“Shadow of a Dynasty” is the first movie of my huge Bagan photo & video project that I’ve been working on for the past 2 years.

In July 2018, I went to Bagan to shoot a (the first ever) time-lapse movie of this ancient city under the Milky Way skies. Things didn’t come easy or without risk. Capturing the Milky Way during monsoon season was the worst possible combination, and countless nights were spent shooting clouds instead of stars. Shooting at night and flying my drone wasn’t ‘entirely allowed,’ meaning I had to hide well to avoid being noticed. Snakes are one of the reasons why no one is allowed at night. Roughly 7500 a year die of snake bites, highest in the world, compared to 5-10 in Australia. I had one crawling under my legs one night, so it was a pretty scary/dangerous situation altogether.

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Milky Way shot on top of Ta Wet Hpaya days before it closed

Being a storm lover, I hoped that the monsoon would bring me some storms to capture. But as it turns out, Bagan, which is a dry zone within the desert, receives almost no lightning storms. Years pass without any. After extending my planned 2 weeks to 6 weeks to capture those Milky Way skies, I got incredibly lucky one night, when 3 lightning storms passed over. Also, I didn’t realize that the famous balloons only fly in the dry season, so I had to return later that year for that and to capture those nights and sunrises, which I didn’t get at all during the first trip.

The light at sunset is stunning in Bagan

During those 2 visits, I made many local friends who showed me true kindness and helped me understand their life and country. I’ve never met more kind people in such an unfortunate situation. Life is hard for them and the thing they want and need most is for tourism to grow. Without much support from their government, this is one of the few ways forward for them. This planted some seeds in my mind, and a year later I returned a third time for 3 weeks for a personal charity project and to shoot the last scenes for my project, which had now become a means to support the people by promoting their country and create awareness about how important it is to consciously spend your money with local people, not the fancy businesses owned by the rich.

At the crack of dawn

Dhammayazaka Pagoda

Myauk Guni & Taung Guni

Myanmar is perhaps a troubled country, but it’s inhabited by some of the kindest, most gentle people you’ll ever meet. There are beautiful and fascinating places to visit, and the crown of all is the amazing Bagan, an ancient city of 2200+ Buddhist temples, pagodas, and stupas. A millennium ago, during the height of the Pagan Dynasty, this was the largest city on the planet with well over 2 million people living and trading between the 10.000+ temples!

Dhammayan Gyi Temple, as large as the pyramids

Highlight of the day, the balloons at sunrise, during high season only

Sunset begins at Myauk Guni

Views like these from the top of the temples can’t be seen

Temple at the Khaymingha Pagoda complex

Sunset at Ananda Temple, one of the most popular

Milky Way captured on top of a temple

More photos from my “Shadow of a Dynasty” project

Buddha statues inside temples

“Shadow of a Dynasty” time-lapse