It was a hot, steamy Yangoon afternoon, we had just arrived from Heho on an early morning flight. We were all tired, uncomfortable and a bit weary after almost 2 weeks of full time photography, but this was our last day in Burma and we were determined to squeeze out every last photo opportunity available to us.

I’d been talking about my experience¬† shooting Yangon’s “ring train” back in August and despite the heat the group was keen to have a go at the 3 hour train journey. So, with cameras in hand and a dollar in our pockets (the cost of the trip), we arrived at Yangon’s central station. The mission was to tell the story of this unique foray into “real” Burmese life.

We started by shooting on the platforms while waiting for our train to arrive.

Once our train arrived, we split up into groups and boarded different rail cars. Inside the trains, the hot, humid, still air felt like a sauna. It was going to be a very uncomfortable 3 hour trip.

The only relief from the heat was to stand in the doorways for a bit of breeze as the train sped down the tracks. Today, even the locals were looking for respite from the heat, and so, the doorways were crowed. The lighting conditions were as difficult and challenging as the oppressive heat. The bright light of the mid-day sun contrasted with the dimly lit train cars made exposures difficult and the additional variable of the train’s motion seemed to be conspiring against us. Everyone commented about “chasing” their ISO and exposure compensation settings around in order to get good shots,¬† but by applying the knowledge and experience that we had gained in the previous weeks, everyone was successful in making some fantastic images.

After 3 hours we were back at the Yangon station, where we promptly purchased copious amounts of cold beverages. We were exhausted, but our CF Cards were full of hard-earned photographs. Why is it the the most challenging and uncomfortable conditions often yield our most memorable and compelling images? I think I’ll design a photo tour around an epic train journey here in Burma or perhaps in India, it will be the perfect venue for learning visual story telling. Yes, such a journey will likely be challenging and uncomfortable, but at the same time it will be tremendously rewarding. Cheers, Karl

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