Thailand Tour - A Photography Day Trip
Photographers love Thailand for its scenery, colorful culture and wildlife. This day trip began as a bird photography tour but other photographic opportunities were excellent too.
On 25th May 2013 I took a visiting photographer, Michael Lang, for a day trip to Petchaburi province to photograph birds and to look for other great photographic opportunities. Michael was using a professional set-up; an SLR digital camera with 500mm lens whilst I took some snaps using a Canon Powershot compact camera.
Thailand is a colorful country so without really trying we came across some nice cultural sights and this, together with my knowledge of the local birds and other scenes of interest, we managed to get a lot of interesting images in just one day.
Canon Powershot SX 160 IS
All the photographs on this page were taken using a Canon Powershot SX 160 compact camera which, at the time of writing, is available online for less than $150.
From Bangkok To Petchaburi
After meeting Michael at 5.30am, in Bangkok, we headed out on the highway to Petchaburi. One might ask why so early? Well, Bangkok's traffic is notoriously bad (read this - Bangkok traffic jam) so the early start was to get out of the city before the traffic became a problem, something I always do. Also, the journey to Petchaburi takes about 1.5 hours so we wanted to get there early for the soft morning light which makes for good photography.
We arrived in rice fields close to the town of Petchaburi at a little after 7am.
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Welcome To The Rice Fields
For anyone who has not spent much time in Asia it is interesting to actually see rice in production. Many people have images of terraced rice fields with lots of colorful ladies wearing big, wide-brimmed hats tending the rice by hand. Well, you can find such scenes in Thailand and particularly at planting time there is a lot of manual labor, but most of the time the rice is just growing and very few people are in evidence; additionally, most of the rice-growing in Thailand is done on the highly fertile plains and not on steep slopes.
The Rice Fields
The photograph above was actually taken at the end of the day, after a wet season downpour had cleared, but I wanted to introduce the rice fields first so I have used it here. You can see how green the whole scene is and, in fact, some of the rice fields are so bright that you would have never really understood what green is until you have seen them.
The other nice thing about visiting an area like this is that you can see lots of scenes of Thai life, village markets, people heading to the temple, people herding animals and suchlike that you do not usually get to see if you stick to the regular tourists routes.
A guide book is always useful when traveling around a new country but beware that it is only a GUIDE and not the final word on the country in question.
I have included the Rough Guide book to Thailand for variety as the Lonely Planet guide can be overused and channel vast numbers of travelers to the same place. Use this guide book to learn a little about Thailand and for navigation when you get to new towns and cities as well as an indicator to the most spectacular attractions.
However, do not be afraid to venture off the beaten track and check out something that is not in the book.
A Morning of Bird Photography
The primary aim of the day was to photograph birds, so that is what we started with. The rice fields around Petchaburi are a good place to see three species of weaver bird; Streaked Weaver, Baya Weaver and the spectacular Asian Golden Weaver.
Asian Golden Weaver (Male)
With May being right in the middle of the breeding season I knew exactly where to go to find nesting colonies of all three species and we used the tactic of driving slowly close to the nests so that we could get as close as possible for photographs. Birds are not as bothered about vehicles as they are of people on foot, so a car or van makes a good mobile hide.
Photographing the weavers took up quite a lot of time as they were fun to watch, busy at their nests, feeding chicks, chasing each other and continuing their nest construction.
The rice fields are high in biodiversity (as you can see from the collection of species pictured on the left) due to the farming methods used in this area.
Although modern strains of rice are grown and fertilizers and pesticides used, the plot size of most of the fields is fairly small and they get planted at slightly different times, creating a patchwork of different growing stages. Additionally, there is a degree of mixed farming in this area with ducks, fishponds, cows and a few pigs being raised by local farmers.
The final thing that increases biodiversity here is that there is some level of crop rotation and leaving some land fallow. All of this goes towards creating an environment that is high in invertebrate life and, consequently, bird life.
The Latest Entries on Nick Upton's Birding Blog
Although it was birds that we had come for it is always nice when visitors are interested in seeing and photographing a wide range of interesting things and as the day progressed a storm made finding birds in photogenic situations a little tricky plus we decided to look for some other things of interest.
This rather impressive lizard showed itself at one of our stops proving that photographers should always be on the lookout for things that they might not expect.
A Procession To The Temple
We had our lunch at a seafood restaurant on a beach, a short drive from the rice fields. After lunch we were on our way through an area of salt pans and villages when we came across a very colorful procession of Thai people in traditional dress. Colorful interludes such as these are quite frequent in Thailand and are excellent for taking nice cultural images.
As we stopped I told Michael that Thai people are always happy to have their photos taken unlike in some countries. I was going to ask anyway but as soon as people saw our cameras they gestured to us to take photos.
In the procession was one lady that I knew and she came over to tell me that this was a ceremony for two young men to become monks and they were heading to the local temple.
Procession to the Temple
As you can see from the photograph below, the people looked great in their colorful traditional costumes, carrying all sorts of offerings for the temple. Michael posed for pictures with one of the pretty ladies and then for a comedic photo with a man who wanted to join the fun. Michael commented on what a fun place Thailand is; of course, like everywhere it has its faults, but he was indeed correct, Thailand is a fun place.
Becoming a Monk
In Thailand a very high proportion of the people are practicing Buddhists. On a regular basis most people will make offerings of money and food to local temples and travel to well-known temples around the country.
Most temples are also monasteries and it is considered to be a very high level of merit-making if a man becomes a monk. Because of this many young men become monks for just a short period of time, a few months I believe is normal, in order to bring merit to their families.
This man on the left has had his head shaved as the first part of the ceremony of becoming a monk and now takes part in this procession towards the temple. No doubt his parents would have been swelling with pride.
Have You Been To Thailand?
Bringing Home The Salt
One thing that everybody wants to take pictures of in the salt pans is the piles of salt that have been scraped up and are being collected by hand. Driving along the road through this area we came across such a scene. As you can see this is a tough job which takes a lot of manual labor to get the salt into trucks before it is taken away to be processed.
If you look carefully at the laborers you can see that they wear thick socks and rubber boots to protect their feet from the caustic salt deposits; they also wear hats and cover all their skin to avoid sunburn, not that there was much sun when we took these photos.
A Colorful Boat Yard
Our next stop was just a little further along the road at a little boat yard full of colorful boats, nets, flags and other fishing paraphernalia. We tried taking some photos from a little distance but the scene was a little "busy" with masts and bamboo poles to make a nice shot so we took advantage of what seemed to be a purpose-built photography platform (it was actually something to do with mooring the boats) to get in really close.
With the rain and overcast skies it was actually quite difficult to get a nice photo of this scene with my camera; above is the closest I got to a good shot but I am sure Michael would have done much better with his expensive set up. In poor light conditions that is when you really get the benefit of an expensive camera and lens.
My Camera - Canon Powershot SX 160
I bought this camera after my last one finally died and I was shocked at how much better this one was. In just five years compact digital cameras have come a long way and this canon Powershot cost less than my old one did, but it is SO much better it is amazing.
Anyone can take photos immediately by using the "AUTO" setting but switching to manual allows you to choose the ISO, aperture and shutter speed which gives much better results.
Monkey Magic at the Temple
Feeding the Monkeys
Earlier in the day Michael had mentioned that monkeys would be of interest. Well, in this area I know of a spot where finding monkeys is guaranteed; Wat Khao Takrao.
This temple, and many others like it around the country, is a magnet for Long-tailed Macaques which come to be fed by people. As you can see from this photo, the monkeys are not shy at all and we spent some time here getting shots of these comical animals.
If you are in Thailand and come across a similar scene, be wary, sometimes the monkeys can be aggressive and grab things from you and occasionally they bite.
Time To Head Home
After the monkey temple we made one last stop to take the photo of the rice fields that I have placed at the beginning of this page before we began our journey back to Bangkok. Being a Saturday the traffic was not too bad and I got Michael back to his accommodation at around 6.30pm.
A Few More Photos From The Day Trip
Rolling the Salt Pans
Children in the Pro...
Baya Weaver Nests
Asian Golden Weaver...
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