Photographers Gone Wild – Myanmar Photo Tour Adventure

I have been on quite a number of photo tours all over the world, and Luminous Journeys has been the best – by far... Kyaw Kyaw Winn and the  people of Myanmar will always be in my heart.
Benny Hanigal

David-Lazar_Bio Photo_Bali2Photographers Gone Wild w/ Kyaw Winn has always been our most popular Myanmar photo tour workshop. Participants get more insider access and creative angles on Myanmar’s Big 4 iconic locations than any other photo tours can offer, if they can offer Myanmar at all. Since we have an office base here, we can.  

The Big 4 features Yangon’s 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda & amazing street life, the floating world of magical Inle Lake & its photogenic Intha fishermen, the surreal 2,220 strong temple-scape of ancient Bagan, plus many of the myriad marvels of The Mandalay Array.

This photo tour is open to photo enthusiasts of all skill levels interested in broadening their photographic horizons and learning how to shoot pro quality images. You will be taken to numerous insider locations that would be impossible to find on your own, and also have the chance to work in a number of arranged shoot situations w/ monks and others, including low and chiaroscuro light temple and village interiors.

 

K.K. is a patient teacher with a wonderful demeanor who has been leading international photographers on Myanmar photo tour workshops for over a decade. He knows the country and her ethereal light like few others.  He’s technically brilliant as well, and is one of Myanmar's most widely known and influential photographer. He runs numerous workshops for Fujifilm as well as Nikon. including in Japan.

 

"I’m still glowing after the incredible journey (Jan 2020) through Myanmar.  KK is an amazing guy—so much fun, always smiling and happy and patient with all of us.  As well as willing to share his knowledge of photography and settings for our cameras when we were stumped. Each place we visited was more special than the last...  So thank you for arranging such a special journey.  I loved every minute." –Emily Kelting, USA

 

*Award winning astro and documentary photographer Boothee Thaik Htun will join the trip if we have 6 or more pax. For more about A.P. and Boothee please see Meet the Team.

 

Myanmar Photo Tour Highlights 

The Magnificent 2,500 Year Old Shwedagon
Pagoda

The Mandalay Array – Mingun & The U Bein Bridge at Amarapura

The Thousand Monks of the Ananda Pagoda Festival

Floating Villages, Pagodas, & One Leg Rowing Intha Fishermen of Inle Lake

Novice Nuns in Pink Robes and Novice Monks  Making Alms Rounds

Portrait Session at Inle Lake with Padaung Tribal Women

Hot Air Balloon over the Surreal Temple-scape of Ancient Bagan

Inside Access to Photograph Monks in Chiaroscuro Light

Enjoy Cultural Interchange with the Most Welcoming People on Earth! (You know who excluded!)

Itinerary - Myanmar Photo Tour w/ KK Winn 

Photographers Gone Wild – Big 4 Edition 

Magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda at night in Yangon, Myanmar

Day 1 – Yangon – Spectacular Shwedagon
A Luminous Journeys representative will greet you at the airport whatever day or time you may arrive, no worries! Program begins at 3 pm with a meet & greet, followed by your first photo shoot at Shwedagon Pagoda and a nearby Buddhist monastery. A special Welcome Dinner & slideshow by K.K. Winn follows.

Kyaw-Kyaw-Winn_Bagan_Myanmar

Day 2 – Yangon – Bagan – Ancient Temples and a Pagoda Festival
This morning depart Yangon - we will return for two nights at the end of the trip - and fly up to experience one of the archaeological wonders of the world, the 2,220 temples of Bagan. The greatests and most beautiful of all is Ananda, the festival's namesake. Many angles today, people and temples, interior & exterior.

Day 3 - Bagan

Day 3 – Bagan – Hot Air Aerials & Chiaroscuro Monks
The myriad temples of Bagan define this wholly unique landscape. Flying above the vast scene in a hot air balloon  is a thrill few choose to miss! But if you do, K.K. will have you in a prime position to get that perfect surreal temple-scape, great sunrise light willing. Free shoot the festival happenings on your own or with the KK, ending w/ sunset temple panoramas.

Day 4. Ananda Festival - KK Winn_Luminous-Journeys

Day 4 – Bagan – Dawn of 1,000 Monks & Pilgrim Exodus
This final day of the Ananda Pagoda Festival offers two extraordinary photo opportunities. The first @ dawn w/ 1,000 or so monks lined up to receive alms donated by the pilgrims in attendance. (We often see Steve McCurry on this morning, but no promises!) After the alms scene, pilgrims begin their exodus, many by ox drawn wagon train! Exclusive sunset temple location this evening

Day 5. Kyaw-Kyaw-Winn_LuminousJourneys.net

Day 5 – Bagan – Mandalay – Morning Temples & the Road to Mandalay
Last chance temple-scapes for that perfect sunrise before either hitting the new and fast highway to Mandalay, or taking the 15 minute flight. The Mandalay Array as we have dubbed it, is so loaded with photo opportunities we'd need weeks to cover them all. There are good reasons why Steve McCurry (name dropping again!)  spends so much time here on his photo tours.  We will visit some of his favorite locations and also a couple he is probably not aware of!

U Bein Bridge at sunrise, Myanmar photo tour

Day 6 – Mandalay – Mingun - Fishermen’s Dawn & Mingun Swoon                  At sunrise catch fisherman casting nets and rowing boats @ the U Bein Bridge.  Later enjoy a private cruise on the legendary Irrawaddy River to the ancient Mingun complex, home of the massive, earthquake cracked Mingun temple, the stunning white temple of Hsinbyume, and the largest uncracked single cast bell on the planet.  Our favorite schoolgirl models & young monks will join us to accent the scenes – always great fun!

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Day 7 – Mandalay – Amarapura - More of the Array & an U Bein Sunset   
Catch the evocative sunrise from our hidden monastery location on Mandalay Hill. Breakfast back at the hotel followed by a street shoot near the monastery of the fallen Buddha. Then special access to marble Buddha sculptors working in chiaroscuro light - wow!  This afternoon return to Amarapura to photograph monks and others crossing the U Bein Bridge at sunset, both from rowboats and up on the bridge itself.    

5. Luminous Journeys.Inle.Myanmar

Day 8 – Mandalay – Lake Inle - From the Array to Magical Lake Inle
Hopefully a little time to sleep in this morning before heading for the little town of Nyaungshwe, the gateway to Lake Inle. The town is full of little monasteries & nunneries, as well as excellent restaurants and ooodles of charm. Lunch here at an LJ favorite featuring delicious home-made rice pasta dishes & marvelous Inle avocado salads. After lunch hit the lake and the gorgeous hotel on the water.  Rest up before a late afternoon and sunset shoot w/ Intha fishermen.

Bennett-Stevens_Kayaung-long-neck_Myanmarb copy 2

Day 9 – Lake Inle – Mysterious Ruins and a Vanishing Tribe
Indein village is the home of Inle’s largest market, which draws a number of different  tribes from the surrounding hills, many who still dress in the traditional manner.  Free shoot the market & then w/ local monks at the nearby temple ruins of Nyaung Oak. On return visit the Kayaung for a “studio” portrait and environmental portrait session. The Kayaung (also known as Padaung) are Myanmar’s most distinctive vanishing tribe, by virtue of the many brass rings worn around the necks of females.

Intha fishermen on Lake Inle, Myanmar, published by National Geographic

Day 10 – Lake Inle - Fishermen Sunrise and Floating Villages                  Position before sunrise to photograph Intha fisherman as the sun breaks over the mountain & across the water to reveal a misty scene that is both peaceful & thrilling. We won’t even get into the velvety light Inle blesses us with on many of these mornings, because we haven’t the superlatives! A gorgeous breakfast awaits! Then a full day exploring life on the lake, from floating villages and pagodas to cottage industries in action – cheroot rollers to lotus silk weavers to silversmithing and more. The magical feeling of the lake is inescapable.

Luminous-Myanmar-–-Journey-to-the-Lost-City

Day 11 – Inle Lake – Kalaw - Paper Umbrellas and a Charming Hill Station      This morning we make the scenic drive to the rural areas and villages near the beautiful and cool hill station of Kalaw. On the way stop to photograph colorful paper umbrella makers at the end of the lake and any landscapes that strike your fancy.  Arrive Kalaw and check-in at a very charming 19th century mansion & boutique hotel. Dine, relax and in the afternoon KK will take you around to visit some tribal peoples who, like many of Burma's 146 ethnicities, still dress in traditional costume.

Day 9. luminousjourneys.net-KK-Winn-alt=Colorful landscape on Myanmar travel photography tour

Day 12 – Kalaw - Aung Ban - Yangon - Colorful Landscapes and High Skies    Rise before the sun to drive out to the colorful fields of the Aung Ban farming region. This region has captivated Myanmar landscape photographers for many years. Colors of the various crops vary from different greens, blues, yellows, oranges and even purples. If we are a little lucky even the sunrise will be purple, with light morning mists adding to seemingly endless fields backed by distant mountains. Once the light is past perfect, return to the hotel for breakfast before heading to the airport at Heho and the flight back to Yangon.

Day 13. Kyaw-Kyaw-Winn_Young-Nuns_Yangon-Myanmar

Day 13 – Yangon – Bago - Ancient Capitol & a Chinatown BBQ!                            After the best buffet breakfast in Yangon, grab your gear and set out for the old capitol of Bago, about 60km from Yangon. Full day's shooting at its various locations of photographic note, and peoples of interest. Return to Yangon for sunset scenes along the Wa Dan wharf, then over to hopping 19th St. for a Chinatown BBQ and adult beverages, if you are amenable.

Day 14. Bago-Buddha-Garden_Kyaw Kyaw Winn_Luminous-Journeys

Day 14 - Yangon - Departure Day - You Will Miss Thies Place!
According to your individual departure time, you’ll be driven to the airport and bid a fond farewell. You’ll miss this place, but fortunately you’ll have unforgettable memories that will continue to resonate for a very long time. Not to mention a slew of great new images to show off! We hope to see you again soon on another Luminous Journeys photo adventure. 

*Please note the above itinerary is subject to change.  A 30+ page final detailed schedule and information kit with all you need to know about traveling for photography in Myanmar will be sent to all participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.

What’s Included in the Price of Your Photo Tour?

Included:

 Photographer fees and top English speaking guide

 All accommodation

 In-country flights, airport & ground transport

  All meals from Day 1 dinner through Day 14                             breakfast

 Pleanty of bottled water & refresh towels throughout

 All entrance, zone and camera fees

 Local model, village, monsastery donations

Excluded:

 International airfare

 Drinks @ lunches & dinners

 Any personal purchases

 Trip cancellation or medical insurance

 Medical expenses

 Gratuities for hotel porters, local guide & drivers

  Myanmar visa fee

 End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leader

Getting Cultural

More Knowledge – Better Pictures

Uniquely Burma – Thanaka

Thanaka paste, made from the fragrant Thanaka tree, has been used in Myanmar for more than 2,000 years . The little girl shown on the left has gone a bit over the top with her Thanaka, which is worn daily by a majority of Myanmar women and children, but less so by men. The most popular varieties are grown in the Sagaing (Shwebo) and Magway (Shinmadaung) regions.

The paste is considered a fashion statement by many, and also serves as a natural sunscreen, skin cooler, and is also believed to help in the mitigation of acne. It comes in many personalized designs, the most common being circular patches on each cheek and a line down the bridge of the nose.

Other styles range from well-drawn Bodhi leaves on both cheeks to Mickey Mouse to heavy duty smear jobs. It is sometimes applied to all exposed skin, head to toe. In Burmese this is called thanaka chi zoun gaung zounFun Travel Tip: Burmese absolutely love it when travelers wear Thanaka, and it’s quite a fun scene to ask someone to show you how to mix and apply it!

Thanaka-Girl_Myanmar_Bennett-Stevens
A monk prays at Golden Rock of Kyaiktyo in Myanmar

Buddhism – The Heart of Myanmar

More than any other mostly Buddhist country in the world, Myanmar wears its religion on its sleeve, so to speak. 89% of the country is Buddhist. Red or maroon robed monks are seen everywhere you go, from morning alms rounds on the streets to visiting a mobile phone shop.Pink robed nuns are not quite as conspicuous, but you see them around as well. They operate in a more limited but similar fashion as monks, and their numbers are considerably fewer. Photographically, the unique pink in the right light makes for some lovely, ethereal images.

The monastery is central to Burmese life, and dates back to the 11th century. The system is supported by the local community. In return, the monastery is always there in various ways to help support the community. They provide Buddhist education, council, ceremonial services, physical labor for community projects, shelter, and even permanent residence for the elderly or orphaned.

Branded – The Women of Chin

For centuries, few outsiders ever dared to venture into the remote mountains of what is now called Chin State, west of Shan. The Chin people were known has fierce warriors who, when they vanquished an enemy, engaged in ritual cannibalism in order to make their victory complete. This also served to keep intruders to a minimum!

The Chin originated from the Chindwin Plain and the valley of Kabaw-Kale in northwest Myanmar, but were driven into the mountains of the west to what is now called Chin State by Shan invaders in the 10 the century. They number about 600,000 and are one of the country’s largest ethnic minorities. Due to the diaspora and the rugged terrain, the Chin broke into many different tribes and developed over 40 dialects that are quite distinct from one another. These days more and more Burmese is spoken, especially among the younger generations.

Warring amongst the disparate Chin tribes was common for centuries. One of the great spoils of victory was kidnapping their foes women and making them their own. The problem became so rampant that tribal chiefs started to brand their older girls and women on the face and neck, in designs unique to their particular tribe. And it worked, more or less. While you might see some Chin ladies, circumstances on the ground make it unsafe to visit Chin State. We will resume travel there as soon as it's safe to do so.

1. Bennett-Stevens_Chin-Tribe_Myanmar_alt=Myanmar photo tour image of Chin tattoo tribe women.