When people mention Thailand, some of the images that come to mind are the postcard photos of beaches, the water festival ‘Songkran,’ or their favorite Thai food. For a light chaser, Thailand has a lot to offer. If you are in Bangkok for a few days, one of the places you just have to go to get awesome photos on your trip is a floating market.
A popular destination for tourists who visit Bangkok is the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This floating market is in the Damnoen Saduak District, of Ratchaburi Province, which is about 100 kilometers from Bangkok.
This market is only one of many around Central Thailand, but it is the one made famous by postcards of small sampans filled with colorful fruit peddled by a smiling Thai woman. Other than postcard-like photos that you can easily snap if you visit the Damnoen Saduak floating market, there are many other images you can make. Let me take you on a guided shooting tour of Thailand’s famous floating market.
Your Light Chaser Guide to the Floating Market, Damnoen Saduak
Get there before first light
Damnoen Saduak is only about 90 minutes outside of Bangkok via the bypass overhead Thonburi-Paktoh Highway to the town of Samut Songkhram. There are signs to follow if you are driving. You can also take a van from the Mochit Southern Van terminal to Rachaburi for about U$5.00 (150 Thai Baht per person). Taking a taxi, you would need to negotiate a price. It is more cost effective to take a van from Morchit, and you would have other travelers to share the ride with you. To get to Morchit Terminal, take the BTS (Bangkok Transit System) to the Chatuchak District, station Mo Chit or N8 on the Sukhumvit line.
Plan to leave Bangkok’s Morchit Bus Terminal around 5 am and reach the market before sunrise. First light is the best time to start shooting at the market. The market itself is very small; it’s a network of canals that surround a village on stilts and the central market of the area. The vendors paddle back and forth in the narrow waterways, and if you stand at certain spots, the light is incredibly beautiful.
Bring minimum equipment
There is so much to capture at the floating market, so you want first of all to be able to walk around back and forth between the two major waterways. There are also few places to sit unless you count restaurants. So if you want to catch the action, you need to bring the minimum equipment for the assignment. One camera, one wide lens, and one telephoto should do. My motto is, ‘be a photographer, not a lens changer,’ so I schedule the lens change according to the types of photos I am after, rather than changing lenses all the time.
When to use a wide angle lens
There are times when I go wide to catch the bustle and color.
Also good to capture are the patterns reflected on the water.
When to zoom in
Sometimes, you find details that help you tell your story.
Since the places to stand are limited to the sides of the canals, a telephoto lens is useful for portraits.
A zoom allows you to isolate your subjects.
Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is open on weekends from sunrise to around 11.00 am, but the few hours it is open gives you enough time to take photos of both early light and second light.
Look for pockets of light
Thai people love their noodles, and when you go to the market, you can find the popular noodle boat by looking for the largest crowd seated at the tables nearby. Sometimes, you might get lucky and catch some of the light bouncing back from the rising sun.
If you move around a lot, you can find a vantage point that gives you a unique lighting situation.
Change your vantage point often by moving around
The floating market is a great place to hone your photo composition. It’s a place where you get to shoot beside your subject or above them.
As a tourist spot, I have to say that the floating market is a bit overrated. The postcards always make it seem like it is much bigger than it actually is. But as a place for great photos, it has everything you need—beautiful light, action, character, color, some pretty good noodles for breakfast or lunch, and it’s close enough to the city that you can shoot it all in one morning. So the next time you visit Thailand, go to the floating market. I guarantee you’ll get some good photos and be at a beach or the the Grand Palace by afternoon.
If you liked your Guide to the Floating Market in Thailand, subscribe to Light Chaser Life and receive our free downloadable Light Chaser Guide Must-Have Shot List for Asian Temples for your next trip to Asia!