Reflection Photography on Sagaing Hill, Myanmar


Reflections of a beautiful Buddha statue on Sagaing Hill, Myanmar.


I found this Buddha statue inside a temple on Sagaing Hill in the beautiful country of Myanmar. As you can see the statue made for a great study in reflection photography.

I love square format photography and was able to make use of my Hasselblad medium format film camera to compose this image.

Sagaing Hill is located about 250 metres up from the Irrawaddy River. You can access it via a series of covered walkways as you climb the 250 meter high hill.

I reached Sagaing Hill by hiring a car and driver from my base in Mandalay, the former capital of Myanmar.

We started the day with a wonderful sunrise photography session at the magnificent Ava Bridge. After that I walked across the 1 km long teak bridge bridge and photographed the beautiful Buddhist temple at after which I climbed up Sagaing Hill and photographed a line of identical Buddha statues and their reflections in this narrow temple. After that I walked out onto an overview and photographed the facade of the temple at sunset.

around 20 km from Mandalay city centre.

U Min means caves and Thonze means thirty

possibly constructed in the 14 century and reconstructed in 1847.

45 beautiful gilded Buddha images in a crescent-shaped colonnade, partly built into the side of the Sagaing Hill. Each Buddha statue is unique in different sizes & facial expression.

U Min Thonze Cave

It’s a great place from which to gaze down upon the pagoda dotted landscape below Sagaing Hill.

Umin Thonze Pagoda

Reflection Photography

There are so many wonderful opportunities to photograph reflections. In the landscape water provides fantastic opportunities to explore

Traditional wedding photography brides in mirrors. These days it’s the kind of image that would probably be considered cheesy but, back in the day it was all the rage. I started my photography career as a wedding photographer and a beautiful portrait of a bride in a mirror was always a good seller.

When I entered the industry there were photographers who were still superimposing head and shoulder portraits of a bride and groom into a brandy balloon glass. Now that’s what I call cheesy.

I find photographing reflections formed on glass to be great fun. The images are often abstract and produce quite mysterious results. They’re the kind of images that take the subject and, as a result, the viewer out of their reality and, sometimes, outside of space and time.

Cameras Do Not Recognize Subject

Despite their relative expense and technological sophistication cameras remain relatively dumb tools that need to be mastered and given direction by the photographer.

Photographing reflections provides an interesting problem. Cameras do not recognize subject.

Your camera has no idea as to whether you are photographing a baby, a bar mitzvah or a birthday cake.

As your camera has no concept of water or mountain, how could it possible know what area of the scene should be focused upon or how bright that area should record in an image.

In the case of a reflection an auto-focus camera will usually focus on the surface of the mirror-like subject (e.g., water, glass) on which the reflection seems to appear.

More than likely this will emphasize surface scum, smears and the like and render the actual reflection, which occurs slightly underneath the surface of the water or mirror, somewhat soft.

Beautiful Reflections in Glass


How to Photograph Reflections in Glass


How To Focus On A Reflection

The solution to this problem can be found in several ways, which we can outline as follows:

  • Manually focus on the reflection itself

  • Move your camera’s auto focus point so that it focuses more critically on the reflection in question

You can also employ depth of field to control the relative sharpness of surrounding areas.

Critically focusing on the reflection of the Buddha statue allowed me to draw attention to it and use the surrounding mirror work to provide a kind of layered appearance, thereby emphasizing the illusion of three dimensional space.

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The Beauty Of Hasselblad Medium Format Film Photography

It’s a very old film based image which I made, way back in December 1999, with a classic camera kit and film combination consisting of the following:

  • Hasselblad 503CWi camera

  • Hasselblad 150 mm f/4 Sonnar lens

  • Kodak Portrait 160VC (i.e., vivid color) film

I’m very much committed to digital photography but, as I have such a large archive of film based images, it’s great to bring a few of them back to life and share them with you here.

Square Format Photography


Photograph So You Won’t Forget

On a personal note, every time I post a photo from days gone by, memories come back and are refreshed in my mind.

I’ve had the good fortune to carve out a rich and interesting life. Many moments from my years of travel are preserved through my images.

But those photos also allow me to remember the people, experiences and adventures that are associated with those travels.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru