It’s been almost a month since I wrote on my blog. That may not seem that long, but for me it feels like ages. I have a personal target of 2-3 posts a month just to keep my momentum going. Photography for me is a way of getting away from the rigors of every day life – a way to escape. Unless I impose targets on myself, it is easy to get caught in my daily routine and neglect the things that matter the most.
April has been a quite challenging month work-wise and that has caused me not only to put my hobby aside, but to also neglect people that matter in my life. It is inexcusable I know. The only saving grace is the thought that this is in a way an anomaly – a one time event soon to be over that won’t become a frequent occurrence.
This is a picture of a poor Burmese fisherman, who’s gone out at sunset to catch some fish to feed his family. He lives in a make-shift shelter near the village of Thandwe in Myanmar. It is a picture that helps me put a lot of what I mentioned in perspective.
Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 800, F6.3 at 1/320 sec.
Have you ever walked to a restaurant, only to find out that you have to swim back home? The restaurant in this picture belongs to the hotel we stayed at in Ngapali beach. It’s located just in front of the hotel, at the end of a long pier extending into the sea. Inconveniently, this restaurant (the “PVI” as it is known), closes at 9pm, so the latest reservation one can make is at 7pm. Getting there is a short walk, but at closing time the water tide floods the surrounding area, turning the inlet into a small island. Options are that you swim back, or wait for a shuttle boat to take you back to land. Quite the experience, but unfortunately the food there rates mediocre at best.
Shot handheld with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 800, F6.3 at 1/50 sec.
For a while now I’ve been itching to take a seascape shot at sunset, but never got around to it. I finally found the opportunity 2 weeks ago when I was on a business trip in Ngapali – a beach town on the west coast of Burma. Hearing prior to my trip that this location has one of the best beaches in the South East Asia region, I had my hopes high and thankfully I was not disappointed.
I generally try to travel light, but one of the compromises I never make is taking my trusty travel tripod – a key ingredient for this type of shots. Equally as key (though not 100% necessary), is a set of Neutral Density (ND) filters. For this shot I used a 3-stop solid ND filter to slow down my shutter speed, as well as a 2-stop ND grad filter to equalize the brightness of the sky with the foreground.
I arrived to take this shot about 20 minutes before sunset. As I was setting up my equipment knee-high in water, a young Burmese boy approached me and silently stood by, curious about what I was doing. I attempted to explain to him that I was taking a picture of the scenery but the response I got was a simple nod before he started pointing out the fish swimming in the water. He must have thought that my tripod was a fancy spear gun. I smiled in return knowing that it was all lost in translation.
Shot with my Canon 60D and Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 DC HSM lens, at ISO 100, F22, 0.6secs, w/ 0.9 solid ND and 0.6 ND grad filters.
Tonight I am flying back to Myanmar, for what has now become a frequent destination. During this 2 week stay, I will get a chance to spend 5-days in Ngapali – a beach resort close to the town of Thandwe on the west coast of Myanmar. Pretty excited to be honest, because even though this will be a quite long and tiring trip, at least I will get the chance to unwind by the beach over the weekend.
With new destinations come new photo opportunities! From what I’ve read, the beaches there are really beautiful, and even though they are considered to be the best in the country, the political climate of the country has downplayed their popularity in the South East Asia region. My aim therefore this time around is to get some decent seascape pictures particularly during sunset and also portraits of the locals from the nearby fishing villages.
Below is a picture I took just over a year ago during my visit to a Buddhist monastery in the ancient city of Bagan. The young monks here wearing the traditional Buddhist red gowns are bringing food for their elders just in time for lunch.
Shot with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS lens, at ISO 200, F.5.0 @ 1/800 sec.
Off to Burma next week, for a full week’s worth of work. In anticipation of my upcoming trip, I decided to quickly scan through my photo archive from my last visit. As I was going through the archive, this picture jumped out at me. I wish I could say that this was taken by a war time photographer some 70 odd years ago. This unfortunately was taken last September during my day tour in the old capital city of Yangon (Rangoon). Hard to imagine that this was 2012 and that children still live in these conditions.
Taken with my Canon 60D and Canon 24-70 F2.8L lens, at ISO 200, F2.8, 1/500 sec. B&W conversion done in Lightroom 5 using Silver Efex Pro 2.
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.
PS: 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!
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.
A few people asked me why the kids in my previous post had paint applied all over their face. In fact the vast majority of Myanmar people and particularly the women that I saw while I was there, had that yellowish-white paste on their face. Apparently, this paste is called “Thanaka”, and is extracted from a specific tree which grows abundantly in that region. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia, which explains it in a bit more detail:
“Thanaka cream has been used by Burmese women for over 2000 years. It has a fragrant scent somewhat similar to sandalwood. The creamy paste is applied to the face in attractive designs, the most common form being a circular patch on each cheek, sometimes made stripey with the fingers known as thanaka bè gya, or patterned in the shape of a leaf, often also highlighting the bridge of the nose with it at the same time. It may be applied from head to toe (thanaka chi zoun gaung zoun). Apart from cosmetic beauty, thanaka also gives a cooling sensation and provides protection from sunburn.It is believed to help remove acne and promote smooth skin.It is also an anti-fungal.”
I took the picture below at a local tea shop towards the end of our day tour in Yangon. In fact, this girl was our waitress there, who after serving the tea (which incidentally no one touched), she thought wise to pour the entire tea pot into a plastic bag and hand it to us to take home! Gives a whole new meaning to “doggy bag” I suppose!
Taken with my Canon 60D, and Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens at ISO 400, at F4.5, 1/250 sec with a +1/3 EV exposure bias.
Continuing with the series of posts from my recent trip to Myanmar, this is a photograph taken at sunset at Inya Lake near the center of Yangon. Luckily I had taken my tripod with me on the tour bus, on the odd occasion I would need to take a landscape picture in low lighting conditions (very nerdy I know). I guess lugging it around with me sort of paid off with this HDR picture I took of a young couple watching the Ferris Wheel at sunset.
Shot with my Canon 60D and Sigma 18-200 F3.5-6.3 OS lens at ISO 400, F4.0 at 1/40 sec, exposed at -2/0/+2.
Poverty, malnutrition and bad hygiene are very apparent as your walk through the streets of Yangon – the result of the country’s mismanagement and years in isolation. The words of a Myanmar university professor who we met during our trip, described it perfectly – “In the past, Myanmar people were scared to dream of the future. They would close their eyes and all they saw was nightmares. For the first time in years, they are now able to dream of change – a better tomorrow for themselves and their children”. Simply looking at the smiles on the childrens faces this is indeed very apparent.
Part of our tour included a boat ride across the Yangon river, so just before noon we arrived at the ferry terminal. The picture above is of 3 out of many children that greeted us outside the terminal, who were really eager to be photographed. Clearly their motive was money but admittedly their emotions seemed genuine. After posing for what seemed like 100 photographs, they each revealed a set of 10 postcards that they were selling for 2000 kyats (about 2 euros). One must admire the business sense of these kids, as there was no way for me to deny giving up that money; not just for the postcards, but in return for all the pictures I managed to take of them.
Shot with my Canon 60D and my Canon 24-70mm F2.8L lens at F2.8, 1/1000 sec at ISO 200.