A Photographic & Cultural Exploration with Mike Yamashita & Jock Montgomery

November 1—13, 2016, 13 days of exploration in

Mandalay, Bagan, Inle Lake & Pagoda Feestival, Kalau, Pindaya and Yangon

Optional 5 Day Trip Extension, November 13—17, 5 Days

To Golden Rock, Hpa An & the Bago


This specific tour is scheduled to coincide with the amazing Inle Lake pagoda festival and leg-rowing boat races! Join renowned National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita and adventure travel photographer Jock Montgomery on a photographic exploration visiting the people and places of Myanmar. We’ll mingle with a variety of ethnic groups: the colorful Shan, Palong, the unique leg rowing fishermen of Inle Lake, the burgundy-robed Theravada monks and, of course, the everyday citizens wearing simple sandals and lungis (sarongs). All this is highlighted against a spectacular background of natural and devotional beauty, from stunning rural landscapes to ancient temples and ruins.

Trip Highlights

  • Enjoy and photograph the Inle Lake pagoda festival with boat races and more!
  • We’ve designed this tour specifically with photography in mind—to take advantage of the awesome landscapes, the warm morning and afternoon light, and to create opportunities to photograph and engage with local Burmese.
  • Fine tune your esthetic eye and improve your photography skills with instruction and critiques from Mike and Jock. All levels of photographers are welcome, as well as non-photographing spouses.
  • Non-photographer spouses are welcome and encouraged to join.
  • Throughout the trip photograph and engage with villagers creating their local artwork and crafts—especially around the old capitals of Mandalay, Sagaing and Amarapura.
  • Traverse gleaming Inle Lake by boat and discover life on the water: floating farms, temples on stilts, weekly markets.
  • Shoot portraits of the elegant Inn Thar leg-rowing fishermen of Inle.
  • Explore the endless panorama of the 4000+ temples at Bagan.
  • Take the optional sunrise balloon ride above the Bagan temple ruins—with spectacular photo ops!
  • Visit the Kalaw Hill Station and wash elephants at the Green Valley Elephant Camp
  • At Pindaya, photograph the fertile landscapes and the explore a cave filled with thousands of Buddha images
  • Head home with your memory cards full of great photos and your skills fine-tuned.

Photographic Shooting Sessions

From early morning to nightfall, participants will shoot with the supportive guidance of Michael Yamashita and Jock Montgomery. This photography tour concentrates first and foremost on helping you see and shoot in new and exciting ways. The focus will be on working with and “seeing the light,” defining your composition, and creating compelling content. As you work towards nurturing your shooting style, you’ll learn how to take in and personalize those breathtaking moments that range from sweeping natural scenery to colorful human activities.

Photography Reviews and Discussions

Throughout the workshop, Michael and Jock will personally critique the photos taken by participants and provide expert advice in review sessions.

The Photographer’s Open Eyes

Being flexible and open to new opportunities is the cornerstone to seeking out and shooting compelling photographs. Consider the following itinerary as an outline, and we’ll make every effort to keep our plans flexible so we can take full advantage of photographic opportunities as they arise. A photography tour is defined in great part by the participants, and we’ll strive to accommodate and work together as a group to help each other make the most of the experience as a group and individually. While you read the itinerary you’ll certainly notice that it is packed with activities; and in order to make sure we have time to for editing and critiques, we may need to make changes on the spot. Myanmar is a place where unusual events (both good and bad), appear out of nowhere like magic and we’ll want to keep our schedule and mental attitudes flexible. As Michael and Jock like to say it’s also all about “being safe and having fun!”

Day to Day Itinerary

Consider this itinerary an outline. As with any trip of this nature we need to allow for unexpected events, which could be anything from the weather to a unique photographic opportunity.

Please note: three meals a day are included in the cost except for first and last days as noted in the itinerary.

Day 1: Mandalay

On arrival at the Mandalay airport, one of our staff will greet you and take you to our hotel.

This afternoon, we gather with Mike and Jock for a briefing and to meet the rest of our photography group, followed by our first meal together, a dinner at the Green Elephant Restaurant.  Chatrium Resort

Day 2: Mandalay

We drive to a nearby riverside village and visit with locals who are experts in weaving and dying textiles. Lunch is at Marie-Min Vegetarian Restaurant.

In the afternoon we tour central Mandalay and view gold leaf making, a marble and wood carving street, and visit Mahamuni–Mandalay’s most famous temple. Bagan King Hotel

Day 3: Mandalay

Early birds can rise to participate in a morning offering by donating alms to monks on the street.

After breakfast we journey by boat on the Irrawaddy River to the ancient kingdom of Sagaing. From a high bridge across the Irrawaddy River, we take in the beautiful view overlooking the Sagaing hillside covered with countless pagodas. We visit a monastery to learn about the life of Buddhist devotees and later visit a silversmith village. We carry on to Amarapura and a weaving cottage industry site. We head back to our hotel by mid-afternoon.

Although we spend time every day talking about our photography and comparing notes, this afternoon is set aside so we can dig into what we have shot, review each others work, and consider how to approach our photography over the coming days. As always, our discussions focus on encouraging each other and learning in ways that are not intimidating. Bagan King Hotel

Day 4: Bagan

In the morning, we fly to Bagan. We visit the elegantly symmetric Ananda temple, which is always bustling with local worshipers from all over Myanmar.

We continue to more sites, perhaps Swezigon and Gubyaukgyi temples and visit a lacquerware factory.

In the evening, we take a classic sunset photograph from atop one of Bagan’s temples. Aye Yar Riverview

Day 5: Bagan

There’s an optional early morning balloon ride—highly recommended. Later, we visit the Bagan market and the Shwewarton antique shop, and tour the Upalatain ordination hall, and Soemmiy monasteries.

In the afternoon visit a quiet village. We’ll take in one more fantastic sunset, this time from another temple. Aye Yar Riverview

Day 6: Bagan

Today, we make an excursion to the Teakwood Monastery with intricate carvings adorning its walls and doors.

We drive to Mount Popa, an extinct volcano and the Burmese spiritual epicenter for those who worship the pantheon of Nat spirits and martyrs.

On our way back to Bagan we visit a toddy palm factory. Aye Yar Riverview

Day 7: Inle Lake

In the morning we fly to Heho and then drive to Inle Lake.

On the way we visit a variety of temples as well as umbrella makers and various other local artisans. We then board wooden canoes paddled by leg rowing locals and by late afternoon arrive at our hotel. Skylake Resort

Day 8 & 9: Inle Lake

The Inle Phaung Daw Oo Pagoda festival is one of the most famous pagoda festivals in Myanmar especially for the ethnic groups of the Shan State. Four Buddha images are taken around the lake in a gilded barge pulled by hundreds of men who row the boat    their boats standing up using leg-rowing technical that is only found on Inle Lake.    

During the festival, each floating village on Inle Lake greets the four images with great fanfare. There are Shan dances and martial arts performances and there are exciting leg-rowing boat races with teams representing various villages around the lake using their skills and strength to win the race. Locals come from all over the region to gain religious merit and enjoy the competitions and festivities. 

Besides the festival there is so much to see on Inle Lake and we spend time exploring the lake by motorized long tail boats. A few highlights: spend the early morning hours photographing the leg-rowing fishermen and tour a once a week village morning market; visit the golden Buddhist Phaung Daw Oo Paya Pagoda, a cheroot (cigar) making factory, a silk-weaving center, a blacksmith’s workshop, and a boat builder’s shed. Immerse yourself in Inn Dein Pagoda complex, which contains hundreds of pagodas.

One of our lunches will be at the Inthar Heritage House (conceived and run by a friend of Mike’s), which has various collections including many pedigree Burmese cats! Skylake Resort

Day 10: Kalaw

Visit the hill station town of Kalaw, the local market frequented with hill-tribe folk.

From Kalaw, we travel by truck to the Green Valley Elephant Camp. We help with feeding and washing the elephants and as always there will be plenty of great photo opportunities. We lunch with panoramic views at the camp headquarters before transferring to the town of Kalaw. Dream Mountain Resort

Day 11: Yangon

We drive through some gorgeous rolling countryside reminiscent of Tuscany to the town of Pindaya. On the hillside are an enormous temple complex and a unique cave which houses thousands of Buddha images alongside numerous limestone stalagmite and stalactite formations.

In the early afternoon, we transfer to Heho Airport and return to Yangon. If time allows we might visit Shewdagon Pagoda for the sunset. Chatrium Resort

Day 12: Yangon

Rise early and head to the highlight of any visit to Yangon, sunrise at Shwedagon Pagoda. Later on we go to the Irrawaddy River pier where there’s a good opportunity to do some street photography. We also cross the river for more photography via rickshaw.

If time allows we can tour some of the colonial architecture sites around Yangon. This afternoon we stopover at our hotel so everyone has time to edit their work.

The final dinner tonight will be at a nearby restaurant so we have plenty of time for an exciting final review of everyone’s work. Chatrium Resort

Day 13: Depart from Yangon or Stay for Extension

After breakfast at our hotel, you will be taken to the Yangon airport and fly home or travel to the Yangon railway station for the extension.


Optional 5 Day Trip Extension, November 13—17, 5 Days

To Golden Rock, Hpa An & the Bago

Day 1: Bago

We board an early morning train to Bago. This journey provides great opportunities to meet and photograph locals. We continue to Kin Pun, the pilgrim’s camp for the Golden Rock religious site.

Here we share the back of a large open truck with local pilgrims for the half hour ride to Yathetaung base camp, located five hundred meters below the Golden Rock. The Golden Rock, or Kyaikhtiyo as the Burmese call it, is a sacred gold leaf covered boulder balanced precariously on the edge of a cliff. Golden Rock Hotel

Enjoy the tranquil sunset, soak in the unique atmosphere, and share in wonder with monks, nuns, and lay pilgrims.

Day 2: Hpa-An

Wake up early for a quiet morning stroll and stunning sunrise views of the Golden Rock surrounded by worshiping pilgrims. We drive to the quaint Karen State capital of Hpa-An. Our first stop is the Thamanya Monastery, home to one of Myanmar’s most revered monks. Thanlwin Hotel

We walk through the Saddar Cave, the most impressive limestone cave in Myanmar. A well-lit path takes us through an entire limestone mountain range and opens up to a small lake and rice fields.

This afternoon we continue with visits to a picturesque standalone rock islet Kyaut Ka Latt in the middle of a small lake. We visit the Lumbini Garden, a park housing one thousand Buddha images.

Day 3: Hpa-An

After breakfast, we take a stroll through the central market to get the feel of Hpa-An local life. We then visit the Kayin Cultural Museum with exhibits of the social, literary, musical and cultural heritage of the Karen (Kayin) ethnic peoples.

Starting from Hpa-An, we continue with a stunning scenic boat ride cruising beside the beautiful limestone karst mountain range. This evening we enjoy the sunset at Shweyinmyaw Pagoda located on the banks of Salween (Thanlwin) River. Thanlwin Hotel

Day 4: Yangon

One our way to Yangon we stop over in Bago and visit the impressive fifty-five meter long reclining Buddha of Shwe Tha Lyaung and the 114-meter high Shwemawdaw Pagoda.

In the afternoon, we visit a Mon weaving village outside of Bago. The rest of the drive to Yangon is broken up with visits to a Nat tree shrine, an animist shrine dedicated to some of the Nat spirits, the Kyaik Pun Pagoda with its four giant Buddha images, and the Allied Troops War Cemetery honoring 6,000 heroes of WWII.

Tonight we will gather to review our work and depending on time will either have our farewell dinner at our hotel or at the l’Opera Restaurant. Chatrium Resort

Day 5: Depart from Yangon

After breakfast at our hotel, we transfer you to the Yangon airport for your departure home.

Photography Tour Price (these prices include four domestic flights)

  • $7,510.00/person with 13-16 participants
  • $7,800.00/person with 10-12 participants
  • $8,200.00/person with 8-9 participants
  • $985.00 single room supplement
  • $330.00/person for the optional balloon ride over Bagan. This experience highly recommended and needs to be booked at least two months in advance.

Optional Trip Extension

  • $2450.00/person with 13-16
  • $2480.00/person with 10-12 participants
  • $2555.00/person with 8-9 participants
  • $350.00 single room supplement 

For any questions and more information regarding payment please contact Jock at jock@jockmontgomery.com


What is Included

  • 3 domestic flights (MDL-NYU, NYU-HEH, HEH-RGN)
  • Expert leadership, local guides and support staff
  • Airport and other transfers
  • Domestic luggage handling fees at airports and hotels
  • Ground transportation, vans (air-con), boats, horse carts, rickshaws etcetera
  • Entrance fees to various sites
  • Camera fees at all monuments
  • Meals and accommodation as specified


  • Insurance of any kind, note: traveler’s health insurance is required of all participants

What is Not Included

  • International airfare from home to Mandalay
  • Visas and immunizations
  • Video fees at monuments
  • Personal expenses, including laundry, snacks, drinks, alcohol etcetera
  • Overweight luggage charges
  • Customary but optional tips for local guides

Payment Schedule

  • At time of reservation a $1,000.00 deposit, along with a $55 non-refundable appliation fee will be collected by Maine Media.  All further correspondence and billing will come directly fromCoompass Rose Expeditions
  • Balance due 90 days prior to departure.

Cancellation Fees

  • Minimum Fee $1,000.00
  • 120-61 days prior to departure 50% of land cost
  • 60 days or less prior to departure 100% of land cost




Terms and Conditions for Travel Workshops

1. Reservations & Payments

A deposit as indicated on the registration page is required to confirm your reservation for the workshop.  Final payment in full is due 45 days prior  to the start date of  your workshop unless stated differently in the course description..  Maine Media Workshops + College (“Maine Media”) reserves the right to cancel a reservation if full payment has not been received by the due date.

2. Cancellations

Please review our cancellation policy at https://www.mainemedia.edu/workshops/about/payment-policies

3. Basis of Rates

All prices are quoted in U.S. dollars; all payments must be made in U.S. dollars.

4. Insurance

It is strongly advised that you purchase Trip Cancellation, Baggage, Emergency Medical Evacuation, and/or Accident and Sickness Insurance Protection. Camera equipment, computers, and baggage are carried entirely at the owner’s risk. Maine Media shall have no responsibility for any lost, damaged, or delayed property, or for an individual student’s medical needs, accidents, injuries or illnesses.

5. Itinerary Changes

The itinerary for your workshop is subject to change without prior notification.

6.  Passports and Visas

A valid passport is required for all international travel. You are required to notify Maine Media as to the nationality under which your passport is registered.  Participants are responsible for obtaining their passports and visas. To participate in the workshop, you must have a passport that is valid until at least six months after the date on which your trip is scheduled to be completed.

7. Medical Issues

All participants must be in good health.   You must advise Maine Media of any health condition, physical condition, or emotional or mental condition that may require special attention or that may adversely impact the other participants in your workshop. All students are required to complete a “Waiver of Liability” form and submit it at the time of registration.  This document may be found on the course description page.

8. Liability Waiver

Every participant is required to sign Maine Media’s Waiver of Liability before departure for their workshop.   Click here to download.

9. Responsibility & Photography

To ensure a safe  experience, you are required to obey local customs and be considerate when photographing people or sensitive locations.  The faculty member for your workshop has the right to expel any person from the workshop for behavior that is in violation of the law; that is disruptive; or that compromises the group’s safety or enjoyment.  No refunds will be made to any person expelled from a workshop. Maine Media shall have no obligation to pay any costs incurred by a person as a result of that person being expelled from a workshop. 

Sign and Return Waiver Form


Course Dates

This course is not offered at this time.
Check our full workshop listing for other alternatives.

Please email us or call 1-877-577-7700 with any questions.


$7510/person with 13-16 participants $7,800/person with 10-12 participants $8,200/person with 8-9 participants; $985.00 single room supplement. See course description for more options.

Class Size