Luang Prabang is not big but the scenery around is exuberant and gorgeous. Upon your arrival under the twilight, the beauty of frangipani trees, bougainvillea, bamboo and other lush tropical trees growing everywhere, will be a stunning example of the flora in Laos. It’s time to prepare your tripod and after climbing the 355 steps of Thanon Phousi staircase to the top of Mount Phousi, caressed by the scents of jasmine and shimmering frangipani in the air, shoot a panoramic of the misty jungle views 50. mm lens at a fairy small aperture to ensure a large depth of field. Afterwards replace the lens for a 24-105 Canon one, to photograph the details of golden Wat Chomsi Temple. Don’t miss the fall of night when the candles and lanterns are lit and the people sit in the cafes and restaurants look like Chinese Shadows wandering around in the most magnificent and sensual theatre. DSLR 50 mm f.1/8 or f. 1/4 lens it is a good option for candlelight as a fast lens that allows a larger aperture, therefore a lower ISO, no more than 400, for clean shots.
After an exquisite French Asian dinner in any of the restaurants of the main street, it will come the perfect time to go, ten minutes walking, at the night market across Sisavangong Road, where every evening the kilometric road is closed to motor traffic and turned into a walking, eating, looking, shopping street where the market takes place and where you can use your any time lens 24-105 and at a high ISO start to shoot beautiful and exotic faces, colourful sunshades, hand painted silk garments, and all type of food.
Early in the morning it will take place Morning Alms in the misty dawn at Tak Bat the old city. Silent lines of saffron-clad monks with wicker baskets in hand collecting offerings of Alms, is a most attractive photo shooting cliché, being respectful to the monks- DSL 50 mm will do, alternating with 400 m tele objective for beautiful faces and gestures of monks and the alms that have a certain gentleness, at a prudence distance. Once monks have left you can enjoy the Laotian French architecture, photographing, at the beautiful dawn light, the colonial buildings across the avenue, windows with wooden shutters, most of them converted in cafés. Head to the morning market to take pictures of the colour, culture and unexpected food.
Afterwards, the sinuous and legendary Mekong, known as the artery of life in Laos, is waiting to show its confluence with Nam Khan river which generates the peninsula where is located the heart of the city. A place with unique views onto rivers, hillsides and mountains rising from the flood plains. A place to stop for a long while, take a look, and once being aware of the misty sky and the thick clouds over the hills, use in your 50mm, 24-120mm and wide angle, at a larger aperture, an high ISO.
A lot of temples have been built in the narrow spit of land between rivers. It was in Wat Xieng Thong were king were coroneted, a jewel for photographers anxious to shoot the wall of pointillist mosaic figurines, an iridescent tree of life, crinkled stupas, golden Buddha, monks in the shadow, exchanging 50 mm lens for a general shot, to macro lens for mosaic details.
One of the highlights of the trip is the excursion to Kuang-Si falls, 30 km. away from Luang Prabang. After shooting the greenest photos of the rice paddies along the way, you arrive to the stunning setting of Kuang -Si falls, where, taking advantage of light and shadows of the environment, the limestone rocks and the turquoise waters you should be able to shoot incredible photos with 24-105 lens, a wide angle for panoramic and once in a while using the macro lens for exotic flowers.
- Time required for this trip: Four days at least.
- Traveller profile: Amateur. ( What´s this? )
- Itinerary difficulty: Medium.
- Adventure level: Medium.
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- Full Frame digital DSLR bodies Canon EOS 5D-Nikon 800. (It will be a good advise to take two full frames bodies, as you won’t need to loose time changing lenses).
- Canon 16-35 mm f4 – Nikon 16-35 mm f4
- Canon EF 24-105 mm f4 – Nikon 24-120 f4
- Canon 100-400mm-Nikon 80-400mm f4.
- Canon EF50mm f/2,5 Macro lens-Nikon 60 mm f2 Macro lens.
- Enough CF cards to store 500 photos per day. A big stack of 8 GB cards (each holds 500 RAW).
- Polarizing and Warming Filters.
- Soft Brush.
- Bean Bag to protect from humidity.
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- Views at 360o from Mount Phousi of Mekong River and the many temples around. Best time sunrise or sunset.
- Collecting offering in Morning Alms at dawn where you can photograph the monks saffron lines, the foods offered to the monks, the peaceful gentleness of people…
- Morning and night market, colourful and alive, full of exotic goods and smiley people willing o be photographed selling their spices, fruits, vegetables…
- The quiet streets of the main through fare are photogenic and surprising.
- Confluence of Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers with the slow boats lining the banks. During the journey downriver in a slow boat, you can photograph the people washing their clothes, taking baths, and many others slow boats transporting goods, in the vital artery of Mekong River.
- There are more than 30 marvellous temples in Luang Prabang. In Wat Xieng Thong you can photograph the lovely mosaic tree of life, the golden Buddha inside and the special ritual when you pull out a stick with a number written on it from a cylindrical bamboo cup, that will prophesy your life. Another must see temple is Wat Mai and Wat Pha Pai.
- The emerald rice paddies, surrounded by jungle-covered hills make beautiful pictures.
- In Kuang-Si falls you can find a lot of photographical motifs, starting with the clear turquoise water, the jungle flora, and the people jumping and swimming in the falls.
- File format: RAW so you can fiddle with exposure later on.
- Asian light could be hazy. Fog makes the air much more reflective to light. Therefore you have to deal with exposure compensation as the camera’s light meter could trick you in the fog.
- In a dim light you can get a decent depth of field with wide-angle lens at f-stop value of F/8.0
- If the clouds are black and thick is necessary to use a larger aperture or increase the ISO value.
- Polarizing filter can help cutting through the haze to make distant objects clearer. A skylight filter will warms image slightly.
- Be careful when you use filters on wide-angle of the vignette at the edges of the image. Buy filter with a narrow ring.
- Have your camera ready with 50mm lens or 24-120 lenses at 400 ISO for any time picture, unless the day is bright and sunny and then you should set a 100 ISO.
- Candlelight is present at any moment in Luang Prabang evenings. Experiment with white balance. Try different settings to obtain the right level of warmth.
- Shooting still life at candlelight it will be helpful to set the object over a white tablecloth for a shinier light.
- Take a light soft hand carry suitcase to fit comfortably the photograph equipment.
- Be aware of humid tropical environment and try storage your gear at air-conditioned room.
- Once you get your camera out from the bag let it warm up before removing the lens cap to prevent condensation.
- Be careful about shooting Morning Alms, the monks consent is tacit one, they will not protest but the rules of Tak Bat prohibit communication during alms walk. They must be passive and untouchable.
- Dress appropriately, and be sure to take off your shoes before entering a temple.
- Avoid crowds.
- Take water and sun protection.
- Insure your camera gear before trip and be sure that your company includes any type of loss and that the coverage is in force worldwide.
- Have a copy of your insured equipment list.