Posts tagged “Asia

Leaping Tiger Gorge – a legendary canyon below the Tibetan Plateau

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9392

The Leaping Tiger Gorge is a deep canyon created by the Jinsha River whose headwaters are in the Tibetan Plateau is the upper course of the Yangtze River.  The water volume is immense and with the amount of ground carved away always runs a earthy colour.  The color is repeated with some of the ripples in the rock exposed between the water and the edge of the forest which traces a ragged line above the river.

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9345

There is a visitor site that is interesting and allows you to descend several hundred feet down to the river level.   The legend holds that a tiger was once seen leaping across the gorge.  At a minimum distance of 82′ (25m) that would have been amazing to watch.  Being able to feel the spray off of the rapids and hear the roar of the water up close was beautiful.  I think I will remember my time in the gorge for a very long time.

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9351

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9406

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9390

Vicki Alford made the excellent suggestion to include some imagery to show the river’s power.  I have included an image with a faster shutter speed taken from a viewing deck roughly halfway down the canyon.

Leaping Tiger Gorge - © Christopher Martin-9281

 


A few more scenes from Shangri-La’s countryside

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-6948-2

The countryside surrounding Shangri-La is a rural landscape of small farms, fields and villages divided by densely forested hills, soaring mountains and deeply carved rivers.  When I was in China last month I spent a couple of days driving the narrow roads that connect these places.  These are a selection of these scenes as I experienced them.

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7202

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7329

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7110

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7466

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7461

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-0026

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-9077

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-6930

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-6941-2

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-8310

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-8321

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-8318

Shangri-La Countryside - © Christopher Martin-7176

 


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.


Mandalay: an afternoon in a street market

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).


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.


A Vivid Adjustment Technique with Adobe’s Lightroom

I tend to only display photographs that are relatively close to the way that I saw them when I was in the moment, making the image.  I enjoy images of all kinds, be it HDR, Orton Effects, duotones, composites, etc.  It just seems that of the work I do, I prefer the “realistic” look for the images I display.  Behind closed doors, I spend all kinds of time processing some of my images with the previously mentioned techniques and others.  A lot never see the light of day but now and then I like the results of this play.

In the photograph above, I manipulated the final look in Adobe’s Lightroom program. Working in the Develop module, I pulled the recovery, fill light, vibrance, contrast and clarity sliders all the way to the right (100) and black to 40. This resulted in a really garish look and the trick was to use saturation to reduce the color to suit your taste. I then tweaked all of the above sliders and the white balance to match what was in my head.

Give it a try if you are looking for another way to look at one of your images, it might work for you.  This treatment works well on buildings and machinery, particularly when they are weathered.  The effect on people is a bit of a wild card so it definitely doesn’t work for everything (or anything depending on what you like!)

For reference, above is the original photo with only an increase to contrast from the original RAW file out of the camera.  I like this image and it has the look that I usually display.  I’m actually pretty evenly split between these two versions of the photograph.  The vivid one brings the temple more prominently into the scene and makes the story about the people and the temple.  The “normal” version has the father and son as the primary subjects and the story is about the two of them together in the canoe.  The temple serves as a great backdrop but does not demand attention.  I would love to hear your thoughts on which works for you.

Just to highlight the impact of this treatment on buildings, here is another normal and vivid comparison.  The photograph is also from Inle Lake.

Above is the normal version and below is its vivid counterpart.


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.


Ice Flow at the Thiri Mingalar Fish Market in Yangon

I went down to Thiri Mingalar fish market and dock area located in the Kyee Myindine township of Yangon just before sunrise.  The early morning haze coming off of the Hline river and the low cloud cover diffused the sunlight and spoiled me with great light to photograph with.

The market was a cacophony of people, fish, boxes, chattering, yelling, smoking and running.  All of this began well before daybreak and was in full swing, flowing all around me as I wandered along the cobble stone streets and concrete docks.

I spent most of the morning following the flow of ice around the dock and the market.  Given the heat and the few refrigerated trucks, ice is understandably the grease that keeps the wheels spinning down there.

Large blocks of ice arrive in the back of covered trucks and get slid down a plank onto two-wheeled carts that are then pushed up about a block to a shed.  Inside, there are a couple of old contraptions that crush the ice.  Men shovel the ice into crates which are then loaded onto another set of carts.  Men, mostly young guys, run these carts down the street, past the truck, and onto the dock.    The whole operation is built on the enormous effort (and undoubtedly sore muscles) of these men and provided me with another definition of hard work.

The fish get sorted as they are unloaded and sit in baskets and coolers covered with ice until they are sold.  After watching the fishermen and the wholesalers for more than an hour, I can assert that the fish baskets do not sit for long.  Once they are sold, they are either carried by another group of runners to a truck, motorcycle or cart for delivery around the city or they are packed into sealed crates with fresh ice.  I couldn’t confirm, but I am guessing they were being sent a bit further afield or were purchased by higher end customers who paid extra for the relative luxury of clean, cold transport.


Marble Carvers in Mandalay

Mandalay is known throughout Asia for their artisans.  The area’s stonemasons have earned a reputation for their exquisite work with marble.

Our guide took us to a street in Mandalay that is a centre for marble carving.  The street is packed with workshops with carvers mostly working on Buddha statues of all sizes.

The statues are lined up, in various states of completion, at the front of most of the shops.

Masks are not part of the uniforms and the fine dust created by the power chisels and grinders they use hangs heavy around most workshops.

Marble is mined in quarries near Mandalay in the Sagyin hills.  The best of this stone is alabaster, very fine quality marble which most of these carvers were working with along the road.

When a statue is ready to be moved for painting or to be delivered nearby, a cart like the one below is often used.

For shipments to more distant clients, the statues are framed in wood and then wait to be loaded on flatbed trucks.

At one end of this road, a low slung building housed woodworkers, which provided the single exception to the marble work packed on this dusty street running for several city blocks in the middle of this sprawling city.

Here too Buddha remained the focus of most of the carvings, but there were a few different statues lined up on one wall outside.

One more incredible location in Myanmar that I am already looking forward to getting back to again.


The Edges of the Day – Sunset on Inle Lake

This is the second part of the Inle Lake Edges of the Day series.  These photos were taken around sunset during two evenings spent out on the water.

It was a lot of fun working with the falling light levels and exposing to reveal different amounts of detail from pure black silhouettes to overexposed reflections in the water.  Many different ways to shoot these scenes, I could stay there for another couple of weeks and not get bored just working with these guys.


The Edges of the Day on Inle Lake


a smoke break on the water

Inle Lake is a lake unlike any I have been to before.  I was there for three days in February and each morning I went out on a longtail canoe on the smooth water and explored the lake, looking to capture some of the stillness and calm that preceded the sun climbing over the hills that rise above the eastern shoreline.  Here are some of the images from those mornings on the lake with the fishermen.

We maneuvered our canoe around the fishermen to work with and into the light.  Using longer lenses, we kept far enough from the men that we were not affecting their fishing.   Through our guide, we were told that these gentlemen did not mind us photographing them, they just thought it was strange that we found them so interesting.  Seeing the world through the lens continues to be an amazing way to experience life.


Myanmar Favourites

A short post with a link to a web gallery of my first set of favourites from my trip to Myanmar in February.

* If you can’t open the link, please scroll down to see the set.

Preparing springroll dough in Yangon's Chinatown

More to come as I am still working through the library of images I came home with.

Thanks for checking out the blog and the images.

Cheers,

Chris

* The link is to a Flash based slideshow so for those viewing on an iPhone, iPad or other device that does not support Adobe’s Flash, I have included the images from the slideshow below.

Studying at Chaukhtatgyi Monastery

Buddhist nuns praying in Sagaing Hills

Sunset over U Bein bridge in Amarapura

Sunset behind the temples and pagodas of Bagan

Senior monk at the Chaukhtatgyi Monastery

In Bagan

On the plains of Bagan

Marble stonemason carving a Buddha statue in Mandalay

Devotion during the full moon festival at Shwe Dagon in Yangon

Early morning on the water at Inle Lake

Fisherman's silhouette at sunset on Inle Lake


Chaukhtatgyi Monastery – Young Buddhist Monks Studying

In Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, lies the Chaukhtatgyi Temple which houses an enormous reclining Buddha.  We traveled to the temple, enjoyed looking at the impressive statue but moved on to the focus of our first day in Myanmar, the monastery attached to the temple.  The monastery houses monks both young and old.  It is comprised of a collection of wooden buildings that serve as dorms, classrooms, eating halls and meditation spaces.  We met the senior monk who offered to let us photograph some of the younger monks while they studied their scriptures.

Here is the senior monk in his living quarters on the second floor of one of the dormitories.

This group of boys were in one long, sparsely furnished room.  The students were scattered around the room sitting, standing or laying down on the dark wooden floor reading their books with levels of interest which varied from passive up to completely focused.  The younger boys seemed to be more the former with the older boys able and willing to devote complete attention.

The monk teaching these boys was a stern taskmaster.  While I do not speak Burmese, when he was not pleased with one of the students, it was very clear that whatever they were doing was wrong and should be quickly corrected.  He didn’t chasten often while we were there but when he did, the student under scrutiny amended the error immediately.  While some of the boys stole a glance, or even a smile, while the five of us photographers moved among them, they kept alternately reading and chanting as they had done before we entered the room.

It was an incredible scene to photograph.  Made all the more enjoyable as it was a window into the normal, daily lives of these young monks.  Definitely a world away from Canada and it set a very high bar photographically for the tour, coming on the first day at the first location we visited.  Hats off to Art Wolfe, Gavriel Jecan and our guide, Win-Kyaw Zan for this and many other great cultural locations.


The Fishermen of Inle Lake

I returned from Myanmar with several thousand images to work through.  I was able to spend a fair amount of time editing while on the road but it has still taken a while to start ordering the different subjects into some cohesive groups.  The first one that I have completed is a set of graphic art style images made of the fishermen on Inle Lake.  I have made this into a book and am expecting my proof copy within a couple of days.

First, a little detail about Inle Lake, Inle is located in Shan state in central Myanmar and is at an altitude of 2800 feet.  The lake is about 14 miles long, 7 miles wide and has an average depth of seven feet (up to twelve in the rainy season) and is roughly 50 square miles in area.  It is large, shallow and filled with reeds that sit just under the surface – I never saw the bottom of the lake during our three days spent completely in boats and stilt buildings on the water.  There are about 70,000 people living on and around the lake.  Most live in stilt homes of all shapes, sizes and condition.  The streets to all of the villages, large and small, are predominantly canals.  While I was there, the dry season was in full swing and the water levels were very low which had the largest visible impact on the small villages where there narrow canals were just mud in many places.  Dredging was constant and, beyond a bit of rerouting and a few pushes from friendly villagers, our boats weren’t impeded too much.

The fishermen ply their trade all around the lake and the river mouths.  They all work off small, flat hulled oar powered boats that they stand in back to navigate and then fish off the tip of either end of the boat.  Most fishermen man their boats alone but occasionally I saw two fellows partnering on one skiff.  The boats are mostly made of teak wood and are about 15′ long and maybe 3′ wide.  What draws particular attention, is their method of rowing.  They stand up using one leg to balance on the canoe, wrap the other leg around their long oar and propel their boat using a kicking motion.  When they are intent on moving quickly, they keep one hand on the top of the oar and then drive oar wrapped leg hard which results in them moving pretty fast.  While fishing, they hook the oar with their leg so that they are free to fish using both hands and can still maneuver their craft with a high degree of dexterity.  They fish using a tall, conical net which they drop into the water when they see fish directly below them.  Once in place, they push it down into the ground with one foot, keeping the other foot on the canoe, and then use a spear to skewer the fish through a hole at the top of the net which sits above the waterline.  It is a wonderful display of balance and strength as these men work from early in the pre-dawn, through the day and into dusk.  There are a number of species in the lake that the fishermen catch.  Of these, the Inle Carp is abundant and forms a staple of the lake people’s diet.

I will post a blog of the lake people, detailing the lives lived on Inle in pictures but in this series, I wanted to play with the constantly changing shapes and compositions of these men as they worked the lake.  I focused on the angles and patterns created by the fishermen, the boats and the nets.  To create the graphic effect, I overexposed the shots while I was on the lake, then converted the images into black and white and adjusted the contrast in Adobe’s Lightroom later.  Shooting early in the morning, I worked in low contrast light mostly and was able to eliminate the horizon, the surrounding hills and other distracting background elements in camera via the overexposure approach.  These men were concentrated on the fish but tolerated our presence.  We provided the men photographed with a tip as we shot them for almost a half an hour.  They were not distracted by the cameras and I was pleased to be able to capture their regular movement which I found very appealing.

more to come…