Balloons over Bagan – Tuesday Photo Challenge – Morning

This is our entry in Dutch goes the Photo!’s Tuesday Photo Challenge – Morning.

During our recent visit to Bagan, Myanmar, we arose early one morning to climb to the top of the tower next to our hotel to view the sunrise.  Even though we were early, there were a dozen people there already, all shivering.  With cameras on tripods or steadied against the railing, we all stood silently looking in the same general direction. Suddenly one of us saw a small change in the light on the horizon, pointed and called out “there it is,” and all cameras swung toward that light. Many pictures were taken as the sun rose, as it created an ever-changing masterpiece of light and shadow on the landscape below.

As it happens, a very popular experience in Bagan is a hot air balloon ride, floating over the thousands of temples on the plains below.  Just as we on the tower waited for the sunrise, now we waited for the balloons.  As little dark spots near the horizon, they were harder than the sun to spot. But they did eventually appear, just over 20 of them, floating between the tower and the sunrise.

Balloons over Bagan

Bagan, located near Mandalay, was the capital of Myanmar for 500 years. By the 13th Century, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas, and monasteries had been built there. Of these, over 2200 remain, but in various states of disrepair. Bagan is plagued by numerous earthquakes. A major earthquake occurred on July 9, 1975, damaging many buildings beyond repair. A government-funded restoration begun in the 1990s has been severely criticized. Another major earthquake last year (August 24, 2016) destroyed about 400 buildings and severely damaged more. UNESCO is assisting in current restorations.

Seeing the damaged buildings during our visit in February this year, we could only wish that we had come a year earlier.  While the picture above does not suggest the recent damage, it is obvious from the ground or any elevated viewing position. Nevertheless, a visit to Bagan is a wonderful experience.

Specs for the photo are:

Olympus TG-4, ISO 100, f/4.9, 1/100 sec, 18 mm

Cart Wheels – Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring – Wood

This is our entry in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Spring – Wood .  This photo was taken in a self-sustaining village in Bagan, Myanmar. Villagers make whatever wooden objects they need, including wooden wheels for carts.

iBallRTW wooden wheels
Wooden Cart Wheels

Here is a completed cart, with a neck yoke for oxen.

iBallRTW wooden cart
Ox Cart




Bagan Photo Shoot 2: The Firewood Seller

This post highlights our second photo shoot in Bagan, Myanmar, with the international award-winning photographer Maung Maung Bagan.  (The first photo shoot is described at Bagan Photo Shoot 1: I need a map.)

As we exited the car at our first location, young monk in tow, Maung Maung collected another model: an 80-year-old firewood salesman. As we were told several times, people in Myanmar want to remain active and useful for as long as they can and modeling jobs are quite welcome.

Firewood Seller

Our model was willing to walk and model as directed by Maung Maung.  We couldn’t figure out whether he was a regular model for Maung Maung or just a quick study.  A very cheerful fellow, it wasn’t easy to capture his image without his smile.

Firewood Seller

However, when we paid him at the end of his gig, he could not contain his happiness. (That’s Maung Maung Bagan in the left side of the picture.)

Firewood Seller
For less than one hour’s work, we paid him 5000 Myanmar Kyat, which equals about $3.67 in US dollars (USD). For comparison, a journeyman lacquerware maker (who is a highly-skilled worker) in Myanmar earns about $4 USD a day.


Bagan Photo Shoot 1: I need a map

We have been seriously interested in learning photography for about two years, but have found it difficult to schedule learning experiences. While watching YouTube videos, we saw an interview recorded in Bagan, Myanmar, with a photographer named Maung Maung Bagan (pronounced “Mao Mao” for some reason). He is self-taught and his stunning photos have won numerous international awards.

After a fair amount of searching on the internet, we found Maung Maung and arranged for him to take us on a photo shoot.  He met us at our hotel on our first morning in Bagan and drove around searching for something.  Eventually, he stopped the car and said (I thought) “I need a map.” He got out and circled the car glancing in every direction. We were beginning to wonder if we had made a big mistake when he came back with a monk!  He explained that we could hire the monk until about 11:30, when he needed to be back at the monastery in time to eat his last meal of the day.  We hired him and drove to a location to replicate one of Maung Maung’s photos.

Monk with Umbrella

Two more mages from the first photo shoot appear below.

And two more images…

This was the first time we had worked with a model (and likely the first time the model had worked with a photographer). Despite the communications barriers and some other eccentricities, it was easy to see that Maung Maung is a photographic genius. We visited several more sites with other models which we will show in later posts.

Note: In Myanmar, consistent with the Buddhist philisophy, the young monk who modeled for us relies on alms collected from his community (see the alms bowl in his arms).  Since we had used the time that he would have had for collecting alms (usually food), it was only right to “pay” for his services by giving him the commodity that we had, namely cash. Maung Maung himself bought the boy a lunch which he could eat before the noon deadline.