Interview: Photography-Loving Sea Captain Captures the Quiet Beauty in Everyday Moments

Zay Yar Lin a Myanmar Photographer

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Myanmar-based photographer Zay Yar Lin looks to the fundamentals of art as a way to capture compelling portraits of the world. Focusing on lighting, composition, and color, his often-aerial shots are simultaneously abstract while communicating stories about people as they travel, work, and exercise their spirituality. The images depict everyday moments that are otherwise easy to forget. But thanks to Lin's keen eye, he transforms them into works of art.

Lin is a self-taught photographer who has been honing his skills since 2014, and it's not quite his full-time job—yet. He is a sea captain by day, which is where he has shot some of his most striking compositions featuring a bird’s-eye view of a seafarer cleaning a ship deck juxtaposed with the crackled ocean waters. Lin now has many exhibitions and photography awards under his belt, and he's even closer to pursuing the field full-time. “I’m still trying because the income is totally different if compared to my present job,” he tells My Modern Met. “I think I am very close to reaching my goal.”

We spoke to Lin about learning photography as well as social media accounts he finds inspirational. Scroll down for our exclusive interview.

Aerial Photography by Zay Yar LinWhat inspired you to begin photography? 

I was addicted to paintings since childhood. I didn't even know that I would become a photographer one day. When I first noticed many beautiful and inspiring photos on social media like Facebook, I wished to shoot like those photos. But, I knew nothing about photography. One of my friends suggested me to learn photography online by googling. I visited and learned many tutorials on photography websites. As a self-taught photographer, I have learned a lot and got much inspiration through online photography websites and social media.

Zay Yar Lin a Myanmar Photographer


What is your most memorable photograph? 

My most memorable photograph is Transporter which was published on National Geographic printed magazine.

What is the story behind it? 

It was a spontaneous moment and I was really surprised with amazing colors I noticed on the red main deck and whirling blue sea. The photo shows a seafarer painting a ship handrail while the ship was sailing in the ocean.

Zay Yar Lin Self Taught PhotographerAerial Photography by Zay Yar LinWhat do use for photography gear? 

I'm a Nikon user. I had used Nikon D600 and D750. Currently, I'm using Nikon D850.

Zay Yar Lin a Myanmar PhotographerAerial Photography by Zay Yar LinSocial media has helped you learn how to photograph and provide you inspiration. What are some of your favorite accounts that you go to for photography tips and beautiful images? 

I love Instagram which is a great social media platform for photographers. The following accounts are some of my favorite photographers and photography accounts: Daniel Kordan for landscape; Steve McCurry for travel and documentary; Emin Kuliyev for wedding photography; National Geographic Your Shot for storytelling and documentary; Jason M. Peterson for black and white minimalism; Vineet Vohra for street photography; Alex Noriega for nature and landscape; Sean Archer for portraits; and SkyPixel for aerial photography.

Zay Yar Lin Self Taught PhotographerAerial Photography by Zay Yar LinWhat advice do you have for someone trying to teach themselves photography?

For beginning photographers, I would suggest learning the basics first. A good photograph is composed of light, composition, and moments or story. The light is the key in photography, follow it and try to compose it. Nowadays, you can easily gain a lot of knowledge and inspiration from online photography communities and social media. I suggest joining the National Geographic Your Shot Community. You can upload your photos and get editor comments on your photos for improving your photography.

Please remember the gear is just a tool like a brush. If you don't know how to draw or paint, you can't create a good painting even if you have a good paintbrush.

Zay Yar Lin Self Taught PhotographerAerial Photography by Zay Yar LinAnything exciting on the horizon that you can tell us about?

I'll be leading a photography tour of Outer Mongolia and Gobi Desert this coming October and accepting local photography tours in Myanmar.

Zay Yar Lin Self Taught PhotographerAerial Photography by Zay Yar LinZay Yar Lin: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Zay Yar Lin.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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