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Travel photography: Five of the best places for taking snaps in Asia

These days, an exciting holiday isn’t complete without taking dozens of photos to wow your pals with (generally via Facey B). And Asia has some mind-blowing sights that everyone should travel to (and that will see even the least  snap-happy of folks uploading an Instagram). We asked Felix Hug, award-winning photographer and the man behind Eyes On Asia, to share his favourite places and things to shoot around the region for you lucky lot. He’s also thrown in a few handy tips to capturing that postcard-worthy picture. Over to you, Felix…


Bagan, Myanmar (Credit: Felix Hug)
Bagan, Myanmar (Credit: Felix Hug)

1. Balloons over Bagan, Myanmar
I’ve had the pleasure of taking a hot-air balloon over the temples of Bagan three times, and each time is always awe-inspiring. The light in the morning is divine. Mist and smoke rises over the area, and the stupas (Buddhist monuments) reach up to the sky. Sometimes you fly so close that you almost feel like you could touch the tops.

When it comes to taking photos, the challenge here lies in the practicality of your equipment. There is little space on the balloon to switch lenses, yet having a wide range of focal lengths would be ideal. Choose wisely before going, as you can only work with what you bring aboard.

In any case, memories always make the best images; so remember to enjoy the experience as much as you enjoy snapping away.


Lanterns being sent to the sky at Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai
Lanterns being sent to the sky at Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai

2. Yi Peng Festival, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Nothing captures imaginations and hearts like the Yi Peng Festival at the Lanna Meditation Centre in Chiang Mai. What started as a small gathering during the Festival of Lights has now become a massive pilgrimage with thousands of people. When over 1,000 lanterns are released at the same second, the emotional experience is indescribable. Many of our getaway participants tear up!

Capturing photos during the event is easy, but capturing great images is like a tightrope act. You need to set the camera to a high ISO because of the relatively low light conditions, but at the same time, your shutter speed has to be fast enough to capture movement. A flash does little good, as it would destroy the mood unless used masterfully, without full force. It’s best to use a wide-angle lens to show the scale of the scene.

The actual culmination lasts for mere seconds, so you’d better be in a position for the right shot straight away! Often, you’ll find yourself under the lanterns, camera pressed to the ground, trying to avoid hot wax dripping onto you. However if you capture those one or two perfect frames, it’s all worth it.


Ogoh-ogoh statues ring in the Balinese New Year (Credit: Felix Hug)
Ogoh-ogoh statues ring in the Balinese New Year (Credit: Felix Hug)

3. New Year’s Festival, Bali, Indonesia
The Balinese New Year is an event lesser visited. Most villages craft statues of demons or evil monsters, known as Ogoh-Ogoh, during the lead up to the traditional procession. It’s interesting to get on a bicycle near Ubud and ride through the villages looking out for them.

Taking photos of these sights isn’t difficult. Composition might be the biggest challenge, as the background of your subjects can often be messy. Also consider keeping your equipment small and simple, as you might be on your bicycle for extended periods of time.


Borobodur, Indonesia (Credit: Felix Hug)
Borobodur, Indonesia (Credit: Felix Hug) 

Borobudur, Indonesia
Another Indonesian destination… this time for its beautiful temples. Unlike Angkor Wat, Borobudur still offers quieter moments in the early morning hours – something that is history in Siem Reap. I like the first sunlight at the temples the best. The warm rays float through the structures, and it’s great for shooting both small details and wider shots of the temple.

Finding the right camera settings isn’t tough in the early mornings. The trick is to find the right angles and moments. It’s worthwhile to get there early so you have time to find the best spots.

In the evening, more people visit the site, and you would have to think of ways to include them in your images. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, as having life in a picture can create a greater emotional connection amongst viewers.


Hoi An, Vietnam (Credit: Felix Hug)
Hoi An, Vietnam (Credit: Felix Hug) 

Hoi An, Vietnam
Something about the old town of Hoi An is intriguing. I would peg it to the incredible mix of Chinese, Vietnamese and French heritage found in the architecture (and the food!) here. Walking around town and engaging in street photography can be delightful, especially on nights when the streets are blocked off to anything other than two-wheelers.

For street photography, I generally use a standard zoom lens, which allows me to capture close up portraits and wider images of the scenery. Because you will be walking quite a bit, you should keep it simple and leave most equipment at the hotel. Less can be more! As it gets late, a good sensor could be helpful, as your ISO would start getting higher and affect image quality. With a good camera, you might still be able to snap compelling images even under low-light conditions.


Fancy learning about travel photography, and even taking the above tours yourself? Eyes On Asia offers holiday workshops to the destinations above and more. Head here to check out what trips are coming up and make a booking. Already have some gorgeous travel photos to show off? Submit them for the Eyes On Asia Awards and you could win up to $1,000 plus prize packages like a trip to Kurumba Maldives. Get snapping!