Photographing the Floating Market_Damnemsaduak_Thailand

Canon 5D camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 IS lens @ 105mm. Exposure Details 1/200 second @ f5.6 ISO 640The Floating Markets in and around Bangkok have been a major tourist drawcard for many years. I finally made the decision to visit the largest one at Damnoem Saduak around 1 1/2 hours out of Bangkok. I  made the trip on Sunday on the advice that the lower levels of traffic in Bangkok over the weekend would shorten the trip by an hour or more. It did, but with less traffic in town came many more tourists at the Floating Market.

It was a busy day and movement, at each location on the tour, was somewhat restricted by the large numbers of tourists. Despite a 6:30am departure from my hotel, by the time our minibus had picked up folks from other hotels it was around 8:45 by the time we arrived at Damnoem Saduak. Any hopes of beautiful, soft early morning light were gone. Fortunately the building lining the narrow waterways provided large areas of open shade, ideal for portrait photography. The problem was ensuring your subject matter and surrounding areas were all evenly lit. This was not always possible, particularly when photographing from one of the canoe-like boats. Careful exposure and image processing saved the day. Although, due to the hard light, I choose not to photography certain scenes.

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 IS lens @ 102mm. Exposure Details 1/200 second @ f4 ISO 200It's my view and practice to ask permission prior to photography someone who has not commission me to do so. I love the interaction, working in close, with folks I would otherwise have no connection. But the floating market at Damnoem Saduak provided me no such luxury. It's a busy and fairly raucous environment, thanks to us tourists and the way some of the hawkers approach us. In any case, due to the high quantities and frequency of tourists, the local folk are very used to photographers. With this thought in mind I had no trouble making candid-like pictures. That's not to say the subjects were not aware they were being photographed. When they were I felt they were happy to go about their business and let me go about my own. Whenever possible I would end such encounters with a thank you and a smile, which is likely to be appreciated and to bring an extra moment of happiness into the subjects life. Its worth stating that I desiree to make beautiful, life-affirming images. That fact gives me both motivation and courage to do more of the same.

Regular followers of this blog will notice from the photo captions that I didn't employ my new Leica M9 kit for this location. It was a deliberate strategy based on my assumption that the zoom lens (and the greater range of my Canon zoom compared to my fixed Leica lenses), motor drive and auto focus offered by my Canon system would provide significant advantages compared to using the Leica M9. I'm confident that I made the right decision.

I'd certainly recommend the Damnoem Saduak Floating Market for folks who love people-based, candid photography. Photographing moving subjects, often from a moving platform, under high contrast lighting will make for a challenging photographic adventure. The fact that the tour only allowed us 1 1/2 hours at the location also made it tough. As well as arriving much earlier in the day I would have preferred twice that time. Nevertheless, the challenge is to make the best of the situation and I'm happy with the results. With care, good technique and the right camera kit you should also be pleased.

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Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru

Glenn Guy