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Photography in Myanmar: Meeting the sun at U Bein bridge

U Bein bridge in Myanmar. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

PICSPIRATION SUNDAY: Myanmar is a fantastic country for photography. Here are images from one of the most photographed sites, U Bein bridge in Mandalay. 

I am back from a ten days trip to Myanmar (formerly Burma). For a photographer it is an amazing country to travel in – and the trip was a great inspiration for me.

I will share some of the photos in five Picspiration Sunday articles over the next weeks. This is the first article. So stay tuned!

Early stage of tourism

Myanmar is one of the poorest countries in Asia – and only recently has tourism started to grow in parallel with the country slowly opening up politically. The infrastructure is still poor and visitors cannot expect the same luxury as in neighboring countries.

Yet a visit to Myanmar is very rewarding – and it has some of the most beautiful sites I have ever visited. I strongly recommend a visit to this country before the big masses of tourists discover it.

U Bein bridge in Mandalay

One of the most well know sites is the U Bein bridge in Mandalay. I am sure you must have seen photos of this bridge before.

The 1,2 kilometer bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. It crosses the Taungthaman lake south of Mandalay and consists of more than 1000 pillars.

Sunset photography

The most popular among tourists is to come at sunset. The bridge is very busy at this time – with monks and others walking across the lake after a day´s hard work.

As many others I rented a small boat to take me out on the lake. It was well worth the 10 dollars it set me back and gave me a chance to change positions frequently.

The challenge when taking photos at U Bein was to catch the moments with the most interesting persons (silhouettes) walking across the bridge and to make sure none of the people in my frame were covered behind the pillars.  I tried to switch between frames where you see the full height of the bridge (main photo in this article) and more close-ups, as below.  All in all I took several hundred exposures.

Sunset at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Sunset at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Sunrise photography

I decided to come back early next morning for sunrise. I must say I enjoyed it even more. There are not many tourists at this time of the day – and the whole atmosphere is more quiet. It is also fascinating to observe the bridge come alive as a new day emerges.

I started with taking a photo of the bridge from the nearby shore before the sunrise (see below).  This is an HDR photo with quite long exposures.

U Bein bridge in Myanmar at sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

U Bein bridge at sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Then I decided to rent a boat again and go out on the lake for the actual sunrise.  My boat driver was very experienced and skillfully led me to the places where he thought I might get the best images.

A good part of going to U Bein for sunrise is that you also get to see the many local fishers picking up their catch from the night. Many of them were husband and wife teams working quietly together in their small boats.

Article 1 of 5 about photography in Myanmar

This article is part of a series of five about photography in Myanmar.

More photos from U Bein bridge in Myanmar

In the early morning local fishers - many of them husband and wife teams -  are picking up the night´s catch. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

In the early morning local fishers – many of them husband and wife teams – are picking up the night´s catch. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Many tourists also walk on U Bein bridge at sunset. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Many tourists also walk on the bridge at sunset. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Colors at U Bein bridge are always changing. Here from the sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Colors are always changing. Here from the sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

No sunset trip to U Bein bridge without a selfie :) Photo: John Einar Sandvand

No sunset trip without a selfie 🙂 Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Balancing act at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Balancing act. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Fishing at sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Fishing at sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Sunrise at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Sunrise at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A young fisher at sunrise at U Bein bridge. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

A young fisher at sunrise. Photo: John Einar Sandvand

Location of U Bein bridge

About the author: Communications officer, journalist, author, digital strategist, photographer, traveller…and more.

12 comments… add one
  • Great article John. I was unaware that these shots were taken from a boat, so this has helped me tenfold. Don’t suppose you remember your skilful boat driver who took you out at sunrise?

  • Hi Drew! Unfortunately I do not have the name of the guy. But there were many boat drivers there – even earlier in the morning so it should not be a problem to find one. I recommend to rent a boat alone, though, so that you can move around as you want. Good luck!

  • Herve

    Thank you! Thank you ! Thank you! Going to myanmar from jan 1-20 . Im a professional photographer and your info are so valuable. I would like to stage photos using monks in temple or fishermen inle lake. What would u recommend to achieve this? Ask local to organize this? Ask hotel owner?

  • அண்ணா ஹசரேவை கர்போரேட் கோமாளி என்று சொல்லும் கம்யுனிச கோமாளிகள் முடிந்தால் அவரைப்போல ஒரு போராட்டம் நடத்தி பாருங்களேன்… குறைந்த பட்சம் ஒரு ஆயிரம் பேரையாவது உங்களால் கூட்ட முடியுமா… அப்படியே கூட்டினாலும் அவர்களிடமும் உண்டியல் வசூல் செய்து உங்களை வேலையை காட்டிவிட மாட்டீர்கள்…

  • I love that they’re so confident. No matter how difficult their situation is, they’re always confident – and I wish I met a man with at least half of that alpha male confidence Thank you for the chance!

  • Hi MandyHope you are well 🙂 This is absolutely gorgeous, I love House Mouse and this image is so sweet! Perfect colours and beautiful embellies as always too!Take care.Kelly.x

  • Need help- playing through a sonny jr 4-10 and getting a clicking noise when i really tweek a note. I’m going through a reverb pedal and a shure 707A. What’s up. thanks

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