2010 – My favourite photograph from last year
This is my favourite image that I made last year. Simple composition, interesting patterns, good colour and a great memory behind it.
These monks worked with our small group on and around the U Bein Bridge in Amarapura in Myanmar. We had gone to their monastery and spoke with the Abbott and then with these monks about the photographs that we wanted to make that afternoon. They were interested to see the end result and really cooperative through the whole time.
The footbridge runs 3/4 of a mile long and is made of teak columns salvaged in 1849 under the direction of the mayor at the time, U Bein. He got a bridge named after him and the people got a way to cross Lake Taungthaman from Amarapura to an island in the middle. The traffic is steady in both directions in the afternoon and into the evening with school children, workers, families and monks crossing on foot and bicycle.
Our guide, Win, used one of the boats that take tourists for a float along the bridge to ferry the monks to a small spit of land about halfway between either end of the bridge. At this time of the year, in February, the water is low enough that there are a couple of places that stay above the waterline around the bridge. In the dry season, I was told the lake can be almost empty. In the wet season, the water has been higher than the walkway! I hope to get back to see either of these extremes. From the little island there is a set of stairs that lead up to the bridge deck. The monks and our guide went up and our group of four photographers headed away from the bridge to frame the scene the way each of us were imagining. The sun was dropping slowly at that point and I was starting to get excited because the light was warming up and I was hopeful that we were heading towards something special.
The scene on the bridge was chaotic and our guide was busy explaining to the people lingering around what we were up to, why the monks were standing between the pylons and when we were hoping to get a break in the traffic. The crowd built up slowly but everyone was patient and seemed to enjoy watching us waving and shouting back and forth to get the men on the bridge in place.
Win was fantastic sharing what we were doing with the people as they waited, and they in turn were great, waiting for about 10 minutes on both sides while the sun fell in line with the monks and the bridge. It moved very quickly and as it did the gold colour in the sky gave way to blue and purple tones as the sunlight had to push through more atmosphere as well as the haze rising up from the water and the forest.
The photograph immediately before my favourite was fun because I had just changed lenses to a 300mm with a 1.4x extender to get as much reach as I could. This was the first image where I was able to isolate the blue and purple section of the sky away from the golds and oranges. That allowed these darker colours to really saturate. That’s when I knew I had the background that I had imagined to frame the monks against.
The last shots of this scene caught the sun as it went under the bridge and then disappeared into the hillside across the plain. From the moment where the sun was just above the umbrellas to where it is peeking under the bridge took just over three minutes. It seemed much less as I was photographing the scene – a flurry of shooting, checking histograms and adjusting settings and compositions. It was a very special opportunity so I was doing everything to make sure that I was getting the best that I could out of the moment. A great memory of a wonderful place.