When you think of lost ruins overrun by jungle, you probably think of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or a lost Aztec city in Central America. But this shot is from Nyaung Ohak in Myanmar – a cluster of temples located on the western edge of Inle Lake. To get here you have to take a boat ride through ever-narrowing channels, eventually reaching Indein village. From here it’s a short walk to the ruins. At the top of the hill is a temple in good condition, but the magic is in the ruins leading up the hill.
Bali is one of those touristy places where it can be hard to get away from all the crowds – and let’s face it, it’s not fun sharing with so many people! But if you make the effort, you can still find some hidden spots. Batukaru Temple probably isn’t the most hidden, but we turned up in the late afternoon and had the place to ourselves. We were the only non-locals there when we arrived, and in the hour or two we were there we only saw two other couples. It’s a beautiful temple, surrounded by jungle; some of the statues and buildings have been there so long that they look like they’re part of the jungle now.
As we entered we encountered these three beautiful women who were just leaving the main entrance and gave us a great smile as we passed each other – also not something you always get in the touristy places!
Another highlight of my trip to Indonesia was watching the sunrise over Borobudur, built in the 9th century and today is the largest Buddhist temple in the world. It’s located just outside of the city of Yogyakarta. Unfortunately a lot of tourists go to see the sunrise, so you’re hardly alone at the top! I found it even worse than Bagan in Myanmar – at least there you have hundreds of temples which you can watch the sunrise from, whereas at Borobudur there is just the one. It means you need to bring your patience with you in order to get shots without people! You also have to search for different angles, as the side where the sun rises is covered in people. Still worth it though when I see this shot!
La Mezquita in Cordoba is a fascinating building – the site was originally the location of a small temple, which was divided into Muslim and Christian halves when the Muslims conquered Spain in the 700s. The Christian half was eventually purchased a few decades later and the entire structure was demolished, to be replaced by the grand mosque of Cordoba. When Cordoba returned to Christian rule in the 1200s, it was converted back into a church, and a cathedral was built in the middle in the 16th century.
The result is stunning – the mosque architecture is simple arches on tall columns, but the effect is mesmerizing. The building just seems to go on forever! The Mihrab at the back of the mosque, indicating the direction of Mecca, is particularly stunning (photo to be posted at a later date!)
Charles V, the King of Castile and Aragon who granted permission to build the cathedral inside the mosque, famously said “they have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city” when he saw the end result – in a way I agree with him, but the building is still stunning!
I was in Vienna for the weekend, and chose the Belvedere for my sunset and blue hour shooting location. I was hoping to get a shot of the Belvedere lit up reflecting in the water in front, with a beautiful blue hour sky behind. In the end, there was a thin misty layer of cloud which meant that the sky was mostly grey and there wasn’t much of a blue hour! Luckily the thin wisps of mist caught the pink light as the sun went down, so I got this 2 minute long exposure shot and didn’t waste my time completely!
Trakai is located just over half an hour by bus from Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It’s main attraction is a beautiful restored castle on an island in the middle of the adjacent lake. It’s worth spending a night in Trakai – to see the sunset and sunrise and to see the town without all the day-trip tourists!
A shot of Riga’s Blackheads House, taken during the evening blue hour with a Hoya ND400 filter.
The Blackheads House was built in the 14th century for unmarried German merchants in the city. It was basically a fraternity for the bachelors to go wild – who knows what kind of parties went on there!
It was completely destroyed by the Germans (bombed in 1941) and the Soviets (flattened the remaining ruins in 1948) and was finally rebuilt in the late 1990s, using the original blueprints which (somehow) miraculously survived.
This is a shot of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon during blue hour, on our last day in Myanmar.
From Wikipedia: Shwedagon Pagoda is the most sacred Buddhist pagoda in Myanmar, as it is believed to contain relics of the four previous Buddhas of the present kalpa. These relics include the staff of Kakusandha, the water filter of Koṇāgamana, a piece of the robe of Kassapa, and eight strands of hair from the head of Gautama. The base of the stupa is made of bricks covered with gold plates. Above the base are terraces that only monks and other males can access. Next is the bell-shaped part of the stupa. Above that is the turban, then the inverted almsbowl, inverted and upright lotus petals, the banana bud and then the umbrella crown. The crown is tipped with 5,448 diamonds and 2,317 rubies. Immediately before the diamond bud is a flag-shaped vane. The very top—the diamond bud—is tipped with a 76 carat (15 g) diamond.
Shot using a Hoya NDX400 filter and a 30 second exposure time.
On my last day at Inle Lake, I hired a boat to take me to Inthein (sometimes also spelled Indein), a village on the western shore of the lake.
Slightly less touristy than the rest of Inle lake, you travel through narrow canals to get to the village. Just behind the village is a small group of ruined stupas, with vegetation growing out of the cracks. Inside you can still find Buddhas statues, and wandering through them in the morning on my own I felt a little bit like Indiana Jones!
Following the covered stairway to the top of the hill, you eventually reach Shwe Inn Thein Paya, which is a temple complex that apparently has over 1,000 additional stupas. Some of these are very new, but there are some more ruined stupas; these are the ones in this picture. It’s very atmospheric, without many people; standing among the stupas at the top with wind chimes gently swaying was a great experience!