Shootin' & Scootin' In Bangkok; A Day Of Endless Photo Ops

Grand Palace
Photos © 2004, Rick Sammon, All Rights Reserved

From my home in upstate New York, Bangkok, Thailand, is on the other side of the planet--actually a day and a half away, door to door. That grueling travel time is something that you really don't want to think about when you're stuck in coach at 30,000 ft shortly after takeoff.

Bangkok, itself, is a popular tourist destination. It's a starting point for tours of northern and southern Thailand. For many travelers, however, the city provides a short layover during a trip to other places in Southeast Asia, including Vietnam and Cambodia. Those countries were my prime destinations on a 10-day trip this past December, and I only had one day to shoot the city (a day during which I spent fighting a severe case of jet lag).

The Giant Guardian.

The exotic, magical, and enthralling city is filled with dozens of Buddhist temples, the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaeo) being the most elaborate. Upon seeing the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, one immediately appreciates the temple's name: it seems as though every inch of the temple is inlaid with jewels (actually pieces of colored glass). The temple is magnificent, but it's only a small part of the stunning Grand Palace complex, which comprises many throne halls and stupas (sacred sites for religious relics), all seemingly inlaid with jewels and covered with gold leaf.

The Grand Palace complex offers unlimited photo opportunities. In this installment of Globetrotter, I thought I'd share just a few of my favorite images from my "shoot and scoot" Bangkok experience, all captured with my Canon EOS-1Ds (in raw, naturally). I've also included some photo tips.

Throne Hall, Grand Palace.

Grand Palace complex. You will not be alone in the palace complex. In fact, there may be hundreds of people sharing your experience! You can avoid getting people in your pictures by getting down low and shooting at an upward angle. I used my Canon 16-35mm lens set at 20mm for this photograph.

The Giant Guardian, Temple of the Emerald Buddha. Use a telephoto zoom (my Canon 70-200mm lens was set at 200mm) for a tight shot that reveals the intricate inlays on the statue. For added impact, sharpen your pictures in the digital darkroom. I use nik Sharpener Pro! (a Photoshop plug-in) as my sharpening tool.

Throne Hall, Grand Palace. In the early morning and late afternoon, shadows draped the buildings in the Grand Palace, creating high-contrast situations. More contrast is added when you frame the white and gold buildings against a blue sky. To ensure a good exposure, check your digital camera's LCD monitor for "washed out" areas and make +/-adjustments accordingly. Bracket if you use film.

Temple of the Reclining Buddha.

Temple of the Reclining Buddha. The outer walls of the Temple of the Reclining Buddha are lined with hundreds of statues set against an intricate background of carvings and colored glass. To convey the depth and scale of the walls, shoot from a corner with a wide angle lens set at a small f/stop. I used my Canon 16-35mm lens set at 16mm and f/11.

Dancer, Royal Orchid Hotel. Many of the hotels in Bangkok offer nightly cultural shows. Check start times in advance. Bring your flash and telephoto zoom for tight shots of the performers. Arrive early so you get a good seat.

Temple of the Dawn. The Temple of the Dawn is on the other side of the river that runs through Bangkok. It's worth the five-minute boat ride. Dozens of Buddha statues line the inside walls of the temple. Take telephoto and wide angle shots. Each shot tells a different story. Slightly underexpose your pictures to avoid highlights being washed out.

Rick Sammon is the author of "Rick Sammon's Complete Guide to Digital Photography," published by W.W. Norton. He is leading a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, with a stop in Bangkok, this winter. For more information, visit Rick's website at:

Travel Info
Planning a trip to Bangkok? Try the tour operator who I've used for all my recent trips to Southeast Asia: InnovAsian Travel, Inc., 10 North Lane, Armonk, NY 10504; (800) 553-4665; fax: (914) 273-6719; e-mail:; website:

Dancer, Royal Orchid Hotel.

Temple of the Dawn.

ShutterFan's picture

great pictures