19 February, 2013

Temple Twilight | Bagan, Myanmar

At this point of the night in Bagan, there was no one else around. All the tourists and merchants had long since left for the night as the last of the ox carts lumbered slowly down the dirt road below. Save for the faint echo of distant sounds and the eerie shadows cast by the light of the full moon, I was the only one left, all alone and waiting patiently for the temples to illuminate for the night.

I spent the better part of a week exploring and photographing the ancient temple complexes of Bagan Myanmar by bicycle, both day and night, attempting to find the best spots and angles for photography. Between the 11th and 13th centuries, Bagan’s rulers managed to construct over 10,000 religious monuments in an area of 40 square miles. Today, after numerous recorded earthquakes, 2229 temples and pagodas still remain. That leaves countless opportunities for unique and interesting compositions, just waiting to be discovered. Even with a week of exploration, I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Then again, that just means I’ll have more to do when I revisit Myanmar this December. 🙂

Technical Mumbo Jumbo

Camera: Nikon D800
Lens: 28-300 f/3.5-5.6 (Shot at 180 mm)
Tripod: RRS TVC-33 / BH-55 Ballhead / RRS L-Plate
ISO: 100 at f/8
3 Manual Exposures

Location: Shot in Bagan, Myanmar – January 2013, and post-processed in Guilin, China – February 2013.

Hardware: 15” 2011 Macbook Pro, Wacom Intuos5 Small Tablet

Software: Lightroom, Photoshop, NIK Color Efex Pro 4

Technique and Details: Digital Blending with Luminance Masking

I shot 3 manual exposures in order to correctly capture the quickly fading light. With the bright moonlight, I was able to get a nice luminance variation throughout the different layers of atmospheric depth.

The blending was achieved using luminance masking techniques in Photoshop. After that, simple color corrections were applied using NIK Color Efex Pro 4 and Photoshop Adjustment Layers.

Espresso: Caffe Aurora – Medaglia D’oro. It was on sale so I bought 1 kilo. 🙂

About the Author

Elia Locardi is an internationally acclaimed professional travel photographer, videographer, Fujifilm Global Ambassador, writer, public speaker, and highly skilled educator who spends his life shooting some of the most beautiful locations in the world.


As featured by Professional Photographer MagazineCNet Australia,, Wacom USA, and Fstoppers, Elia has built an engaged social media following of nearly 3 million people across FacebookGoogle+TwitterInstagramYouTube, and Snapchat. Due to the years of dedication and genuine openness with his audience, he has become one of the most followed photographers in the world.


Location independent since March of 2012, he and his wife live a 100% mobile lifestyle, perpetually traveling from country to country, continuously circling the globe. Since he began traveling full-time in 2009, he has visited more than 55 countries, flown over one million miles, and collaborated with major companies, brands, countries, and tourism agencies all over the world.


Using a combination of traditional in-camera techniques, targeted times of day, and advanced post-processing methods, Elia has developed a widely recognized and highly unique style of photography that has become well known around the world. With each photograph, his goal is to share his vision so others can see the world as he does, full of color, texture, beauty, depth and emotion. Many of his photos have been used in some of the most widely circulated publications in the world including National Geographic.


Throughout the journey, he shares the Art of Photography on many different websites including his popular blog, blamethemonkey.com, teaches post-processing workshops worldwide, speaks at major international photography conventions, and is proud to be one of the founders and leaders of Dream Photo Tours.

  • Gorgeous! While I like the lit temples and my eye is drawn toward them, of course, I like the foreground temples bathed only in moonlight even better. Beautiful composition and capture of twilight. I can almost hear the crickets. 🙂

    • Thanks for the compliment Cheryl! It took me a long time to find this specific position and being there alone at night was really nice. Truth be told, it was also a little spooky. 😉

  • Dave

    Lovely shot. It’s so nice to see a little variance in exposure rather than just another HDR blend…

    Any chance you’d share it in a wallpaper size?

  • I love this one Elia, absolutely stunning.

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