Smoky Serenity in Bagan

This is our entry in The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Serene.

This post highlights another 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.)

This is a temple we visited in the late afternoon. It was locked, but Maung Maung had arranged for a “key man” to let us in for about $4 US.  He had also arranged for the novice Buddhist monk to be our model for another $4. 

We know that there must be particles in the air to capture sun rays in photos.  In the West, either a smoke machine or a can of spray smoke is used to illuminate the sunbeams. These normally come with strict warnings about allergies, safety, etc.  Gavin Hoey, one of our favorite presenters on YouTube, carefully describes these warnings each time smoke is used.  Maung Maung brought small bundles of some kind of dried grass, tossed them in the window behind the little monk, and lit them. The smoke was both photographically effective and choking.  After the shoot, we stood in the window where the monk is seen in the photo. We had difficulty breathing and our eyes watered.  Only then did we realize what we had just put the little novitiate through.

This photo was taken on February 8, 2017. Specs are:

Canon SL1, ISO 1600, f/7.1, 1/80 sec, focal length 18 mm

Meditate in Radiance

This is our entry in The Daily Post Daily Prompt: Radiate.

We visited Bagan, Myanmar, in February 2017. On our first day there, we went on a photo shoot with a self-taught photographer named Maung Maung Bagan, whose stunning photos have won numerous international awards.  Near the end of our afternoon shoot, Maung Maung drove us, with our young hired monk, to a small square temple at the end of a small dusty road. The temple was locked, but the caretaker and two helpers were waiting for us. A 5000 kyat bill (less than $4 US) passed from our hands to the caretaker, and we all entered the temple.  On the western wall of the temple was a small alcove framing a perforated stone window, with light radiating from the setting sun. What a beautiful place for meditation!

iBallRTW-Afternoon in a Pagoda

Radiation for Meditation

This photo was taken on February 8, 2017, just before sunset. Specs are:

Canon 100D, ISO 100, f/8, 1/50 sec, 18 mm

Bagan Photo Shoot #4: The Alms Line

This post continues our series describing photography sessions with the photographer Maung Maung Bagan in Bagan, Myanmar.  As our morning photo shoot with the young monk was nearing 11 am, we made one last stop at an “alms line.” This line of 20 statues is headed by Buddha, indicated by the Ushnisha (enlightenment elevation) on top of his head and the elongated ears.   He and the following 19 monks hold alms bowls. We cannot read the signs at the feet of the statues, but they are probably lessons in Buddhism. Our model is carrying his sandals because the walkway beside the statues is sacred.

iBallRTW-Alms Line-1
Alms Line

This photo was taken on February 8, 2017. Specs are:

Canon 100D, ISO 400, f/5, 1/1000 sec, 37 mm

For the earlier posts in this series, see:

Bagan Photo Shoot 1: I need a map

Bagan Photo Shoot 2: The Firewood Seller

Bagan Photo Shoot 3: The Monk at Prayer

Stay tuned for more posts in this series, using different models in the afternoon of the same day.

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.