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

Bagan Photo Shoot 3: The Monk at Prayer

After our photo shoot at the colonnade, our photographer guide, Maung Maung Bagan, loaded us and the monk into his car and started driving down dirt paths. It was getting hot and we noticed that the only part of his air conditioner that still seemed to function was the ON light. On the other hand, we were zipping down roads at 40 miles per hour when other vehicles were crawling along at about 10 mph. We also left quite an impressive plume of dust.

We arrived at a temple and entered. At Maung Maung’s “suggestion”, we bought a pack of candles from a small shop inside the temple. We then went through an arched doorway which, to our surprise, led to a long cave containing only a large reclining Buddha. Placing the candles on stands and on the fingers of the Buddha, Maung Maung lit them and our little monk began to pray. The following photos show the  results.

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Praying Monk

Specs: Canon 100D, ISO 400, f/5.0, 1/6 sec, 37 mm

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Praying Monk

Specs: ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/25 sec, 32 mm

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Reclining Buddha with Praying Monk

Specs: Canon 100D, ISO 6400, f/5.6, 1/125 sec, 43 mm

Both closeup photos of the monk were taken with tripod-mounted cameras. The long view of the Buddha was taken with a camera propped on a table.  For all the photos, the only illumination in the dark cave was the candelight seen in the photos.

For our earlier posts on our photo shoots that day, visit:

Bagan Photo Shoot 1: I need a map

Bagan Photo Shoot 2: The Firewood Seller