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Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

Thailand is our next country in the DPS Travel Photography Inspiration Project. When I request photos from readers I also ask them to provide tips to help other readers take the same picture, should they decide to travel to the country. Today I am going to present Margaret Ingles’ tips as an introduction to the country as she has done a wonderful job informing us not only of tips for Thailand, but of other countries as well.

From small and insignificant day to day items and consumables to the grander and more ornate features of their temples and public buildings, the Thais have a wonderful sense of aesthetics of which, over the 13 years I lived there, I never grew tired. Whilst the wats and temples and palaces are all a must-do on any trip to Thailand, don’t forget all the different types of markets which offer fantastic photographic opportunities. As a lover of detail, my favourites are the amulet market near the Grand Palace by the river and flower, and fruit and vegetable markets. In these places you have a chance to mingle with Thais shopping and perusing and some lovely candid portraiture can be done. My favourite subject however was often the patterns and details and textures. These places can be quite dark in the centre so lighting could be an issue. Something I did quite a few times was to join a commercial afternoon or morning cycle tour in the central parts of Bangkok such as Chinatown. Often these would be four hours of easy cycling with only a few square kilometre being covered overall but the variety of photo opportunities in this dense part of town from small backstreet temples and shrines to shopping alleys made it worth it. Juggling a bike and camera and pedestrian traffic through narrow streets can be tricky, so one lens is best.

This is the eighth country we are covering in the reader fueled DPS Travel Photography Inspiration Project.

If you would like to be involved in the next country’s post, drop me a line here.

Sunset At Sea

Sunset at sea (Ko Phi Phi) by Juliette Giannesini

Sunset are amazing on the West coast, and sunset at sea can be very colourful. Don’t hesitate to play with the colour balance to get a strong effect and capture the light.


“Oasis of Serenity” by Tim Roper

Three student monks at Wat Phra Singh, right in the heart of Chiang Mai.

Wats are Buddhist monasteries where monks live and study, and they cast an ever-present influence on both the physical and social landscape of Thailand. They are calm, welcoming places to tourists, and often have young monks very eager to practice their English.


Twisted by Brett Wordon

DESCRIPTION: Impromptu break dance performance on Khao San Road, Bangkok

TIP: Khao San road is a hive of activity, which presents plenty of interesting photo opportunities. Sit at one of the many restaurants / bars for long enough, and you are bound to witness unusual sights worth photographing (despite Khao San being very touristy). A zoom lens is great to get those candid shots from a distance. But a wide angle lens allows you to capture all the action when it’s happening right in front of you. It also gives you enough room to include foreground or background elements that may add character to the picture.


Bangkok at night by Bill Ward

Taken at 3am from the 47th floor of the hotel I stayed in this picture demonstrates that the city never sleeps and traffic flows are constant.

comparing notes

Comparing Notes by Jenny Downing

The airport provides many opportunities (My tip? Look up!) as does the train journey from the airport into town. This candid (‘comparing notes’) of two monks scrutinizing their just-bought tickets was taken in the ticket queue. I felt slightly self conscious about pointing my camera at them, but they seemed far more concerned with making sure that their ticket would take them to where they were heading.

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

The Captain’s Son by Alexandre Ayer

Exploring the Thai islands is a wonderful experience and you will often find yourself on one of those small boats. You can even charter one to go out fishing. Don’t expect state-of-the-art equipment, but do expect a fun day out with a local fisherman.

Trekking through rice fields

Trekking through rice fields, northern Thailand by Marcy L.

These beautiful rice fields were outside a small village that welcomed visitors in a very rustic village guest house. There was no electricity or running water inside the hut, but they prepared a delicious meal for us. Tip: Try some long shots from behind when people are hiking to get a sense of the scenery and the mood.

Lotus offering

Lotus Offering by Margaret Ingles

The sun was setting and really illuminated this lovely lotus offering. I darkened the shadows a little in order to diminish the background and highlight the subject.


Ladle lady by Jon Sanwell

This woman runs a street food stall in Chinatown in Bangkok.  I wanted a portrait that showed her in context, so I crouched down low and took her picture through the gap in her stall, with the pot of food in the foreground.

My overall tip isn’t really specific to Thailand – it could be applied to any city, but it’s something that worked for me in Bangkok.  I spent a week and a half there last October, and just used one lens, a 50mm prime.  Limiting my options like this made me think a lot more about what I was doing.  I used to have a tendency to zoom in all the time, but this self-imposed restriction made me see the value of including more context in the frame, and of getting in close.

Ko Phi Phi

Ko Phi Phi by Juliette Giannesini

Around the islands, in the South, the colour of the water is amazing. It feels like navigating in a swimming pool! Again, don’t hesitate to adjust the colour balance, the light can be very strong.


Buddha Entwined – Ayutthaya by Greg Knudsen

A Buddha statue’s head is entwined in the roots of a tree at the ruins of Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya.

This iconic image is a main attraction in the Ayutthaya Historical Park, where so many of the Buddha statues are headless from conquering invaders. This one was perhaps hidden for protection, but emerged as the roots grew around it. Travel Tip: The three-hour train trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya costs only about US $0.50; via mini-bus: $2.00.


“River Work” by Tim Roper

Taken in the early morning in Chiang Saen, a small town along the Mekong River that goes about its business in a steady yet unhurried pace.

Early morning anywhere is usually a less crowded, almost serene time to head out with a camera and find pictures you might miss once the commotion of the day gets going. Plus, the light’s often perfectly dramatic.

Once upon a time

Once Upon a Time by Brett Wordon

DESCRIPTION: A traditionally styled boat is anchored just off shore of Khao Phing Kan island (James Bond Island). The numerous casts, typical of the Phang Nga Bay area, can be seen in the back ground, standing tall out the sea

TIP: A partly cloudy sky adds much more drama to the landscape, especially late afternoon to sunset. If you a group of 6-8 people, rather hire a long boat to take you around for the day, instead of going with a tour boat. Not only is it cheaper, it will give you much more flexibility for choosing your vantage point.

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

Demon caryatide guard (detail) at the gilt stupa of the Royal Pantheon, in Royal Palace by A.J. Marcella


Temple by Bill Ward

This is possibly an unusual view of the temple at the imperial palace, in Bangkok, that houses the Emerald Buda.

I wanted to record the extensive use of Gold leaf and mosaics in the temples that form part of the Imperial Palace complex. This is again a must on a visit to Bangkok, we found the use of public river taxies the most affordable and a very safe and pleasant mode of transport. Many touts will try to convince you to charter your own boat this is not necessary at all the public river taxis are much more fun.

Woman and child

Woman and child, northern Thailand by Marcy L.

This Kayan woman lives in northern Thailand. Tip: Ask permission before you take a closeup, but then try to capture the person acting naturally, rather than posing.

Salted fish

Salted Fish by Margaret Ingles


Monk school by Jon Sanwell

These novice monks were struggling to stay awake through a school lesson.  I hung around in the doorway for a while, until they got used to me being there, and then managed to get a couple of natural shots.

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

MBK Center by Alexandre Ayer

Bangkok has many extra-large shopping centers. Appart from great deals on camera gear, clothing and all sorts of products, they are often architecturally very interesting.

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

Street Food by Kristy Larmour

Tip – street food always looks tasty – get in close and fill the frame to really make the taste come through the photograph

Local Thai Bus

Local Thai Bus (Thai border) by Juliette Giannesini

I snapped this picture on the first bus we took after crossing the Malaysian border. Thai vehicles (boats, buses, tuk-tuk, taxis, etc.) are quite picturesque, they are very colourful and quite different from the West. I use a wider lens to capture as much as I could of the inside of the bus (which ended up breaking down before destination…).


Flower Seller – Ayutthaya by Greg Knudsen

A flower seller along a main road in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

The girl’s amused look is from seeing me pass by sitting on the back of a tuk-tuk I’d hired for a few hours of sight-seeing. I wasn’t on the benches, but on the floorbed of the passenger area with my feet on the back step – giving me a great view of everything around me.

Travel Tip: I paid about $5/hr for the tuk-tuk ride & went everywhere. The next day I rented a bike for about $1.35/day but only had time to use it two hours. It’s a great place to bike; smooth roads and no hills.


“Tea Field Worker” by Tim Roper

Driving around on a rented scooter, I met this tea field worker outside Santikhiri (Mae Salong) by turning off the main road to follow a narrow dirt one.

Scooters are readily available to tourists all over Thailand, but I didn’t feel comfortable renting one until I got out into the countryside, where the roads can be in surprisingly great condition with little traffic. It’s a wonderful way to explore Thailand with a camera, provided you have some experience with two-wheeled vehicles, and pick an area where conditions feel safe.

Hidden Treasures

Hidden Treasures by Brett Wordon

DESCRIPTION: A rock pool with crystal clear water in the Erawan National Park, in Kanchanaburi.

TIP: Bring a tripod and ND filters to best capture the waterfalls. The main hiking trail goes along the ‘7 waterfalls’ of Erawan. These are populated with many tourists and can be undesirable for photography. If you explore a bit further, you’ll find that there is more than 7 waterfalls, which are quieter (for both photography and for yourself).


Phuket Taken from the back of a Tuk Tuk just after a storm by Bill Ward

No visit to Thailand is complete without a stay on Phuket which is a riot of color, noise and aromas. This picture was taken of a typical street scene from the back of a Tuk Tuk just after an afternoon storm.

Pond creatures ready for release

Pond creatures ready for release by Marcy L

This woman at Sukhothai Historical Park was selling creatures to release into a pond, which Buddhists do to earn good karma. Tip: Take shots that will help you tell a story about the culture of the area you visit.


Lemongrass by Margaret Ingles


White teeth by Jon Sanwell

 This nice lady was chatting to her friend by the side of the road in Bangkok’s Chinatown.  I sat down with them on a tiny plastic stool and took a few pictures.   Using a standard lens up close creates a kind of intimacy that you just don’t get using a telephoto lens from across the street.

Woman on Top

Woman on Top (Bangkok) by Juliette Giannesini

Thailand is a great place for street photography, and people are not particularly camera-shy. However, the streets are very dusty and crowded, I highly recommend having a protective filter and a cap.

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

Selling corn, Ao Phra Nang by Alexandre Ayer

Thai food is generally delicious, extremely varied, and often quite spicy. There is an incredible availability of street stalls, and even beach vendors. Don’t miss out on these delights (and photo ops) !

GK-Thai5-Chiang Mai

Morning Monks – Chiang Mai by Greg Knudsen

Young apprentice monks line up before starting their morning procession to collect alms in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

One of the highlights of traveling in Southeast Asia is getting out early (around 6:00 a.m.) to find monks making their rounds to collect donated food for their morning meal. The monks are used to photographers, but a good measure of respect and decorum is essential as you observe this colorful, peaceful, and humble ritual.

Travel Tip: The Night Market in Chiang Mai is fantastic; it’s touristy, but fun.


Phipi riding in a long boat by Bill Ward

Taken from a long boat being transported to a quieter side of the Island where we choose to spend a few nights, this shot gives an indication of how clear the waters are and why this is such a popular diving spot. The long boats with their easily maneuvered motors allow smooth transport through shallow water.


Signature by Jenny Downing
Our hotel foyer, like so many in Bangkok, gleamed with sparkling glass and polished metal; both are perfect for reflections. For this shot (‘signature’) I placed my camera at the far end of the counter, set my widest aperture and clicked. The fact that the camera was on a stable surface meant that even though the shutter speed was quite slow, (1/25s) the image is still acceptably sharp.


Monks, Wat Pho

Monks, Wat Pho, Bangkok by Margaret Ingles

As long as you take your shoes off, temples are open to everyone. Be respectful of these sacred spaces and the people in them, but its perfectly fine to take photos inside unless otherwise instructed,  although I never used flash.


Here he is Jon Sanwell

Although I generally ask first when taking pictures of people, I made an exception in this case.  The man here was in almost the perfect position between the arrows, and I didn’t want to miss the moment.

Walk Like a Crab

Walk like a Crab (Ko Muk) by Juliette Giannesini

There are hundreds of crabs on less crowded beaches. Use a zoom to capture them, they can feel you walking toward them and are very quick to retreat into their holes.

Wat Pho

Wat Pho by Margaret Ingles

Travel Photography Inspiration Project: Thailand

Amazing Elephants all over Thailand by Kristy Larmour

Tip – If traveling with your family remember to photograph what your kids find fascinating – it’s often totally different things to what we as adults find amazing – you see elephants all over Thailand and my daughter loved this amazing mural on the wall of our hotel.


Shuffle by Jenny Downing

Strolling along the elevated walkway is also a great way of seeing things that perhaps you would not normally notice.  You get a bird’s eye view of the street below (look out for people sleeping in the backs of their samlors; shadows on the tops of buses; workmen strolling nonchalantly in flip-flops on shopping centre roofs…) plus a better view of the tall buildings.  Look for reflections in windows; move about until you get one that hits the spot like this one (‘shuffle’) did for me.


Lotus by Margaret Ingles


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Peter West Carey
Peter West Carey

leads photo tours and workshops in Nepal, Bhutan, Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and beyond. He is also the creator of Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure & 40 Photography Experiments, web-based tutorials taking curious photographers on a fun ride through the basics of learning photography.

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