The ancient city of Bagan

A few months ago, if someone had asked me where Myanmar was, admittedly I would have struggled to pin-point it on the map. Upon visiting this country, I witnessed a place undiscovered to many tourists, traveled to by only few and somewhat daring individuals. At it’s heart, in the Mandalay region and roughly a one and a half hour flight from the old capital of Yangon, lies the ancient city of Bagan, one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia. The city is famous in the region for its sheer number of temples and pagodas – roughly around 2200 which have survived today out of the 13000 that were originally built in the 11th to 13th centuries.

After my first trip to Myanmar back in early September, a number of locals advised me to find the time to visit this ancient city, promising a lifetime experience and a sight like nothing I had ever witnessed.  At first I was apprehensive, but a couple of colleagues convinced me to go and thankfully I did. It was a truly unique experience and I sincerely hope I get the chance to visit again.

These temples and pagodas are considered holy and as such you can only walk inside and around them completely barefoot, which made the task of taking this picture only that much challenging! After watching the sunset on a private boat cruise, we decided to head back to the hotel for some rest. As we were driving back, I started itching for an after-sunset picture of the skyline. We asked our guide to pull over at the nearest temple, and with flashlights on hand, we started to climb the top of the temple barefoot – a somewhat scary ordeal given that we had to walk on the steep rooftop of the temple on a 15 cm wide ledge, carrying a flashlight, tripod and camera. Thankfully we managed through, and I was happy to shoot the following picture during the twilight hour.

Taken with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS lens at ISO 100, F5.6 and bracketed at -2/0/+2.

Bagan Temples Sunset - 1920cPS: I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and all the best for the New Year! See you all in 2013!


Bagan Road Workers

Just got back from a week-long trip to Myanmar and Thailand…and what a week it has been! In this short amount of time, I managed to squeeze in 2 days in the ancient city of Bagan, 4 working days in Yangon, and a 24 hour layover in Bangkok on my way back to Cyprus. As I am writing this blog post, I feel like I haven’t slept since I left Cyprus; it was rough, but admittedly I had an awesome time!

What I am even more excited about, is that I’ve managed to get some decent pictures out of this trip, which I am hoping to post on my blog over the next few weeks. This first one is one of my favorites from my first day in Bagan. As we were getting the tour around the ancient temples, we noticed a bunch of people doing some road work. On closer inspection, we realised that all of them were women dressed up in their traditional Burmese lungi and wearing identical hats. They were covered by a cloud of dust from sweeping the road, and with the sun rays piercing through the dense tree canopy above them, it created an almost dreamy effect. Suffice to say that I quickly pulled out the camera from my bag and started running towards them. I took a few shots, but this one came out best. From the look on her face, one can say that she was really baffled by my presence!

Taken with my Canon 60D and my Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS Lens at 200mm, ISO 250 at F7.1.

Bagan Road Worker - 1920c

Break dancer

Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to join my photography class on an on-location photo shoot at the Rebel Dancers studio in Nicosia. There were 4-5 different classes going on at the same time, ranging from Belly Dancing to Break Dancing, mostly attended to by teenagers and the occasional adult. The owner there was nice enough to allow twenty or so photographers lagging all their cameras, tripods and flashes to enter any of the classrooms and shoot at free will.

I must say that getting a decent shot was by no means an easy exercise. Freezing motion in a precise and eloquent way, is truly a tough skill to master and requires a bit of luck to be on your side as well. You are in a studio indoors with harsh, unflattering and inadequate lighting, constantly fighting motion blur, taking shot after shot, praying that at least 1 of those shots comes out tack sharp. I brought with me my Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens, a fairly fast lens one might say, but even at F2.8 and an ISO bumped all the way to 3200, I could barely get 1/100 – 1/250 sec shutter speeds.

I must have taken close to 500 shots, and this was one of only two or three shots that according to my criteria came out half decent. By no means a stellar shot, but given the amount of effort that went behind this exercise, I believe it earned a place on my blog page!

Taken with my Canon 60D camera, at F2.8, 1/250 speed at ISO 3200.

Brake Dancer 1920c

A 94-year old face

One can look at a portrait of someone and immediately sense the hardship of that person’s life and wealth of experiences. This is my grandmother, who is about to turn 95 in a few months and is every bit as energetic and well spirited, as she was 35 years ago when we first met. Unfortunately last week she lost her balance and fell, ending up in the hospital for a fairly minor and routine procedure. Surprisingly enough, this is the first time ever in her life that she had to see the inside of a hospital as a patient. But even laying on a hospital bed recovering from her operation, her spirits are still high and her mind 100% there. Wishing her a fast recovery and many more years of good health and happiness!

Giagia Eleni