + 10-17mm @ 15mm, ISO 500, 6/10, f/5.6
Temple interior, Bagan

NIKON D3S @ 300mm, ISO 400, 1/500, f/5.6
Bagan is also a working rural village, with goat and cattle grazing amid the temples, herded home at sunset.

This guest post was submitted by Bennett Stevens, a writer and photographer based out of Thailand. You can visit Bennett’s website here and see more inspiring images from Burma, India, Israel, Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries.

#PortraitPhotography #LandscapePhotography #GuestPosts #Myanmar #Burma #Travel

The Photograohers
The Photograohers
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