Personal invitation from Mike Yamashita

Dear fellow photographers,

Welcome to the land of Serendip, an ancient Arab word for Sri Lanka that has come into usage in the English language as serendipity. This very descriptive word means to make a fortunate or delightful discovery by accident, like finding a hundred-dollar bill on the street or seeing an extraordinary photo op in an ordinary scene. Aptly named, the island is full of happy, unexpected discoveries.

My interest in Sri Lanka began with my research for the travels of Marco Polo, who stopped here on his way home from China. I came to capture the images he wrote about, first for National Geographic magazine and then for my book, Marco Polo: A Photographer’s Journey. Marco called Sri Lanka the most beautiful island of its size in the world.

My interests were furthered during my work on the Chinese admiral Zheng He, who was equally charmed by Sri Lanka, praising the people for their religious tolerance with a description of Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, and Hindus all worshipping together atop Adam’s Peak–highlighted in my book, Zheng He: Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer.

Sri Lanka is the type of place where photo opportunities abound for those with a keen eye—a photographer’s paradise. I look forward to sharing with you my vision of one of the most photogenic yet little-known islands. We will be shooting during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, with our evenings punctuated by slide shows of your work and comments and critiques to take your photography to the next level. The culmination of our trip will be a final slide show featuring the best work of all participants.

Come join Jock Montgomery and me for an extraordinary experience in the Land of Serendipity.

Michael Yamashita

CompassRose-staff-Michael-Yamashita1Michael Yamashita has been shooting for National Geographic for over 30 years, combining his dual passions of photography and travel.

After graduating from Wesleyan University with a degree in Asian studies, Michael spent seven years in Asia, which became his photographic area of specialty. Upon returning to the U.S., Yamashita began shooting for National Geographic, as well as other American and international magazines and clients. In addition to Yamashita’s focus on Asia, his work has taken him to six continents.

As a third-generation Japanese-American, he is fluent in Japanese, and has covered the length of Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Yamashita’s particular specialty is in retracing the paths of famous travelers, resulting in stories on Marco Polo, the Japanese poet Basho, and the Chinese explorer Zheng He. His feature documentary The Ghost Fleet, inspired by his National Geographic story about the 15th-century admiral, won the Best Historical Documentary prize at the New York International Independent Film Festival, and his National Geographic Channel documentary, Marco Polo: The China Mystery Revealed, based on his three-part magazine story, received two Asian Television and Film Awards. It was also included in the top twenty most popular NG Channel documentaries of the decade.

A frequent keynote speaker for corporations and foundations, as well as a lecturer and teacher at schools and workshops around the world, Yamashita has received numerous industry awards, including those from the Pictures of the Year, Photo District News, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Asian-American Journalists Association. Major exhibits of his work have opened throughout Asia, in Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Taipei and Singapore, as well as in Rome, Venice, Frankfurt, and Perpignan, France. His work has been exhibited at galleries in Los Angeles and at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Yamashita has published nine books (most inspired by his 30 National Geographic stories): The Great Wall From Beginning to End; New York: Flying High; Zheng He: Tracing the Epic Voyages of China’s Greatest Explorer; Japan: The Soul of a Nation; Marco Polo, A Photographer’s Journey; Mekong: A Journey on the Mother of Waters; In the Japanese Garden; A Pictorial Tribute to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy; and Lakes, Peaks, and Prairies: Discovering the U.S. Canadian Border.

While not traveling, Michael Yamashita lives with his family in rural New Jersey, where he maintains a studio and is an active volunteer firefighter.


National Geographic covers by Mike








For more info/imagery by Mike, please visit his personal website.


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