• Kayan Tribe in Myanmar

    During our visit to Inle Lake we visited a shop where a few members of a long neck Padaung Family from a Ywama Village do weaving that they sell in the local area. The Padaung Kayan people are a subgroup of the Red Karen (Karenni) people. The tribe is known to inhabit this area of Myanmar as well as Northern Myanmar and Thailand. We were able to photograph one of the older ladies of the tribe in the small group to capture this image.

    Women of the Kayan tribe are well known for wearing neck rings and brass coils that are placed around the neck, appearing to lengthen it. Girls first start to wear rings when they are around five years old. Over the years the coil is replaced by a longer one and more turns are added. The weight of the brass pushes the collarbone down and compresses the rib cage. The neck itself is not lengthened; the appearance of a stretched neck is created by the deformation of the clavicle. Once the rings are put in place they are very rarely removed because muscles become weak and cannot provide head support after many years.

    This group in Myanmar wore one continuous ring while others in Thailand wear individual rings that are stacked together. There are many theories on why the rings are worn. Some theories state that they are worn to look more attractive with a longer thinner neck. Other theories say the rings are worn for protection and give the illusion of a dragon. Many women today say it is more about cultural identity than beauty.

    I have wanted to visit the tribes in Thailand near the Chang Mai region for some time and this made me want to take the trip even more in the next few years.

  • Myanmar Sunrise

    Our second stop on our Myanmar trip was to the ancient city of Bagan. Bagan is a city of temples that were built between the 9th to 13th centuries. Over 10,000 temples were built with over 2200 remaining today that can be seen in every direction that you look.

    Because of injuries, there are now only a few temples that you can climb to photograph sunrise and sunset. On our last morning in Bagan we chose to climb one of the temples and shoot the sunrise. Many people who know me well know that I am not a morning person and as a photographer I prefer to catch a good sunset over sunrise most days, but Bagan was different. After our first sunrise shoot I was hooked and was even willing to make a steep climb up tall temple steps with cameras and tripod strapped to my back to get the shot.

    Almost every morning at sunrise balloons take off and allow tourists to see and photograph the sunrise while flying high over the temples. Some of the most famous photos of Myanmar landscapes are of these balloons floating over Bagan temples in the morning light. We were very lucky on our trip to have beautiful sunsets every day in Bagan and I found these sunrises to be some of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. This is a case when the pictures simply don’t do it justice.

  • Myanmar

    This week I will focus the blog posts on my recent trip from the fall to Myanmar. Myanmar is a truly magical place for photography with beautiful, friendly people and ancient Buddhist temples around every corner. Since the country’s military dictatorship ended in 2011, tourism has greatly picked up. There are still areas of the country that are off limits to tourism but the central region is wide open and inviting for those who make the long journey.

    After cutting it too close with my visa approval, we traveled over 30 hours from Cincinnati to Yangon. My visa arrived the day before departure after paying a large expedite fee. Make sure to plan ahead and apply for your visa at least one month before departure.

    One of my favorite experiences was photographing the tiny monks. Boys can be monks for any amount of time from one day to their whole life. Many children join while they are on school vacation. We visited Gukyaung monastery in Bagan and were able to photograph monks attending classes taught by student teacher volunteers from Sweden.

  • Temples of Thailand

    Over the years that I have traveled and worked in Asia I have visited many Buddhist temples throughout many countries. The religion fascinates me and the beauty of the temples is breathtaking. Many of my favorite Buddhist temples are located in Thailand.  This photo was taken on a trip to Ayutthaya when we traveled along the river by boat for three days from Bangkok. The dark light and shadows bring a sense of mystery to these places while the smell of incense fills the air and creates sweeping calm that comes over you.

  • The Great Wall

    People always ask me – “What has been your favorite travel destination?” This is always a hard question and almost impossible to answer because you can usually find something unique in any location. After reflection I usually give the same answer. One of my favorite spots in the world is standing on the Great Wall of China. I don’t go back to places often when traveling because there are so many unique places to visit but I have visited the Great Wall almost a dozen times.

    Started around 200 B.C. during the Qin Dynasty and stretching over 5500 miles long; the Great Wall is truly an engineering marvel. During this time there were no modern tools available and construction cost hundreds of thousands of lives in the process of manual labor carrying heavy stones up cliffs that are hard to scale carrying only a camera. Millions of Chinese built the wall utilizing natural resources to create a defense barrier for China. Every time I stand on the wall I cannot imagine how it was constructed and think about the cost that so many paid.

    I have seen the wall in all four seasons but my first visit to the wall was always special to my favorite pass called Mutianyu in the middle of January. The Great Wall is about an hour drive outside of Beijing but because the elevation is higher, it is always much colder on the wall in winter than in the city. I remember the surreal feeling of being the only person standing on the wall and wondering in a country so populous how this is possible on any day of the year. The photo above captures that moment on the cold winter day when I was the only one standing on the Great Wall.

  • Geisha- The Japanese Rockstar

    The Geisha has always fascinated me. Maybe it is their extreme discipline to strive to be the perfect woman or their unwavering dedication to their chosen art form of dance or music.  It is truly amazing to see these women who dedicate their entire lives to this ideal image. There are great misconceptions that geishas are prostitutes but this is not the case. Geishas are some of the strongest and most financially successful women in Japan.

    After several years of traveling to Japan I was finally been able to make the short trip to Kyoto in 2009 to search for the elusive geisha.  Every night between 6-8 pm in the Gion district of Kyoto, Japan most of the last remaining authentic geishas leave their homes to go to work. I was able to witness this phenomenon first hand one evening as they raced from their apartments into cars and through the streets to the local teahouses and restaurant parties where they entertain Japan’s most elite clientele.

    It was crazy to see how people chase them down the street with cameras like paparazzi chasing celebrities in LA. I have to admit that I got caught up in the madness taking photos and met people from France, Brazil, UK, and many other parts of the world hoping for their own special geisha citing. As soon as you see one in person you need to find another one just to get a glimpse.

     

  • Sunshine in Shanghai

    Over the past decade, I have traveled to China close to forty times staying for weeks at a time. While in China, I have only seen sunshine and bright blue sky on five different days. Industry pollution has risen as the massive growth has taken place and between the preparation of the 2008 Olympic Games the 2010 Shanghai World Expo the country has seemed to be constantly “under construction.”

    I have also seen the Shanghai skyline completely change with the addition of hundreds of new buildings in just a few years. The Chinese engineers and architects beautifully execute building projects with lightning speed that dwarfs the pace of most parts of the world.

    This is one of my favorite photos of China taken from the Bund showcasing what I consider the most beautiful skyline in the world. The photo shows one of my rare blue sky days and showcases the Pearl Tower among the buildings in the constantly evolving skyline.

    As I sit in China this week now barely able to see through the winter’s coal burning pollution, it makes me thankful to live in a place where I can breathe clean air and see the blue sky on a regular basis. Shanghai still remains one of the most alive and vibrant cities in the world. It will also always be one of my favorite places to visit because of the pace of growth in the ever changing city and the friendships that I have made with some of the kindest people on earth.

  • The Huli Tribe of Papua New Guinea

    In October, I traveled to photograph the tribes of Papua New Guinea. Toward the end of our trip and we spent the day photographing the men of the Huli tribe in Tari. The Huli tribe is probably the most photographed of all the tribes in PNG and they were very happy to have their photo taken.

    The photo opportunities with the Huli were amazing but I couldn’t really get past some of the stories that the men proudly told us about how the women lived in the village. This is one of the tribes in PNG where men and women live separately. Polygamy is very prevalent and most men in the tribe have multiple wives. Women are bought for a “bride price” and live with the children in the same house as the pigs -the most valued village commodity. Women are also often punished for breaking rules of the village.

    I left Papua New Guinea with very mixed feelings about the importance of preserving the native tribes of the world and the need to eliminate these terrible human rights violations towards women who are sold into marriage as soon as they have their first period sometimes at the age of 12 or 13 years old. Obviously, these issues are complex and hard to understand during a short visit to a country but many of these stories will stay with me for years to come as I look at the faces of the Huli tribesmen.