Author Archives: Mike Yamashita

Big on Green – How a Tiny City Makes A Huge Impact

National Geographic photographer, Michael Yamashita, proposes a limited-edition photographic record of Singapore’s transformation into a model of urban planning, eco-architecture, technology and environmentalism. Singapore is paving a “greenway” for the world, showing that a city can grow and still preserve a healthy and safe quality of life.

This folio is a celebration of not only Singapore’s fiftieth year, but also of its achievements as a role model for a world facing rapid climate change and shrinking resources. Please join us to make it happen. Find out how by clicking on Gofiee’s weblink below. Thank you for your support!

gofiee.com

Gardens by the Bay. Supertrees, vertical plant displays. Park just opened 4 days ago. Singapore's bid to become the greenest city on the planet, this Bay south Garden is one of 3 to be built on reclaimed land highlighting the diversity of plant life in tropical rain forest.

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The People and Places of Myanmar

The People and Places of Myanmar

Here are a few images from the photo workshop I lead earlier this year with Jock Montgomery in Myanmar. We are doing it again this November. Please join us. Registration closes soon, so don’t wait to sign up. For more information, view the flip-book brochure / mobile version.

 

©Michael Yamashita

Locals gather on the main concourse of Shwedagon Pagoda after nightfall.

©Michael Yamashita

The traditional ritual of the bathing of a Buddha. Locals pour water over Buddha statues that correspond with the day you were born to bring good luck.

©Michael Yamashita

Monks walking around Shwedagon Pagoda’s golden stupa.

©Michael Yamashita

Young monks collecting alms in Bagan.

©Michael Yamashita

At the Akha hill tribe full moon festival, local women wearing traditional clothing perform traditional dances.

©Michael Yamashita

A village primary school in Mount Popa.

©Michael Yamashita

Primary school children peering over a wall at Mount Papa.

©Michael Yamashita

A monk sprays water over a dusty courtyard at Bagan’s ancient Lawkananda Pagoda. Dampening the soil reduces the dust stirred up by footsteps.

©Michael Yamashita

A sunrise balloon ride over the ruins of Bagan.

©Michael Yamashita

A misty morning sunrise surrounds the temples of Bagan with sepia light.

©Michael Yamashita

Fishermen on Inle Lake at Sunrise.

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Wugiao: Hi-flying Hometown of Chinese Acrobatics

Wugiao: Hi-flying Hometown of Chinese Acrobatics

After executing six handsprings in a row, the cherubic six-year-old beams with satisfaction, while one of his fellow acrobats winces as he tries to contort his body into a metal tube.  It’s all in a long day’s work for these Chinese children in Wugiao, in Hebei Province, who are studying at the elite International Acrobatics Art Training Center.  Their parents have paid as much as 8000 RMB ($1280) per month for the privilege of having their children learn an ancient art that has thrived here for over two thousand years and that may prove to be their ticket to success. If they make it here, a few of these children may even be accepted into the China National Acrobatic troupe that travels the globe entertaining audiences in capital cities of the west.  Others, who may not have what it takes to be hand-standing, back-bending ambassadors to the world, might join the many acrobatic troupes who perform locally throughout China.

I spent three days while on my Grand Canal story  [NG magazine, May 2013] in the small town of Wugiao, known as the hometown of Chinese acrobatics, and saw firsthand the tiny troupers who practice amazing physical feats.

Wugiao has a …

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Fighting Fire With Fire

Fighting Fire With Fire

The Fourth of July is a day when members of fire companies all over the country, myself included, dust off their dress blues and shine up the trucks, in preparation for local parades and all the other Independence Day festivities.  It’s usually a day of great camaraderie and celebrations, but this year, we’ll be marching with soberness and sadness, as we think about the 19 firefighters who lost their lives fighting the wildfires in Arizona.  Whenever a fire-related disaster occurs, it feels personal to anyone who’s ever entered a burning building or raced to push back a wall of fire from a parched forest.  We know what a daunting adversary fire is. While there’s an undeniable rush of adrenaline that comes with tackling a major blaze, as any firefighter will confirm, those who’ve experienced it know that this is no game.  A mere shift in the wind can unleash the full fury of fire.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots were an elite group, thoroughly trained in how to manage wildfires, the hardest kind of blazes to contain.  And yet, even with all their training, their bravery and their instincts, a change in the direction of the wind gave the fires the …

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Where There’s Smoke…1997 All Over Again

Where There’s Smoke…1997 All Over Again

As Colorado fights some of the worst wildfires in that state’s history, fires are also raging in Indonesia again and the polluted haze caused by them is the worst since I photographed the story, Indonesia’s Plague of Fire for National Geographic in 1997.  The fires we covered then, caused by the annual (illegal) burn-off of fields, forest and plantations designed to clear large tracts of land for new planting, are counted among the world’s greatest environmental disasters. They spread as far as Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and Singapore.

Unfortunately, despite laws enacted since then to prevent agricultural burn-off, this year’s fires are even worse, bringing down a shroud of poisonous smoke that again threatens Indonesia’s neighbors. And because most of the fires rage underneath the land surface, igniting the rainforest’s under-layer of highly flammable peat, fighting them is exponentially harder.

Singapore, which prides itself on its healthy “green” status, is particularly hard hit. The choking smog there has surpassed 1997’s record levels. Today, Singapore reported the highest levels of pollution ever recorded, topping out at 401 on the pollution standard index (PSI). An index reading above 300 is considered hazardous and potentially life threatening to the ill and …

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Happy Losar! Tibetan New Year

Happy Losar! Tibetan New Year

Happy 2140, the year of the snake! Though Losar, like Chinese New Year, is generally an occasion for festivities, things for Tibetans are a little different this year. For the fifth year in a row, Lobsang Sangay, the exiled prime minister of Tibet, has asked Tibetans to tone down celebrations for the new year, in memory of those who have self-immolated in recent years (up to 99) in protest against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

“No one feels like dancing and singing anymore,” says Kunga Tashi, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the Americas. In lieu of parties and feasting, he is appealing to Tibetans to mark the passage of the year with silence, candle-lighting and burning incense in memory of those who have lost their lives in protest.

Lha Gyal Lo. Bhod Gyal Lo. May all beings be happy and well, as we celebrate Tibetan New Year.

Here are some scenes from a Losar past in Labrang Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu Province.

©Michael Yamashita
Monks of all ages wait for morning prayers and the only meal of the day.

©Michael Yamashita
The trapa (novices), enter the monastery around the age of six and become gelong (monks) when they reach adulthood.

©Michael Yamashita
Tibetan

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