Travel Photography: Asia

Few places feature the variety of images that Asia offers to a travel photographer looking to shoot travel photography. From historical sites, to religious shrines, to everyday life, one does not have to look hard to find a photo-able sight. Also, Asia offers photographers an opportunity to record a society moving from traditional ways into a westernized life.

Here are a few specific sights to photograph in Asia.

Markets

Nothing speaks to the energy of Asia more than their markets. Produce, food, electronics and other wares are sold in the open, providing shots into the lives of the people. Here, photographers can capture a way of life that has existed for centuries as it evolves to provide modern services. Shopkeepers pile their goods in open crates, often drawing attention with shouts and cheers. Night markets offer glimpses into the local cuisine, all prepared by hand right before your eyes. Some food vendors cater to adventurous tourists by serving scorpions, water beetles, and other insects.

Most markets offer much of the same experience to travelers as these two famous markets:

  • Tsukiji Fish Market - Tokyo, Japan: a fish and produce market bigger than the Rose Bowl. Arrive early, like 5am, and catch the tuna auction. See fishmongers examine bluefin tuna the size of sofas. Catch the expression on the auctioneer's face as he shouts out prices. Experience the colors of foods you may never be able to identify. Bring a macro lens for close up shots of eels, sea urchins, fresh wasabi roots and other exotic foods.
  • Taling Chan Floating market - Bangkok, Thailand: take the open air booths of Asian markets, place them on large canoes, pack hundreds onto a river, and you have the floating market. Contrast the insanity of the crowds with the tranquility of floating on water.  Capture the organic nature of the market as its boats crawl about. This is actually a touristy recreation of the classic Thai floating market. Travel out of the city for the true experience.

Temples

Religious buildings and statues are common around the world. There are World Heritage sites all over Asia, showing well preserved temples and offering many of the classic images of Asia.

However, in Asia, little illustrates the cultural change better than a day photographing local temples. It is common to see pagodas and shrines only blocks from modern skyscrapers. Monks in robes walk alongside businessmen in Armani suits.  The red and gold colors of temples leap out against the gray concrete and glass of new construction.

These offer a unique experience, but can easily be missed.

Nature

The Himalayas, river gorges, jungles, deserts, and every terrain in between can be found in Asia. The river gorges, such as in Guilin China, feature exotic landscapes sought by many photographers. Small farms cover the landscape and offer a view of everyday life. These farms often ignore landscape and perch themselves on mountains and valleys. Small shrines sit on top of inaccessible mountains. These feats provide amazing shots.

However, it is common to find a 50-foot cell phone tower sitting on top of a picturesque mountain. Travel photographers may wish to crop these out of shots.