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
Photographers Gone Wild w/ Kyaw Kyaw Winn has always been our most popular Myanmar photo tour adventure, for obvious reasons. Not only do participants get insider access and creative angles on Myanmar’s Big 4 iconic locations, but rare access to various tribal groups in the mountains of storied Chin State as well.
The Big 4 features Yangon’s 2,500 year old Shwedagon Pagoda and amazing street life, the floating world of magical Inle Lake and its uniquely photogenic Intha fishermen, the surreal 2,220 strong temple-scape of the ancient Bagan dynasty, and many of the myriad marvels of The Mandalay Array.
The “wild” aspect takes you well off the beaten path, where you will get the exciting opportunity to photograph the last of the Chin “tattoo tribes” in the small mountain villages where they live. This is an especially fascinating part of your overall photo adventure. (See more information in the Getting Cultural section near the bottom of the page).
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 and enthusiastic teacher who has been leading international photographers on Myanmar photo tour workshops for years, and he knows the country and her often ethereal light like no one else on the planet. He’s technically brilliant as well, and regularly teaches workshops for Nikon , Fujifilm , and the Myanmar Photographic Society. He is also executive editor of the U.K’s Digital Photography magazine, Burmese edition.
“KK was a complete star – what a wonderful man… I learned more about photography with KK than I have ever before in my life! This is the one of the best trips I have done and I am certainly more than “quite” happy – I am extremely happy! The photography was fantastic and intense and I loved it. And of course Burma is such a special and wonderful country. The trip was magical – and I cannot rate KK and Boothee more highly. I can’t wait to do another LJ trip!”– Katie Garrod, UK
Should we have 8 – 10 participants, K.K. will be joined on tour by award winning photojournalist Boothee Thaik Htun. For more about K.K. and Boothee please see Photographer Bios . For an inspirational story about K.K. and how he became a pro photographer, visit the popular photo magazine, Photography Life. See K.K’s Gallery here.
NOTE: Yes, the country is very safe for travelers. Safer that the US, EU, or neighboring Thailand. This is a fact. Myanmar’s very remote troubles have zero affect on tourism, except for the drop in visitor numbers! Which makes it all the more desirable for photographers… If you have doubts, please have a look at this article.
Highlights – Photographers Gone Wild
The Magnificent 2,500 Year Old Shwedagon Pagoda
The Mandalay Array – Mingun & The U Bein Bridge
The Thousand Monks of the Ananda Pagoda Festival
Floating Villages & Intha Fishermen of Inle Lake
Novice Nuns in Pink Robes
Vanishing Tribes of Chin State
Hot Air Balloon over the Surreal Temple- Scape of Ancient Bagan
Rice Fields, Karst Limestone Formations
The Friendliest People on Earth!
Photographers Gone Wild – Chin State Expedition
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 presentation by K.K. Winn.
Day 2 – Yangon – Bagan – Circle Train and a Pagoda Festival
Yangon’s fascinating old Circle Train, which circumnavigates the city’s rural outskirts, is gradually being modernized. This will be one of the last chances to photograph with these rustic train cars. Stop at a lively market that hugs the tracks, then head to the airport for the flight to Bagan. Free shoot festival pilgrims, then sunset temple-scapes.
Day 3 – Bagan – Hot Air Aerials & Chiaroscuro Monks
The myriad temples of Bagan define one of the great archaeological sites of the world. Flying above the vast temple-scape 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. Interiors w/ novice monks & chiaroscuro light follow. Free shoot the festival in the afternoon, ending w/ sunset temple panoramas.
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 – Bagan – Mindat – 2,220 Temples & the Road to Mindat
Last chance temple-scapes for that perfect sunrise before taking the scenic and interesting journey into the storied mountains of Chin State. There will be stops along the way for impromptu photography and a deliciously authentic Chin lunch at the summit. Arrive Mindat mid-afternoon, check into the new Mindat hotel and engage in some of the most unusual street shooting you will ever do.
Day 6 – Mindat – Chin Villages – People & Landscapes
A full day of exciting photography at the nearby villages of Nat Htai and Pang O lay ahead. You will meet & photograph various Chin tribes, some of them Christian, with different facial tattoos and adornments. Interior environmental portraiture w/ chiaroscuro lighting offer rare image making opportunities. Time permitting, KK will take you to the prefect outlook for late afternoon mountain-scapes.
Day 7 – Mindat –Trek & Shoot Tiger Hunter Village
The trek to Tiger Hunter village takes an hour, and is moderate in difficulty. Various hut clusters are home to dozens bearing the tattoo branding particular to their tribal group. KK is known and beloved here, and the day will be a mix of free and arranged shoots in a variety of light, included interiors and chiaroscuro. It’s bound to be one of the most intriguing photographic days you’ll ever have.
Day 8 – Mindat – Mandalay – Chin Music & the U Bein Bridge
Photographing morning alms rounds of young Buddhist monks is always a wonderful experience. Before the return drive to Bagan there will be time to visit and photograph a very special Chin musician with very unusual tattoo markings that are thought to be the last of her line. Arrive back in Bagan for a quick hop flight to Mandalay. There should be time to visit the legendary U bein Bridge for sunset.
Day 9 – Mandalay – Fishermen’s Dawn & Mingun Afternoon
At sunrise catch fisherman casting nets @ the U Bein Bridge. A street shoot near the monastery of the fallen Buddha follows, w/ special access to marble Buddha sculptors. Afternoon Irrawaddy cruise to the Mingun, home of the massive, earthquake cracked Mingun temple, the stunning all white temple of Hsinbyume & more. Our favorite schoolgirl models and young monks will join us – always great fun!
Day 10 – Mandalay – Inle –Sunrise Hill and a Magic Lake
Catch the evocative sunrise from our hidden monastery location on Mandalay Hill, then head to magical Inle Lake. The little town of Nyaungshwe is full of monasteries & nunneries to photograph, as well as excellent restaurants. Lunch here at an LJ favorite featuring delicious home-made rice pasta dishes & marvelous Inle avocado salads. After lunch hit the lake. Sunset shoot w/ Intha fishermen.
Day 11 – Inle Lake – Mysterious Ruins and a Vanishing Tribe
Indein village is the home of Inle’s largest market, which draws various tribes from the surrounding hills. 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 are Myanmar’s most distinctive vanishing tribe, by virtue of the many brass rings worn around the necks of females.
Day 12 – Inle Lake – Yangon – Fishermen Sunrise; Sunset on the River
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! Return to Yangon for sunset along the Wa Dan wharf, then to hopping 19 th St. for Chinatown BBQ.
Day 13 – Yangon – Nunnery Morning & Free Time
After the best buffet breakfast in Yangon, grab your gear and set out for a wonderful little nunnery. Enjoy the young ladies in pink robes as they study and go about their duties before their last meal of the day at 11:30 am. Your day is then free to do as you please. Possibly a final image review w/ KK? Shopping at the 2000 shops of Scott Market very near the hotel? Lounge with an umbrella cocktail by the pool? Special Farewell Dinner tonight, w/ spectacular views over the city.
Day 14 – Myanmar Departure or Mrauk U Extension
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! For those who cannot bare to leave yet, the flight to Mrauk U departs about noon.
*Please note the above itinerary is not written in stone. 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.
Golden Rock + Hpa An Buddha Caves
Day 1 – Yangon – Kyaiktiyo – Scenic Journey to a Golden Rock Sunset
Depart Yangon after a leisurely breakfast for the scenic drive to east into Mon State. The golden glory of Kyaiktiyo (sounds like chake-tee-oh), also known as the Golden Rock, is the third most sacred Buddhist shrine in Myanmar. Monks and pilgrims alike worship at the rock – said to be held in place on its precarious perch by a single hair of the Buddha – by placing gold leaf upon it. The scene is most photogenic at sunrise and sunset, and even after dark when the lights come on.
Day 2 – Golden Rock – Hpa An – Golden Dawn, Journey to Hpa An
The Golden Rock sits at an altitude of 3,600 feet, and so misty early mornings are not uncommon. Images shot in the vanishing mist with monks at prayer lend an extra sense of mystique. Mid-morning we make our way down the mountain & hit the road for the very photogenic region in and around Hpa An. Here there will be time to enjoy a later afternoon shoot along the river. Boats, people & buffalo make for great subjects w/ karst limestone backgrounds.
Day 3 – Hpa An – Sadan Buddha Cave & Environs
Nearby sunrise rice paddy shoot, breakfast, and drive out to Sadan cave. Arranged & free shoots in the cave interior with myriad Buddha figures and monks under a variety of dramatic lighting conditions. Exit the far end of the cave and take a canoe across a tiny idyllic lake to photograph fishermen from the canoe inside another cave. Continue through the cave and paddle through gorgeous rice paddies and karst limestone.
Day 4 – Hpa An – Hpa An – Kyaukkalat Pagoda – Kagun Buddha Cave
Kyaukkalat Pagoda (sounds like chocolate ) is a karst limestone spire jutting from an island monastery. The scene here at sunrise is nothing less than mystically stunning. Next up is Kagun “ Buddha” cave. This cave has tens of thousands of Buddha figures carved into the rock, and just the right amount of light pouring in from the opening. There is a small monastery adjacent, and plenty of monks about.
Day 5 – Hpa An – Yangon – Sunrise & Return
Sunrise rice field shoot with Karst limestone backgrounds, then breakfast. On the return drive to Yangon stop to photograph another Buddha cave & monastery. Later visit Mya Tharloung, the site of the largest reclining Buddha in the world. The interior of the Buddha surprising depicts a completely different side of Burmese Buddhism! Arrive back in Yangon in the early evening for dinner and a fond farewell. Assuming you will have a flight out tomorrow, our driver will pick you up at the appointed hour to take you to Yangon International. Alternatively, there are a number of late departing international flights that just might work for you.
What’s Included in the Price of Your Photo Tour?
Photographer fees and top English speaking guide
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
Drinks @ lunches & dinners
Any personal purchases
Trip cancellation or medical insurance
Gratuities for hotel porters, local guide & drivers
Myanmar visa fee
End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leader
More Knowledge – Better Pictures
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.
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!
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.