Jungfrau Glacier
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Balloons and mist rising over Bagan
Migration of wildebeest to the horizon

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International Photo Awards recognition

Great to have been recognised at this year’s International Photography Awards, with my picture of the “Meeting on the bridge” outside Mandalay, Myanmar getting an Honorable Mention. 2017 International Photo Awards.

Myanmar is a fascinating country ( facing a number of challenges at the moment ) with a huge number of historic sights and well worth a visit with much of the tourism in regions well away from the contentious borders. Mandalay and this bridge are better known for dramatic sunset shots. However, sitting by the bridge as the dawn sky brightened, watching the morning procession of traders, monks, school children, tourists and families going from one side of the lake to the other, I was pleased to catch this ‘meeting’ with a young child passing a monk coming in the other direction. Underneath in the water a passing fishing boat happened to rest at just the right point between the posts.

Monk and boy meet on the U-Bein Bridge with a boat below, in Mandalay, Myanmar. U Bein Bridge is a crossing that spans the Taungthaman Lake near Amarapura in Myanmar. The 1.2-kilometre bridge was built around 1850 and is believed to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. (Christopher Reeves/TravelSnapper : Christopher Reeves Photography)

The U Bein bridge is 11 kilometres south of Mandalay, it is a beautiful 1.2 kilometre-long structure built from teak planks and said to be the longest of its type in the world. In 1857, when the capital moved from nearby Amarapura to Mandalay, the local mayor (named U Bein) salvaged wood from pieces of the dismantled teak palace and reconstructed it into this magnificent bridge.

Photo details: Canon EOS 5D MkIII, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, 1/80 at f/10, Gitzo Traveller GT2545T tripod

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Perspectives on Myanmar pt2: digital evolution

As a developing country it is fascinating to see the enthusiasm from all parts of society to embrace the new digital age. Since the cost of a SIM card dropped from over $1000USD to around $1USD this country has leapt at the newly affordable ways to talk, share and learn as the new regime is just finding it’s feet and seeking a new identity after a long period of controlled military rule.

Myanmar selfie

New age of technology

Access anywhere ...

Modern times

Digital disruption across all Burmese society

Infrastructure and energy may still be a bit of a challenge, although in some areas it has been great to see the potential to leapfrog others. The E-bikes in Bagan are a great way to explore the temples and without adding noise to the otherwise peace across the 26 square miles of plain with over 3000 temples and stupas.

energy challenges

E-bikes in Bagan

E-Bikes in Bagan have supplanted any petrol bikes …and a lot quieter way to enjoy the sights

Entrepreneurs are appearing everywhere looking to take advantage …and when the banking system starts to reform the potential to use this newly ‘upgraded’ network is not hard to see the opportunity.Social media entrepreneurs

It’s also hard to avoid seeing how the influence of global culture and media is reaching far into the countryside. Tourism will undoubtably play a strong role and as a way to both protect some parts of the economy as well as to provide viable work away from the legacy drugs trade in some parts of the country, can but help. The Millennials here will undoubtably have a faster development curve than in some other countries, there is such a rich culture within Myanmar with strong family and social connections ( and generally feels a hugely friendly society ) that it will be fascinating to see how this new generation adopts and adapts to the new world.

Dreams of the big city

Dreams …what lies beyond

…time to take a selfie to record the occasion for posterity !

Selfie challenge

Cheap telecoms bring the selfie generation to all of Myanmar

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Perspectives on Myanmar pt1

After many years of isolation, the country that poets have described as being a land of “blood, gold and dreams” is emerging … fast. History, religion and culture run thick through the country and now there is a budding enthusiasm in the people for trade, enterprise and openness. There remain tensions in society although it feels that this is as much about an internal establishment of ‘identity’ than anything directed to outsiders. The work of organisations like the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB) supported by a number of former foreign diplomats is encouraging the mood to transparency. It is clearly not easy and there are still a number of attitudes and institutions from the era of military control that are challenging the new regime to make a difference – particularly in some of the more deprived regions.

Sunrise looking out over the temples of Bagan, Myanmar (Christopher Reeves/TravelSnapper : Christopher Reeves Photography)

The selfie arrives:

A key feature that stands out, alongside the 2016 election and political change has been the dramatic reduction in the cost (and access to) getting mobile phone SIM cards (Bloomberg: Myanmar opens it’s mobile market) with a drop from several hundreds of $USD to less than $1, has had a visible transformation to all walks of life. From shopkeepers to the monks, everyone seems to be doing just as any other country and embracing social media and the selfie challenge …and the access that also brings to other media, news, information and ideas.

Development challenge:

Primary industry is looking to progress and the infrastructure, periodic power outages and creaking legacy is starting to be updated. This does give some enormous charm and parts of downtown Yangon are reminiscent of parts of Havana; in a similar way, another country with great natural wealth starting to re-emerge and to work out what path to take …and where to leapfrog others and avoid some of the development pitfalls that others have faced. Gems and mining is a part of the Myanmar history and recently there have been a number of oil & gas finds off-shore with the promise of energy independence for the growing needs of the economy. The teak logging industry seems to have taken it’s toll on the forests and there are a number of programs for replanting, although as this is a slow-growing hardwood, it will be some time for many regions to recover. Drugs and all the associated illegal activity remain a concern for the country and the legacy of “Golden Triangle” remains a battle that the government is having to tackle.

Travelling around:

Tourism and the backpacking route is in full flow from Thailand with some great beaches along the south, through to the incredible temples in Bagan and evocative heartlands of Mandalay and Lake Inle. Even the tougher regions to the North have started to (slowly) let in the independent travellers, but the ability of the government to address the strong drugs cartels and illegal industry that has flourished in teh jungles away from the cities will meant that mainstream tourism is a while away. The ability to travel on a couple of dollars a day remains and across the country there is a reasonable gap between this and the number of good hotels and restaurants. Interestingly the tourism industry is doing well at taking the eco-challenge to heart and, for example, around the Bagan temple region the introduction of electric E-Bikes seems an inspired move (and does help keep the peace as you explore the thousands of temples, pagodas and stupas).

Looking beyond the headlines:

“Mingalaba” as a multipurpose greeting / hello / blessing will be the word most heard by visitors, all challenging some initial expectations of legacy police presence and tensions. Undoubtedly there are some challenges to face in the structures for government and doing business but the country and people seem ready to embrace the opportunity. Well worth a visit to find out more for yourself.

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Myanmar – land of blood, dreams and gold

As a break from skiing, I’m heading for a photography project and thinking of warmer climes to improve the mood;  so I feel very fortunate to be getting to explore the fascinating country of Myanmar / Burma for the next few weeks.

Taking a few notes from Richard Cockett’s excellent book on “The Changing face of Burma“, hints from the Lonely Planet and visual inspiration from the National Geographic I’m fortunate in being shown around by some acclaimed photographers so I hope to be able to share a few reasonable snaps with you in due course!

From the legendary stupas of Bagan, the evocative Road to Mandalay and enormous Schwedagon Paya temple in Yangon through to the peace of Lake Inle (with curious ‘leg rowers’) and the general intrigue of some of the interior still emerging from a period of isolation… a few weeks seems only too short a time.

Image courtesy of travelalerts.ca : http://www.travelalerts.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Bagan.jpg

Planning and gear?

People often ask what I am going to take on a trip and so here’s a few notes to help. As some early prep I have been having a familiar trawl through the Photographers Ephemeris for ideal times and angles for light at the key locations on the route; if you have not made use of this tool, it’s well worth the effort in planning up-front.

I’ve long been a Canon man, so it’s a healthy travel bag of gear to cover a range of options. There are a few compromises for weight and the local airlines having a 7kg hand luggage limit:

  • EOS 5D Mk3 with a mix of lenses: 10-22mm f.3.5, 24-70mm f2.8 and a 70-200mm f2.8 plus 1.4 multiplier ( I couldn’t quite fit a 100-400mm into the list )
  • Gitzo tripod, taking the lightweight Traveller series 2545 (I’m a tall guy so need the height!)
  • A selection of Cokin ND filters for those sunrise / sunset shots (some prefer the Lee series, I’ve not had a problem with Cokin over the years)
  • Handful of Sandisk 32Gb Extreme Pro cards
  • Kingston G2 MobileLite wireless card reader / storage and router – great for hotels with limited wifi plus handy for data transfer to a portable USB hard-drive without needing to fire-up the laptop, and it acts as a portable 4650mAh battery charger
  • MacBook Pro 15″ with Lightroom / Photoshop CC ( you get well over a month of grace for use offline – which also helps battery life
  • …and of course some cleaning gear to cope with the ever present dust ( it is just at the end of a dry season )

For a bit of fun and for those times on the trains, boats and rickshaws, I’m going to squeeze in a GoPro Hero4.

 

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Gallery support for Save the Rhino

I feel fortunate to have had the pleasure over the years of seeing close-up both black and white rhino’s in their natural, wild habitat across Africa.These are wonderful creatures and a fascinating throwback to the age of dinosaurs; it is sad that they are being poached out of existence and are critically endangered.

It has also been great to have seen to see the efforts from individuals like the Craig family at Lewa Downs in Kenya and to help out organizations such as Save the Rhino over the years.

Through my forthcoming exhibition I wanted to add some support and so will be donating £50 from every rhino image sold to Save The Rhino.

Sunset in the Serengeti (Christopher Reeves)

Sunset in the Serengeti (Christopher Reeves)

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Gallery Different exhibition plans

Final preparations underway with the team at Bayeux to finalise, print and mount my images for exhibition at Gallery Different.


Great fun in choosing the final selection of images from the last few year travels … should look good, the space has such potential. Some wonderful large aluminium frameless images to add to the drama – great work from Nick at Bayeux.

Also looking forward to welcoming the award winning sculptor Sophie Orde with a few friends to display some of their latest pieces as a nice counter-point to the photography.

A few drinks and events planned to help ease the wandering around and chatting and I look forward to seeing everyone there.

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Awesome Chamonix summer fun and hiking

Sunshine, blue skies, good friends and mountain scenery to enjoy. Flocks of parapenters floating around the valley above Chamonix as everyone escapes to the hills for hikes, bikes …or just to train for the UTMB ultra-race around Mont Blanc.

Ever popular parapenting over Chamonix Valley (Christopher Reeves)

Glorious walking weather around Bellevue and the Col de Voza with the Mont Blanc Tramway passing by en route to the glacier at the foot of Mont Blanc

First opened in 1907 the historic Mont Blanc Tramway (Christopher Reeves)

Mont Blanc Tramway

A short sharp shower to freshen the air and leave some dramatic clouds rising out of the valley, past the Aiguille de Midi telepherique

Clouds and mist rising after a storm in Chamonix valley (Christopher Reeves)

The dramatic Mer de Glace near the Montenvers station is a wonderful hiking starting point, although the dramatic receding glacier shows how much the climate has warmed …as you walk past the 1890 level near the station one can dismiss it at “a long time ago” but when the 2010 mark shows and there is another 20-30 meters drop, it does help focus the mind.

Looking over Mer de Glace from Montenvers (Christopher Reeves)

Mer de Glace from Montenvers

Looking across the Chamonix valley (Christopher Reeves)

Railway link from Chamonix to Mer de Glace (Christopher Reeves)

Montenvers railway

Around the streets of Chamonix the graffiti is typically inspired mountain / out-doors

Mountain style graffiti in Chamonix (Christopher Reeves)

Mountain graffiti Chamonix

…although the views of Mont Blanc from around the hills need no further graffiti other than the wonderful flushes of colourful flowers

Mont Blanc looking calm and deceptively easy to climb from Brevant (Christopher Reeves)

Floral Mont Blanc

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Photography exhibition, London, 7-12 November 2016

My next opportunity to display a range of recent images and some old favourites in a new (and rather fabulous) gallery space just off Tottenham Court Road and Charlotte Street.

Gallery Different is known for for promoting and encouraging some great artists and this is a great opportunity to be part of this large, open space on the edge of Soho to show off my photography.

This show has a mix of Africa and The Americas on show from some recent travels and experiences ; from the wilds of the Serengeti to the back lanes of Death Valley with a number of places inbetween.

Along with the photography I have been collaborating with a sculptor friend of mine, Sophie Orde, who will be showing off a number of exciting pieces around the gallery.

2016 Exhibition

TravelSnapper Exhibition, 7-12 November 2016

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Easter break in Axmouth and walks on the Jurassic Coast

A wonderful few days relaxing by the coast  (with great weather) and staying on the harbour side at Axmouth for a few days post-Easter break. Thanks to Sue for her charming cottage and Alastair Sawday for the recommendation.

Great walks to the wonderfully named Beer Head, fossil hunting at Chideock and Seatown. Walking from the harbour up onto the cliffs gives a wonderful view along the headland, then to walk along the shingle beaches you get to see all the rock strata and geological formations that give this, Jurassic Coast World Heritage site such an appeal for fossil hunters – and not far from the very early British oilfield at Kimmeridge ( K1 still nodding away)

Handy fish and chips and many a good pub to ease the weary limbs and thirst all along the South Coast pathway.

 (Christopher Reeves)

Early morning at Axmouth Harbour (Christopher Reeves)

 (Christopher Reeves)

 (Christopher Reeves)

Seajay moored up in the setting sun at Axmouth Harbour (Christopher Reeves)

Waves crashing onthe harbour marker at Axmouth (Christopher Reeves)

 (Christopher Reeves)

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A new course for Cuba

Great to see the developments in Cuba. With the US President (and of course the Rolling Stones) touching down in Havana for a historic re-start of engagement many businesses looking to the opportunity for life back in Cuba; not just the cigars and sugar plantations gearing up for a lot of investment … I’m sure the classic car industry will have a field day !

Fond memories of great friendly people, an entrepreneurial spirit and real potential. Well worth getting out of Havana and exploring the countryside. Next to see what will happen to Guantanamo !

Classic cars in the streets of Trinidad, Cuba (Christopher Reeves)

Teacher in old Trinidad town, Cuba (CHS Reeves +44(0)7887 608059)

Classic cars on the Malecon, Havana (Christopher Reeves)

Mural to Che Guavara in Havana, Cuba (CHS Reeves +44(0)7887 608059)

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