Happy St. Patrick’s Day
Book: Passage to Burma by Scott Stulberg (NEW October 2013)
Monday I introduced a new book that will help you improve your travel photography. Today we’re looking at a coffee-table photography book that will amply demonstrate what a knowledgeable photographer can achieve. Passage to Burma, with words and images by Scott Stulberg, will definitely lure you to travel to Burma with its array of color and monotone photos featuring the landscape, people and unique structures you can find in Burma. Stulberg is a professional photographer who has traveled the world, but spent more time in his favorite country, Burma, than anywhere else.
Is Burma on your Bucket List? WIN THIS BOOK! Just subscribe to A Traveler’s Library by February 7, or tell me in a comment that you are already subscribed, and I’ll choose a person to receive the book. (Only U.S. residents, over 18, please).
In the introduction, Stulberg tackles the question of what to call this troubled country. He explains
Burma was changed to Myanmar and Rangoon to Yangon after a huge suppression by the military of a popular uprising. The change was recognized by the United Nations, and by countries such as France and Japan, but not by the United States and the United Kingdom. So the use of Burma can indicate non-recognition for the military junta, and the use of Myanmar can indicate a distaste for the colonial powers of the past who called the country Burma. For me and my friends, it will forever be Burma.
Stulberg divides the photos into five chapters–five important places in Burma.
A city founded along the Irawaddy River 1200 years ago, Stulberg calls Bagan, “a place of dreams.” The focus here is on pagadoas–understandably, since there are 2,000 of them in an area 1/6 the size of Washington D.C.
Mandalay, thanks to the song “On the Road to Mandalay” is a name familiar to Westerners. I was surprised to learn that the city was built relatively recently–1857. Here the focus is on the Buddhist monks, since this is considered the spiritual center of Buddhism.
Stulberg’s description of Inle Lake reminded me of Tonle Sap in Cambodia, which we visited. Both expand and contract depending on whether it is the rainy season or the dry season. Both are surrounded by tightly packed villages and floating markets. Inle Lake howeverk, is the home of the Padaung, known for the long-neck women. As with some tribes in Africa, girls starting at five years old wear brass rings on their necks–adding rings as they grow older. The emphasis here is on the fisherman of Inle Lake and their unusual practice of steering with one leg.
This remote place is far off the usual tourist routes and a visit is a trip back in time where oxcarts substitute for automobiles. It tkaes 7 hours to get there, and is only accessible by boat. A mixture of landscape, Buddhist and portraits represent Mrauk.
In complete contrast to Mrauk, Rangoon suggests the Burma of Somerset Maugham –a busy modern city that still has colonial accents. The religious focal point is the Great Dragon Pagoda, aka Golden Pagoda, and we are treated to photos of its glory along with busy streets and night scenes.
Do you feel that you have been on a tour of Burma? I certainly did after going through this book.
Although the photos–and the country–are enticing, there are flaws in the book. For one thing, the photographer writes the narrative and his presentation could have used some judicious editing. He is clearly very enthusiastic about his subject, but the expressions tend toward the cliché and his favorite adjectives are reused a few too many times. Likewise, the photos could have been edited down. Many seem repetitive. Surely there were other subjects that could have been inserted in the mix and we could have seen (for example) fewer of the child monks–adorable as they are.
Finally, there were some serious problems with the binding and printing of the book I received for review. This happens sometimes in a print run, but in a photo book it is particularly disconcerting to have streaks across a page or pages poorly bound with the stitching intruding on a full-page photo. It could have been a fluke, so I would not assume that all the books are that way, however, I would suggest you examine any copy carefully and return it if it is not correct.
Has this article got you yearning to visit Burma? Here are eleven practical tips from CNN. And if you’re looking for adventure (what? visiting Burma is not adventure enough?) here’s a tour from Overseas Adventure Tours. (Note: I have no connection to O.A.T. Just thought it looked interesting.)
Note: The publisher provided a review copy of this book, and kindly authorized me to use the photos you see here. Remember the photos are copyrighted, not available for copy. The photo credit: Photos from Passage to Burma by Scott Stulberg, Photography by Scott Stulberg, used by permission of the publisher, © 2013 published by Skyhorse Publishing, hardcover
You also need to know that I am an affiliate of Amazon.com. I put links from the book cover and title to the amazon online store so you can shop easily. Although it costs you no more to use my links, I make a few cents when you do. Thanks for the support.
Book: The Traveling Photographer: A Guide to Great Travel Photography by Sandra Petrowitz
What good is travel, if you don’t take travel photos to bring home? And why settle for a shot of you and your significant other posing in front of some world-wide famous edifice, if you can try just a little harder and have a frameable picture? Why not use your travel photos to communicate?
Not that Sandra Petrowitz has anything against snapshots. Her book The Traveling Photographer, includes the rationale for sometimes taking snapshots and guidance for those who have not ventured into SLR or DSLR. (If you don’t know what that means–I’m talking about you.) In other words, you do not have to be a technical genius to benefit from this book since the emphasis is on seeing, composition, recognizing light conditions and avoiding common mistakes.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to move up a step, or have begun to experiment with more complicated equipment, you’ll find hints to help you, also.
So much of photography is in your mind. Petrowitz suggests that as you look at a scene, you go beyond just the shapes and the colors to the emotions it evokes. How do you translate those feelings into the photo you are taking?
How do you find a unique way to show what you’re thinking and feeling?
The tips I need most of all–how to approach and photograph people.
Do you experiment with something other than a horizontal viewpoint? Shoot from above or below?
Does fog or rain stop you in your tracks?
My examples of travel photos are a poor substitute for the many terrific illustrations in The Traveling Photographer, but I’m re-reading this book and trying to improve my work. I’d like to increase the percentage of interesting images that I produce compared to the boring ones. In other words, do as I read, not as I do.
It is too easy with a digital camera to think, oh well it isn’t costing anything to keep snapping. But Petrowitz points out that there IS a cost. It takes an inordinate amount of time to plow through all those bad photos looking for a gem or two. Why not spend that time in advance and get the good shot to start out with?
To see another example of my practicing some basic principles in photography, see my Travel Thursday post on at trip to northern Arizona’s White Mountains.
Besides telling you how to shoot good travel photos, The Traveling Photographer includes helpful information on buying equipment, keeping it safe, storing all those photos, and some suggested extra reading if you want to go further. I highly this book from Rocky Nook, a company that publishes a lot of photo how-to books–mostly for advanced photographers.
Donna L. Hull at My Itchy Travel Feet is an advocate of taking a trip to a travel photography workshop where you get first-hand advice from a pro. Would you like to learn from Sandra Petrowitz in person? Check that website link, or follow her on Facebook.
Note: There are links to Amazon above to make it easier for you to go directly to Amazon and order a copy of The Traveling Photographer or any other thing that strikes your fancy. It costs you no more to shop through my links, but you help keep the wolves from the Library door. THANKS!