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!

 

1. Kyaw-Kyaw-Winn - Golden Triangle Burma

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.

2. Bennett-Stevens - Intha Inle Lake
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.

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