Although Myanmar celebrates its new year in April, there was still plenty going on to mark the lunar, or Chinese, new year in Yangon last month. Lanterns were strung across the streets in the Chinatown district and the city’s sizeable Chinese community visited local pagodas to pray and burn incense. There was also a replica Great Wall of China (not to scale) in one of the side streets.
I wrote a little while ago that I’m trying to take more pictures after dark; as part of that challenge, I’m hoping to put together a series of night portraits of people lit by their mobile phones. It’ll be a slow burner of a project, I think, but sometimes it’s good to go slow.
I tend to put my camera away once the sun has gone down. But one of the things that I’ve been trying to do more of since moving to Yangon is shooting after dark. These pictures were both taken as the sun went down on my second day in Yangon, back in September. Lots more pictures from Yangon coming soon.
No-one’s saying that Hanoi has one of the great skylines of the world. Hong Kong and New York have nothing to fear. But I do like this night-time view over West Lake, especially with a cold beer (just out of shot).
Long Bien night market is where Hanoi’s market traders come to buy their fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. Every night, trucks come in from the countryside, piled high with fresh produce. It’s a frenetic, chaotic place, full of energy and life, despite the hour (very early or very late, depending on your point of view). Purposeful merchants push carts and carry baskets laden with food; motorbikes and trucks plough through the narrow, muddy channels between makeshift stalls. In the midst of the frenzy, other traders take time out to play cards or nap in hammocks. Above it all, Long Bien bridge, built at the start of the last century and showing its age, but now one of the symbols of the city.
When I arrived, at around five this morning, the only light was from the bare bulbs hanging under coloured awnings or in the open back doors of the vendors’ lorries. By the time I left, this harsh artificial light had been replaced by hazy dawn sunshine.
Sunday evening was my first time out shooting with a tripod, and my first attempt at long-exposure photography. I mostly shoot on the streets and in markets, often in quite tight spaces where a tripod would weigh me down and get in the way. I like to be able to react quickly and be mobile when I’m out with my camera, so I normally just carry a small shoulder bag containing a DSLR, one or two lenses and a good book. For the kind of shots I usually take, if there is not much available light, I’ll crank up the ISO and/or use my 50mm or 85mm prime lens at a wide aperture, so that I can still hand-hold the camera.
I like to think that I can be spontaneous when I’m taking pictures, but I also recognise that there are times when I need to be more considered, think more and shoot less. And this is why using a tripod was great practice for me. It made me slow down and really think about composition and camera settings for each shot. I didn’t always get it right, but the thinking part was important. Thinking is good.
Overall, I’m quite happy with my first attempts at night-time shooting, though I still have a lot to learn, particularly about getting my focus right. I’m fairly sure that people pictures will remain my favourite kind of photography, and I certainly won’t be taking my tripod with me everywhere I go, but it’s always good to try something new. It’s got me thinking about photography in a slightly different way, so I think it was 800,000 dong well-spent.
The shot above was a 30 second exposure, taken at 6.30, about half an hour after sunset.
Many thanks to my student and new photography buddy Son for his local knowledge and his wheels.