For the first time ever, Better Moments and Steve McCurry are offering every guest of our 2021 workshop to have their portrait taken by Steve McCurry himself. The portraits will be signed by Steve McCurry and sent to you after the workshop.
Burma is one of the few countries in Asia that has preserved its deep religious and historical roots. Today, the country has just started opening up for foreign visitors and we are pleased to offer a workshop to this alluring land led by award-winning photographer Steve McCurry. Drift down the Irrawaddy to capture life along the river, admire the thousand-year-old temples and pagodas that dot this magnificent country. Dig into the myriad dishes of the local cuisine, from a hearty bowl of mohinga noodles for breakfast to the fermented tea-leaf mixture that’s a popular finish to a Burmese meal. Swap cocktails and canapés for snacks and tea sweetened with condensed milk at tea houses where you can chat with locals.
Steve is recognized universally as one of today’s finest image-makers, and has won many of photography’s top awards. Best known for his evocative color photography, Steve, in the finest documentary tradition, captures the essence of human struggle and joy. Steve’s work has been featured in every major magazine in the world. McCurry is driven by an innate curiosity and sense of wonder about the world and everyone in it. He has an uncanny ability to cross boundaries of language and culture to capture stories of human experience. “Most of my images are grounded in people. I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face. I try to convey what it is like to be that person, a person caught in a broader landscape, that you could call the human condition.”
Upon arrival you will be picked up at Mandalay airport by our Better Moments guide who will then take you to our hotel. During the day you can relax and get adjusted to the local time and climate.
For those who have arrived one or a few days earlier, we offer a city tour of Mandalay from 10am to 4pm. The city tour is a great way to explore Mandalay and get ready for the upcoming workshop with Steve McCurry.
In the evening, we will all meet in the hotel lobby for the offcial start of the workshop. After a traditional Burmese dinner, we would like to invite you to join us for an introduction to the workshop with Steve McCurry presenting his magnificent work from past travels to Burma. The lecture will also include an explanation on how to capture great portraits and how to approach people along the way.
For sunrise, we will visit the iconic U Bein’s Bridge, a 1.2 km long walkway across the Taungthaman Lake built in teak more than 150 years ago. The bridge is used daily by many monks and locals, and is one of the most photographed sights in Burma. You will have the possibility to take portraits of fisherman, workers, and locals living at the shores of the lake.
After breakfast at the hotel, we will explore the local fish market which is located on the river bank of the Irrawaddy. The fish market is a wonderful chaos of piles of fish, fishmongers kneeing on the floor, buyers inspecting the produce – all in all, a fantastic place for portrait photography.
You will work in groups of a maximum of four people to give everyone the chance to be tutored by Steve.
Later that day, we will visit the day workers, who are living in humble houses at the river, to take their portraits and to photograph them during their work.
After dinner, we will work on our images and Steve will offer constructive feedback of your best shots. Moreover, Steve will present his most iconic and award-winning pictures.
Rise early to witness the morning face-washing ceremony of the Mahamuni Buddha, the most revered Buddha image in Mandalay. Admire the carvings of the Shwenandaw Monastery and see the 729 chiseled marble slabs of Kuthodaw Pagoda.
The remainder of the day, we will visit several of the city’s artisans and craftmen, who are, for instance, carving Buddha statues out of solid blocks of white marble. In Burma, there is a healthy demand of Buddha statues – whether it is for public temples or private use – and the artisan craftmen create the statues by hand, a truely dusty and physically exhausting work.
By working in small groups, Steve will be able to tutor everyone individually to help you hone your skills for travel and portrait photography.
Dinner at the hotel, followed by a review of your images taken so far.
Set off on an all-day cruise on the Irrawaddy River, stopping first in Sagaing, where myriad pagodas gleam white and gold on the hillside. Take in the view from the Soon U Ponya Shin Pagoda, and observe daily life at a convent and a community school. Continue up river to Inwa and hop onto horse carts to visit Nan Myint Tower, Menu Ok-kyaung Monastery and the teak Bagaya Monastery.
Enjoy lunch on board as we sail to Mingun, home to a massive, unfinished pagoda. Watch the sunset over the river on our return to Mandalay.
After dinner, Steve will hold a presentation about the photographers that influenced and inspired him and his work the most.
We will catch the morning flight to Bagan/Nyaung U airport to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bagan. The former capital of the Pagan Kingdom is one of the world’s greatest archeological sites. There are more than 2,000 temples to explore, their outer-worldy silhouettes rising up from the green plain against the clear sky, only limited by the horizon where one can vaguely discern some mountains. The Irrawaddy is flowing lazily, setting the overall tone for the city.
We will head out to explore the ancient city with its old ruins and huge temple area with our cameras. We will immerse ourselves in the hustle-bustle of the local Nyaung U daily market and its vibrant sociocultural atmosphere. You will have ample time to take portraits of shoppers and stall owners and capture the street scenes unfolding.
For lunch, we will return to the hotel and you will have time to relax until the afternoon. In the late, soft evening light, we will then the ancient ruins of Bagan at the villages Minnanthu and Phwarsaw, just in time to witness the villagers returning home with their cows and goats to bring them in for the night.
After dinner, Steve will review the images taken during the day and provide feedback.
Today you have the chance to go on a ride with a hot air balloon to see and photograph the magnificient landscape and ancient pagodas during sunrise (optional activity at extra cost). You will float peacefully over the centuries-old temples while the hazy morning light is creating a mystical mood. A truely memorable experience that provides for amazing photographs.
After breakfast, we will first drive to Shwezigon Pagoda to capture its impressive circular gold leaf-gilded stupa and surrounding smaller temples and shrines while the daily festivities take place. Our next stop will be Ananda Temple, a Buddhist temple built in 1105 AD, where the Ananda Pagoda Festival takes place earlier in the year. We will be able to photograph the remains of the events and meet some of the vendors.
We will also visit the Nat shrine (Nats are spirits worshipped in Burma and neighboring countries in conjunction with Buddhism) at the entrance of the ancient Tharaba Gate, the only surviving gate of Bagan, to capture its believers during their interesting worship rituals.
The afternoon will commence with indoor shooting at Sulamuni Temple, which is famous for its colorful wall mural paintings; Phahtotharmyar Temple, which is known for magnificent natural lighting inside; and Taungphi monastery, famous for its teak wooden architecture.
We will conclude the day with a sunset shoot over the vast landscape of Bagan.
After breakfast, we will leave Bagan and drive to the countryside. Our destination will be Setsatyo village, however, we will make plenty of stops on the way to observe the toddy palm tree climbers and peanut farmers while they go about their day. You will be able to document the process of peanut oil grinding first hand. Moreover, we will visit a local cottage industry of lacquerware production, a fascinating traditional handcraft. While working in your groups, Steve will assist you to achieve better results.
In the afternoon, we will stroll around the community of horse cart drivers and put our knowledge about how to approach strangers to the test by asking for portraits. Our last stop for the day will be a traditional riverside fishing village where you will again have the possibility to experience the life of the locals and to take unique portraits.
Dinner at the hotel and review of the photos taken during the day by Steve.
If you are curious about Buddhist culture, rise up early and witness a Buddhist ritual – hundrets of monks at all ages walk around their community seeking alms (food) from the generous donors. Capture this morning tradition while the city around us slowly awakes. We will then follow the monks to a local Buddhist monastery where little young novices from different tribes receive their monastic learning.
During the afternoon, you will have the option of revisiting some of the previous shooting locations. If you are the adventurous type, go for a run with the cattle herds as they are brought back to their stables at dusk.
Tonight, we will have a farewell dinner at the hotel. Steve will thoroughly review and critic some of your best photos taken during the workshop.
Morning flight back to Mandalay International airport for your onward flight back home.
€ 9,450 in shared double room.
€ 9,950 in single room.
Groups sign-up a group of 4+ participants and receive a group discount.
All prices are per person.
Better Moments is a member of the Travel Guarantee Fund, your guarantee that traveling with Better Moments is a safe experience.
All international flights arrive at Mandalay airport. The most common route to Mandalay airport is via Bangkok.
All visitors are required to have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the intended stay, and all visitors will need a visa. The visa application process is handled by the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar, and can be done in person, by representative, by post or online (https://evisa.moip.gov.mm/). It takes 5-10 working days to get the tourist visa application processed.
The southwest monsoon starts around the end of May, bringing frequent rain until October, peaking from July to September. March to May brings intense heat. At this time, the daily temperatures in Yangon often reach 40ºC, while areas around Bagan and Mandalay go a few degrees higher.
Burmese is the official language of Burma, and the primary language of instruction. English is the secondary language taught.
The Burmese monetary unit is the Kyat (K).
“What I will definitely remember from that workshop is the opportunity to learn a lot about how to get people look their best, whether this is a matter of light, whether this is a matter of the situation we put them in. That is something I always enjoyed doing, but now I am sure I understand much better how to do it.
Not only travelling to Burma, but on the leadership of Steve McCurry. Getting first of all to work together with the master, the landscape, the situation here, the people we met…. That’s just amazing!
If I had three words to describe this workshop to summarize it, that would be: learning, practising, and getting a lot of feedback to improve on what I love doing”.
Bernard Menettrier de Jollin participated in the Burma workshop, led by Steve McCurry.
“Working so close and intense with Steve was a life changing photographic experience.
Learning how to approach the local people on the markets, on the street, at their work, in the monasteries etc. was a challenge and a skill that most of us didn’t master before we started the course, but with guidance from Steve, the three talented local guides and not the least Christian, we rapidly replicated their techniques. (…)
Besides visiting lots of interesting places in this beautiful country, with its ancient culture and history, its kind and gentle people as well as its delicious food, I experienced 9 days full of photographic highlights. A voyage I will never forget and and I am looking forward to participate in other well organized and exciting Better Moments workshops around the world”.
Lisbeth Monéton participated in the 2020 Burma workshop, led by Steve McCurry.