Morning light in Rangoon, as Naomi Duguid told me on my first full day upright in Burma, lasts about ten seconds. That is, the city goes from darkness to searing sunlight, the kind with will bleach and blow out any photo, in as much time as it takes to change a lens.
That’s fine. It’s true of a lot of places along the tropic belts of the globe and I’ve noticed over the years that photographers, as hard as they might drink the night before, will, when they need to, rise for those dawn moments to capture even ten seconds of soft light.
It’s a little different in Rangoon, though, because it’s not just a city bludgeoned by heat and sunlight. It’s also a city of crevices. The things you really want to see are often stuffed away in dusty corners that haven’t seen direct sun, soft or not, since the British were still exiling Mughal emperors to Rangoon. That’s true indoors as well as out: the forlorn little shrines that live and die in the permanent shade of Burma’s banyans are a particular fascination. And so with them, as I found with a lot of Rangoon, it’s not so much light that you’re hunting, but everything else.