Travel

Covering Shwe Dagon in gold

Gilding Shwe Dagon - © Christopher Martin-2895

The Shwedagon Zedi Daw is a nexus point for Myanmar’s Buddhists.  It’s history goes back more than 2600 years and it is an amazing place of humanity, faith and spirituality.  The main stupa is sheathed in gold foil as are many of the parapets and other buildings on the grounds.  I went there twice when I visited Myanmar in 2010 and think I could return many more times and always find new things catching my eye.  On my second visit, I watched these workers gilding a new, or maybe restored, tower.  It was a hot day and while one gentleman found a ball cap to be sufficient protection, the other preferred a more encompassing head cover.  This was detailed work and they were attentive to the task at hand.  I had to wait a little while until one of them looked up from the tower and glanced out over the crowds walking around Shew Dagon.


A walk around Granville Island

Wet rust - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Granville Island is a favourite place of mine to stroll around on a rainy day in Vancouver.  To be clear, it is great in good weather too but when it is wet the industrial-artistic buildings, galleries and walkways reveal beautiful details.  The wood gleams, the rusty browns and reds in weathered metal become deeply saturated and the blooming flowers of mid-March glow despite the grey skies.

Narcissistic spring - 2013 © Christopher Martin

When I used to live in Vancouver I would head down to the market on the island regularly.  When dark clouds greeted us one morning during a visit my friend Jack and I made to Vancouver in March, my memories of Granville in the rain came back and it was fun to wander around there once more.

Eventually we did head into the market for a little while.  The food was, as usual, incredible and we walked out with several bags of fruit as a temporary keepsake from the morning.

Granville Island Market - 2013 © Christopher Martin

I didn’t buy any fish but I did ask the gentlemen presiding over the chilly group below if I could photograph.  The rough, inconsistent pattern caught my eye.

Fish on ice - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

All of the morning’s hard work built up a thirst so we stopped by the Granville Island Brewery’s Taproom.  These lightbulbs looked like they were from someone’s Steampunk dream and I was compelled to ask a couple if I could lean over next to them in order to grab a quick shot.

Steampunk lighting - 2013 © Christopher Martin

 

On the way out of the maze of buildings, this metal rail contraption drew my attention.  It wasn’t in motion, I’m not even sure that there was anything that did move, but it was really cool.

Metal rails - 2013 © Christopher Martin

A little earlier, I had really enjoyed the metal construction art at the entrance to the Ocean Concrete yard along the island’s waterfront facing the inlet.  The two pieces seemed like distant cousins with the house suggesting a slightly more inviting alternate reality.  It is a very cool place where even a concrete company gets into the artistic vibe.

Ocean Concrete art installation - 2013 © Christopher Martin

Another great tour through Granville Island.  I’m looking forward to the next one, rain or shine.


Spiritual Sedona

I enjoyed experiencing some of Sedona’s mystical places and the spiritual moments that have drawn ancient cultures and continues to pull people.

This trip was too short to really dive in but this photograph of the sun in the forest on the West Fork Trail near Sedona suggested something of the experience.


Hawaiian Landscapes: Kaua’i Sunrises

I was able to enjoy three consecutive sunrises down on the eastern shore of Kaua’i in the last days of our trip in December. I went to a couple of different spots between Kealia and Kapa’a and each offered a different perspective of the coastline. Here are a few of the photographs I liked from these mornings on the water with the rising sun.

A defiant shelf of rock juts out into the surf while the sun drives through a set of breaking clouds. Before dawn, these clouds were knitted together and lashed the coast south of Kealia with a heavy rain. I was happy they had the good graces to separate and catch the early morning light.

A break between waves allow the water resting in these small tidal pools to reflect the color in the sky along the shore just north of Kapa’a.

Spray from the waves hitting the rocks was a challenge and demanded frequent spot cleanings. In this image above, I found the water spots on my lens were diffracting the sunlight in the middle of the image which added to the motion in the water and drew my eye up to the sun. I liked these rocks grouped just off shore and enjoyed trying to show the movement of the waves and sunlight in that time just after sunrise there.

The color lasts for only a couple of minutes this close to the equator as the sun seems to jump into the sky very quickly. This large cloud bank was in good position to catch the pink light as the sun pulled clear of a distant storm on the edge of the horizon.

The sun halo I could create here stole the show from the foreground rocks so I centered on it and eliminated any strong elements that would distract from this interesting optical illusion.


Hawaiian Nightscapes: Crescent moon over Hanalei

On two separate evenings, I photographed the sunset from a viewpoint overlooking Hanalei Bay.  It is the wet, stormy season on Kaua’i’s north coast which was still warm and pretty sunny.  It does help to create amazing clouds and when the sun was long gone I was still shooting the clouds, the moon and the afterglow.  The picture below was from a few minutes earlier when the glow up the coast was at its strongest point.


Hawaiian Seascape: Soft water and black rock

This time of year the northern coast of Kaua’i receives the heavy swells that hit the shoreline unchecked from the open water of the Pacific.  I was waiting for the sun to rise and the low light of dawn allowed me to use a shutter speed of four seconds.  This long exposure blurred the rows of spiky waves softening them into a supporting role, allowing this dramatic chunk of rock standing apart from the shore to be the dominant subject in the image.


Hawaiian Landscapes: Sunset in Koke’e State Park

We went up highway 550 in the southern part of Kauai which takes you from the ocean’s edge up to and along the Waimea Canyon.  It is a beautiful drive with great views of canyon and over the Pacific Ocean.  The drive up rewarded us with two different rainbows over the canyon which we could stop and photograph both times.  We went up in the afternoon so that we would be in nice, warm evening light by the time we were at the top of the canyon.  That worked out really well and Bobbi and I both took some lovely images on the way up.  After weathering a heavy rainstorm while we were looking over the Kalalau Valley we headed back down and as the clouds cleared we found the sun was falling fast and we stopped at a bend in the road in the Koke’e State Park.

The sunlight on the clouds started out these incredible yellows and golds.  Within a couple of minutes, oranges and then purples entered the scene.  It was beautiful light and the silhouettes of the trees against these colors were really interesting.  It turned out to be an unusual and wonderful place to watch a Hawaiian sunset.


On the Hawaiian forest floor

 

Before I was mesmerized by the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees at the Keahua Arboretum in Wailua’s highlands, I walked through the forest paths to get a feel for the area.  There was one spot near the stream that divides the park where Hibiscus blossoms were spread across the ground below the trees they had fallen from.  This flower was tucked into a curve in a tree root.  With the humidity, I don’t know whether the flower had just fallen or had been on the ground for a few days.  Either way it was beautiful and fun to photograph.


Hawaiian Landscapes: Sunset in Hanalei

As a good friend said while writing me birthday wishes today, I’m a lucky duck.  We landed in Kauai last night so I was able to spend my birthday touring the island’s eastern and northern areas.  It was a great day in the forests, on the beach and in the water with my family.  I started the day making abstract images of wet leaves with my son and finished the day photographing in the Taro (Kalo) fields in the Hanalei Valley with my dad – both very special moments.  A wonderful day for a fortunate web-footed broad-billed bird like me.  Thank you for all of the very kind messages and warm wishes.


Ox carts in Bagan

Last year when I was traveling in Myanmar we spent several days on the plains of Bagan.  The dry season had a firm grip on the land and the fields and dirt roads erupted dust trails with any traffic passing through.  These clouds of dust drew our attention to a small village where we talked with several of the farmers and cart drivers.

In the afternoon, the light was warm and there were nice images available with a nod or a smile from one of the villagers serving as approval to click the shutter.

At the suggestion of one of the farmers, we agreed to meet them in the early evening at one of the nearby fields that spread out from an impressive temple ruin.

This last image came as the ox teams were heading back to their homes.  The grandpa and grandson took turns looking back as the rising dirt kicked up by hoof and wheel wrapped the carts and rose upwards.


Canadian Rockies Landscapes: Sunrise in the Tonquin Valley

Being able to spend three nights in the Tonquin Valley allowed three chances to have great light in the morning.  The landscape around the valley is honestly spectacular in every direction.  The Ramparts, an iconic chain of peaks that string together the length of the valley, rise sharply up from the western shoreline of Amethyst Lake while there is a band of forested hills separating the shore from the sharp ridges that form the eastern edge of the valley.

The rocks, water, mountains and snow can be combined beautifully when photographing in the valley during the day with imagination being the only limitation during the daylight hours.   However, adding in dramatic light when the clouds decide to play along provides a magical element to work with in the images.  For two of the three mornings I was in the valley, there were moments where the sunlight crept under the blanket of clouds and the pinks and reds of the early morning shone through.

An incredible place to spend some time.


Watery Reflections of South Carolina

Ran across some beautiful, warm evening light when I was in North Myrtle Beach a few days ago.  I was walking on the boardwalk around Prices Swamp Run and the reflections in the rippling water were beautiful.

 


Myrtle Beach: Nighttime over the Intracoastal Waterway

I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a few days last week.  Great weather and very good golf courses.  The area is bounded by the ocean and the land off the water has been recovered from swamp.  I had a good vantage point of a major canal, the Intracoastal Waterway, that is about a mile back from the beach and runs parallel to the ocean for a very long stretch.  At night, the sodium vapour lights provided most of the illumination and when mixed with stray Christmas lights and other types of lighting made for some interesting landscapes.

This boat, The Barefoot Princess 5,  looked like a half-hearted re-creation of an old sternwheeler – without the wheel. Designed for sightseeing, it has maximum seating but at the expense of a bit of character.  At night though it looked very nice with its blue lights and the street lights streaming through the decks.


Mandalay: an afternoon in a street market

Lunch in the open - © 2011 Christopher Martin

Throughout Asia, markets are a big part of daily life in a way very different from our malls.  I romanticize them a bit when I’m touring through my memories of trips to and living in Thailand, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Myanmar.   However, every time I return, I head straight for the nearest night market, food bazaar, or whatever to get a feel for the place and the people.  Just about a year ago, I was in Mandalay in central Myanmar and in a bid to escape the afternoon heat, I lingered in this corridor set off to the side of a very large market in the city.

Just a really cool spot to spend a couple of hours.  The kids were a ton of fun but pretty elusive – they welcomed me to take their picture but weren’t interested in staying still for even a fraction of a second.  No worries, we shared some laughs and I had some really good tea from the lady with the pink food (but I didn’t give that one a try).


Inle Lake Fishermen in National Geographic Traveler Magazine

I just received the latest issue of the National Geographic Traveler magazine and was excited to see one of my photographs and a short essay on the back page.

Short story behind the publication: Kathie Gartrell, Managing Editor – Interactive, at Traveler had contacted me in October asking me to send in a caption to accompany an image that I had submitted to the My Shot section of the National Geographic website.  She said that they were considering it as a photo of the week on the Traveler website.  I was very excited and I submitted a brief essay right away.  Then at the end of October, I received an email from Ben Fitch, a Photo Intern at Traveler.  He told me that they had just finished the layout for the January/February issue and they needed a higher resolution of the image.  The photo did run as a photo of the week in November.  And has been printed in the current issue of Traveler.  Not sure how it went from a possible photo of the week to a full page image and text in the magazine but I’m certainly very happy.  Although I haven’t met Kathie or Ben, I would like to thank them for the help they had in publishing this image.

Here is a scan of the page from the magazine with the picture.

Now I’ve set my sights on being sent by National Geographic to photograph a story somewhere in this wonderful, crazy world.


Saturday Morning Monks

Up early with the kids this morning and I had a little time to revisit some photographs I made of some monks inside a weathered temple in Bagan.

I like how the monotone changes neutralize the dominance of the colourful robes and put different emphasis on part of the image.

(as always, click on the photograph to see a larger version)

 

I remember it was about 38° C outside but with the thick stone walls of the building, inside it was much cooler aided by a soft breeze (which you can “see” if you look at the blur in the robes of the rightmost monk).

These files were converted into a duotone of silver and dark grey using Adobe Lightroom’s split toning feature.

 


Shortlisted Images for the Travel Photographer of the Year Competition

The Travel Photographer of the Year awards have announced their shortlist and I have images in the hunt across three categories.  The TPOTY is a major competition out of the UK so it is pretty exciting to have some of my work recognized to this stage.

The image of the monks on the bridge at sunset in Amarapura in Myanmar is one of three images that are in the running for the single shot category.  The nuns at prayer and the lone fisherman are the other images that have been shortlisted in this category.

The following four images are finalists for the World in Motion portfolio category.

 

The last set is a really fun category to be shortlisted in.  It is the New Talent category.  The portfolio I entered was for Bagan in central Myanmar.  The objective was to sell a location, a journey or an idea.  From the TPOTY website: “Tell the story of a place, a destination, an experience, a journey, even a travel commodity, but sell it to us. Make us want to experience it.  This category is for photographers looking to start a career in photography.  Your images should give the judges a real sense of the place or travel experience and entice them too.  This is your travel advert.” I tried to share the wonder of Bagan across the four images.  It was an interesting exercise to cull through all of the photographs I made in Bagan and select four that provided a window into the people and the land.

 

With this competition’s international profile, there are many very high quality entries so it is exciting to have a range of work reach the final round.  The winning images will be announced in the next couple of weeks so we’ll see what happens.


Flight Lines

I was up in the North-East of Calgary a couple of days ago during the tail-end of  the cold snap.  At one of my stops, I realized I was in the flight path of planes landing at the Calgary International Airport.  I found an interesting set of lines to frame a plane and then waited in the frigid air for 10 minutes for another plane to pass overhead.  I like the result of this simple composition.

Here is the alley sans plane.


National Geographic – Travel Photo of the Week

One of my photographs of the fishermen of Inle Lake in Myanmar has been selected as the travel photo of the week on the National Geographic website.  Here is the link.

[click for a larger image]

That’s pretty cool – now if I could just angle for an assignment from the yellow border.


Encounters on Inle Lake

I am preparing entries for the Travel Photographer of the Year contest and reworked some of my images from Inle Lake in Myanmar that I made in February.

I have done a couple of posts (here and here and here) on these fishermen before.  I still really enjoy this collection of images from the three days I spent on the lake.

Very good people I met on the water.  I look forward to the next encounters I have on Inle somewhere down the road.


People of Myanmar

I put together this set of images for a gallery show I may have the chance to do.   It was fun to look through these images of people I met and was able to photograph when I went to Myanmar in February.

It’s a big world filled with incredible people, I’m looking forward to meeting some more of them soon.

Here’s the link to the webpage with the gallery of images.


Split Toning Images in Adobe Lightroom

With this photograph, I used the split toning controls within Adobe Lightroom’s Develop Panel to make a different looking image.  I converted the image to black and white then used the split toning section to set the colours that I wanted to use to tone the image (a grey-blue for the shadows and a grey-gold for the highlights).  Using the sliders to tweak the hue and saturation of these tones, I was able to bring a subtle, metallic sheen to this monk’s skin.  I had this look in mind recently which has a very different feel from the original, colour image which has warm earthy tones.

Here is a more typical look that I like in my black and white work

In the original, the dust in air has warmed the light and given a glow to everything.

I like how you can use great light to create different versions of the same image.  I’m still not sure which one I prefer.  Colour is pretty consistently a main theme in my images but I like the glow and the slightly metallic look in the split toned edition.


Digital Photography Experience

I follow this group and really appreciate the ideas and knowledge that Rick Sammon, Juan Pons and the rest of their team share through their website.  So it is pretty cool to have the photograph below recognized as a favourite from their DPE Flickr pool this afternoon.  Thanks guys!

Buddhist nuns in prayer at the Sagaing Hills convent


Full Moon Festival at Shwe Dagon Pagoda in Myanmar

The Shwe Dagon pagoda in Yangon is central to the people of Myanmar and their faith.  It is a major place of worship for Buddhists in Myanmar as it enshrines relics of four Buddhas.  The history of and details about this golden pagoda are incredible and the Wikipedia entry is an interesting read.

My last evening in Myanmar coincided with the full moon of Tabaung Festival.  The festival is celebrated on this full moon in the lunar calendar and it is one of Myanmar’s largest celebrations.  Within the grounds surrounding the pagoda there are Buddhist rituals, family gatherings, water and fire offerings and many other celebrations that I was not able to learn more about.  I walked around from early evening, through sunset and into the night and the crowds continued to grow.  Incredible scenes of chanting, prayer and offering were everywhere all held together with a feeling of a shared experience with city people, monks, nuns, children and others from every stripe of life.

Here then are a few of the images that I made under a full moon in the Far East…

Thank you for taking a quick walk around Shwe Dagon with me.


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