You don’t necessarily need to be a committed shopper to enjoy a trip to the floating market at Damnoen Saduak, near Bangkok in Thailand. If you enjoy people watching, insights into everyday heritage, and travel photography, you’ll also appreciate visiting the market that around 90 minutes’ drive south-west of the Thai capital.
Be ready to start your day early if you choose to stay in Bangkok. To arrive at the market while it is at its busiest, take your pick of the many tour companies offering excursions to Damnoen Saduak. Several operators offer relatively inexpensive day trips. Most combine a morning at the market with an afternoon at nearby attractions. There’s an elephant village, a cobra show and a tiger zoo — should that kind of thing appeal to you. Alternatively, you can visit a coconut farm or a handicrafts store.
If you are in to travel photography the floating market is a great place to capture images of a Thai tradition. It’s now rather touristy, for sure, but it’s also heartening to see Thai people purchasing wares from each other at the market. Boats transport wares and people call the vendors over to buy items. Fresh fruit and foodstuffs count among the products purchased by Thai visitors.
With a decent tele-zoom you’ll be able to document transactions taking place. I waited for cash and wares to change hands, so that my photos depicted the exchanges, rather than simply photographing people talking and haggling in wooden boats.
Remember that photographs of water tend to look best when the horizon is straight. When the surface of a body of water bears a tilt of a few degrees it tends to look sloppy. Yes, you can take deliberately skewed images of water but, if you are going to do that, make it a 30 or 45 degree tilt. That way people viewing your images will have no doubt you were expressing your creativity, and adding dynamism to the image, rather than simply failing to pay attention to detail.
When you are in a boat, out on water, it’s very easy to look through the viewfinder at an angle. You can straighten your horizons later, if necessary, by cropping images during post-processing. But thinking about keeping water straight while you are out on a shoot means you save time when you’re sat in front of your computer screen.
Try varying your perspective if you aim on putting together a portfolio of images from the floating market. Boat tours offer a way of getting in among the action and photographing from down on the water. You can stand on bridge and photograph along on the waterways. You can also visit a handful of the stalls on foot, meaning opportunities to photograph close-ups of goods.
Standing on a bridge and photographing directly down onto boats passing below offers an unusual perspective. Most of the vendors working at Damnoen Saduak wear straw hats. This makes the shots impersonal yet somehow intriguing. If you want, you could also focus on the stock being transported on their boat.
Even in the rainy season the floating market proves a good place to photograph. Having a foldable umbrella, to shield the camera from droplets of water, and a cloth to wipe raindrops from the lens, allows you to photograph even under the rain clouds. If necessary, increase your ISO. That will allow you to photograph handheld images under dark, moody skies. Maybe you can find a low perspective that depicts people going about their everyday business despite the onset of rain?
Hopefully a trip to Damnoen Saduak’s floating market will float your boat, so to speak, and ensure you enjoy travel photography while recording telling images from this renowned Thai attraction.
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