I am taking a photography workshop to Myanmar on the 11th February and there are still a few places available. It is a country offering outstanding photo opportunities and difficult to negotiate alone. Join me and make sure that you are in the right places at the right time making the most out of your trip to this exceptional country.
2016 will be an interesting one in Myanmar. General Elections were held in November and Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory. It will take a long time for Myanmar to become a full democracy such as we know it but the winds of change are taking place. The people are elated by the news but the country is still the same. KFC opened it’s doors in January almost a year ago making it the first fast food chain in the country. It won’t be long before familiar trademarks appear everywhere. NOW is a perfect time to take a photo tour. The Burmese people need your support. Travelling responsibly in small groups, using local guides is the best way.
Myanmar is a perfect country for so many kinds of photography. It offers unique landscapes that cannot be found elsewhere in the world. What makes landscape photographs excellent is the light. It is important to know where to go and at what time in order to capture breath taking images that will stay with you for a lot longer than those moments you took to take the picture.
However, a little time and effort as well as knowing your camera and how it works is necessary. Before leaving for any holiday, tour or workshop make sure that you spend a little time making sure that you are happy with the camera that you have. Most cameras now have menus that can be quite complicated. Using the manual mode enables you to decide how that picture that you’ve been waiting for is going to look. For landscapes, depth of field plays an important role. Also, you can manipulate the contrast and colour or decide to take some black and white photos adding filters to alter the effect of the sky or water. Bagan and Inle Lake offer fantastic opportunities to practice this.
Myanmar offers sunrises and sunsets with many changing hues. In winter the cold evenings and the warm summer days produce mists that are magical first thing in the morning. What makes a sunrise or sunset picture is the foreground. Taking a photo tour as a pose to any regular tour or going on your own is that all this will be organised for you. Those silhouettes of decaying temples, of bullock carts or monks are what will make the photo stand out. The fishermen casting their nets and rowing with one leg on Inle Lake against a blood orange sky will be the focus point. First and last light are always the best for landscape photography but pretty decent pictures can be obtained at other times too if you know what you’re doing.
I wrote a blog about taking portraits in Myanmar. In any country the people are very important. I can honestly say that the Burmese people are amongst the most delightful I have ever met. They tirelessly allow us to trudge around pointing cameras at them very rarely ever complaining. Certain abuses do take place and watching several busloads of tourists all pointing their cameras at the monks as they are eating in Mandalay I find repulsive. With groups of this size there is no communication. My aim is the opposite. I love visiting monasteries and schools and take pictures but it is important to address them first. They often rush around before you’ve finished to see the back of the camera which is part of their pleasure. We leave small donations in the places we go as all these establishments are poor.
Although Myanmar is a country of colour, beautiful black and white photos can also be achieved. Whilst at Paris Photo this year I realised that I was drawn to many black and white photos as much as the colourful contemporary work displayed. I saw Steve McCurry’s exhibition in New York on India who uses bright colours in his photography as I like to do. He says that to him India was colour to him whereas New York or certain other cities are more black and white. I don’t disagree. These days with our cameras and software we can decide later how we want the picture.
Whatever camera you use, whatever your level of photography if you decide to go to Burma and join my photo tour and workshop you will not be disappointed. You may be tired at the end of the trip but you will have great photos and will have interacted with local people, climbed monuments at the crack of dawn and shivered on Inle Lake as the sun comes up amongst many other memorable experiences.