Myanmar with the Nikon D850 and Sony A9
by Mark Seymour
This February I took a group of photographers on a Myanmar photography workshop, with Nikon School UK. The group included professional working photographers and keen amateurs, but everyone had a passion for photography and was ready for an adventure.
We all flew into Yangon (Rangoon), with an opportunity to photograph the street life of the capital city, before taking an internal flight on an old prop-plane down to Myeik in southern Myanmar and spending the next 14 days working our way back photographing the villages and local life of Dawei, Ye and Mawlamyine, before returning to Yangon and then home.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has only become open to Western tourists in the last few years, so it is still pretty unexplored and a great source for observational documentary street and travel photography.
My workshops are a total immersion experience, we stay, travel and eat alongside the locals, and spend every day exploring the streets, markets and temples, photographing, with the evenings reviewing and editing our images and talking all things photography.
Highlights of Myanmar
Some of the highlights of Myanmar photography workshop, include the fishing harbours, where you will photograph the workers shifting huge blocks of ice to be chipped for storing the fish as it’s transported around Myanmar, and the abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat being sold in the marketplaces. Myanmar has been in the news recently regarding the religious conflicts, the country remains predominantly Buddhist, and there are many monasteries and temples to visit.
In Yangon, we took a water taxi across the river to photograph at sunset, and spent a night in 19th Street in China Town. In Myeik we took a boat across to the island to photograph the famous reclining Buddha and local monastery. Traveling by minibus to Dawei we photographed basic roads being constructed by human labor, a hot and arduous occupation by both women and men. We also go to take a little time out to enjoy some time at the unspoiled beach of Dawei. We took traditional boats along the River Ye to a rural village, and we even waded out into the water to photograph the local fishermen up close. In Mawlamyine, we took some interesting photographs of the traditional pancake/wraps being made on a blazing hot plate by hand.
The people are incredibly welcoming and you will find yourself being invited into temples, shops, and homes to photograph everyday life. One thing you will notice is the makeup/sunscreen that the women and children apply to their faces in broad stripes, thanakha, made from ground bark and water.
Documentary photography in Myanmar
Myanmar photography workshop enables me to develop some of the key documentary techniques with the photographers on the course; environmental portraiture, making the most of natural light to add dimension and texture, as well as lighting the focal point/subject, composition including photographing landscape and using thirds, separation and heads in spaces, layering, consistency, and the most important skill for getting great documentary photography on the streets, staying with the moment. By the end of the workshop, everyone was able to reflect on their individual experience of Myanmar through their images, making connections with the people and daily lives in contrast to their own.