As you know by now, I never reveal too many details about my tours itineraries as I have experienced in the past people copy/pasting them for their own tours. I spend months, sometimes years refining these itineraries depending on the time of the year but mostly depending on how a country changes. And in the case of Myanmar, it is changing VERY quickly! I have had to adjust the itinerary several times, trying to always offer the group the best photo opportunities at the best time of the day. It has been 3 years now that the Myanmar photography tour remains unchanged as I feel I have found a great balance between cities and countryside photography. Mostly after the 2017 Myanmar photography tour, I am convinced the itinerary is best to offer us so many great photo opportunities.
I normally do a write up at the end of a tour but I got so busy last year running all the tours back to back that I never got the time to do it. So here it is!
Myanmar has by far been Pics of Asia’s most popular tour outside of Vietnam, and once again the tour was pretty quickly fully booked. 6 amazing students ready to be challenged in this very photogenic environment could only make an amazing tour. On top of that, we didn’t get a single drop of rain and the light was superb every day.
Warming up in Yangon
I was just coming back from Sri Lanka and needed a few days to rest in Yangon. That didn’t stop me to go and shoot one of my favourite places at sunset: the docks along the river. It is always full of Human activity and one can easily walk endlessly there, going from taking photos to having a tea break. There I met two of the tour participants for a kind of welcome session.
As a warming up session but also a way for me to introduce the first concepts about people photography we start with a very early morning in Shwedagon pagoda. A very quiet and spiritual place, allowing us to slow down and focus on what we do. I really like that morning as people usually tend to rush into the beginning of the tour. And rushing isn’t the best thing to do. The peacefulness of Shwedagon allows us to slow down and think, anticipate the action and come up with better images.
The Chinatown market is a full on experience, full of people and activity, and complete different exercise from Shwedagon pagoda. Here students have to work fast, think fast, and this is a great way to improve one’s photography skills. It is also a great spot to focus the photography workshop on the light, practising different composition techniques related to it.
After two more days in Yangon exploring the city and its countryside, we then headed to Bagan. As popular as Bagan is for its temples, we only spend a sunrise session photographing them. After all, there are only temples and we are more interested in people photography. I do have some very special villages that we go and explore in the surroundings of Bagan, where people rarely see any tourists. Luckily, people were very busy working in the fields with peanuts and chillies. The late afternoon light was fantastic and we spent our whole time working on layering and trying to perfectly time the moment our different subjects would walk in the right spot.
As the sun was going down on the horizon it was a great time to start shooting in the light and create this late afternoon feel into our images.
Of course, we couldn’t leave Bagan without chasing the cow herders at sunset, going through the temples on their way home. It was quite intense as they were walking pretty fast and we trying to keep up with them, but so much fun! Just imagine 7 of us chasing the cows trying to keep them in line with the sunset and some temples in the background! I love these moments when we are all taken away by our photography and forget everything else.
The remote Pindaya
Now we come up to my favourite part of the tour: the rolling hills of Pindaya. I discovered that spot almost by accident some years ago and have been coming back every year ever since.
Pindaya is home to several ethnic tribes and some beautiful rolling hills as a backdrop. October usually is busy with people harvesting rice, cauliflowers and other vegetables so there is plenty of activity in the fields. Plus the local markets around at very traditional and offer great lights in the morning.
We drove along the main road and stopped several times to capture the field’s activity. At the end of our second day there, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a big group of Pao people harvesting rice in their traditional way, offering us a lot of layers to play with.
There would be no complete photography tour in Myanmar without ending on Inle Lake, probably the most beautiful region in Myanmar. The light bouncing on the lake is fantastic and the whole area is home to many local markets. This is a time for us to go shoot but also preparing our final photo critique session in the comfort of our hotel.
Overall this is one of the best photography tours in Myanmar I ever ran, because of the great group dynamic and fantastic weather. I also reconciled with my love of taking portraits as I recently received my new portrait lens (that I will be reviewing soon). The Burmese people being so friendly, it makes it quite easy to approach them and work on portrait photography techniques.