The Southwest Monsoon Brings Krabi Color to Light

 

While planning my vacation to the Kingdom last winter I decided I wanted to take things at a slower pace and relax. My requirements for this was a nice beach with photographic potential, relaxing nightlife options, daytime activities and a variety of dining options. My vacation dates were at the end of may into the beginning of June, right smack in the middle of the monsoon season.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th 22mm (35.2mm equivalent) ISO 100

While planning my vacation to the Kingdom last winter I decided I wanted to take things at a slower pace and relax. My requirements for this was a nice beach with photographic potential, relaxing nightlife options, daytime activities and a variety of dining options.  My vacation dates were at the end of may into the beginning of June, right smack in the middle of the monsoon season.  Information on several “travel” sites had me worried that I would be spending much of my time indoors as the prevailing winds were to bring rain; rain and more rain.  Going to Google Earth where I often research travel destinations I identified several possibilities and then narrowed my search down to Krabi, Koh Samui, Koh Chang and Phuket.  Having been to all but Krabi, it was on the top of my list. More research revealed that the Krabi rains were daily but usually short in duration and avoidable.  They also pointed out that due to the rain the foliage would be at its greenest.  This was enough for me to give it a try and see Krabi though my own lens.  After spending more time on Google Earth I decided Ao Nang best fit my needs as it appeared to be more developed than other areas.  Nothing against living with nature but it’s my vacation and I like to vacate in comfort.  How did I determine by looking at a map that there was adequate development? I looked for a Starbuck… and the only store in Krabi was in Ao Nang.  Whether you like Starbucks or not the fact that a store is in an area tells me it is developed and has the infrastructure to support the colossal coffee chain.  I can assume from this that enough people visit the area for other amenities and activities to be close at hand.  This doesn’t mean I won’t go somewhere unless there’s a Starbucks on the corner.  Not at all, I’ve enjoyed eighteen wonderful months in the southern Philippines and seven months in Afghanistan without a single grande skinny caramel macchiato.

With the destination for the final week of my trip decided, I finished planning the remaining itinerary, boarded a plane and headed to Bangkok.  My first week in country was spent exploring along the west coast of the Gulf of Thailand.  This trip to Jomtiem, Pattaya and surrounding beach communities, where daily evening downpours were a constant reminder of the monsoon season, provided me a point of comparison for the upcoming Krabi adventure.

 

The beaches of Jomtiem had the standard beach chairs and umbrellas found on most Thai beaches. It seemed the farther south you went the more litter you encountered. A few of the vendors had their areas cleared with the debris marking the edge of their territory.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/11 1/125th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

The beaches of Jomtiem had the standard beach chairs and umbrellas found on most Thai beaches.  It seemed the farther south you went the more litter you encountered.  A few of the vendors had their areas cleared with the debris marking the edge of their territory.

 

While driving through Rayong past the oil refineries I came across a nice stretch of beach in Mae-Rampung that looked to be the home to a small community of EXPATs.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS @ f/5.0 1/1000th 70mm (122mm equivalent) ISO 100

While driving through Rayong past the oil refineries I came across a nice stretch of beach in Mae-Rampung that looked to be the home to a small community of EXPATs.

 

The park at the west end was a nice addition to the beach for the local communities enjoyment.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/13 1/160th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

The park at the west end was a nice addition to the beach for the local communities enjoyment.

 

There were some hard working characters out who were happy to have their picture taken. This guy offered up some lao kao which I respectfully declined, being the designated driver.  He, of course, didn’t understand but bid me a grand farewell none the less.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS @ f/2.8 1/2000th 200mm (320mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

There were some hard working characters out who were happy to have their picture taken. This guy offered up some lao kao which I respectfully declined, being the designated driver.  He, of course, didn’t understand but bid me a grand farewell none the less.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS @ f/2.8 1/160th 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 100

There were some hard working characters out who were happy to have their picture taken. This guy offered up some lao kao which I respectfully declined, being the designated driver.  He, of course, didn’t understand but bid me a grand farewell none the less.

 

Heading back to Jomtiem a short detour took me by this makeshift boat yard in Ban Amphur. The colorful Thai boats definitely make an interesting subject.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th 18mm (28.8mm equivalent) ISO 100

Heading back to Jomtiem a short detour took me by this makeshift boat yard in Ban Amphur.  The colorful Thai boats definitely make an interesting subject.

 

Ban Amphur was a very clean beach lined with chairs, umbrellas and food vendors. It was a nice place to stop for dinner and capture a few images.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/8.0 1/60th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Ban Amphur was a very clean beach lined with chairs, umbrellas and food vendors.  It was a nice place to stop for dinner and capture a few images.

 

Many of the local children and adults were enjoying the quiet summer afternoon.  I like how the three yellow umbrella stands near the girls mark the DOF. This was totally by accident, of course, as at the time I was experimenting with the camera settings and pretty much just pointing and shooting.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS @ f/5.6 1/160th 85mm (136mm equivalent) ISO 320

Many of the local children and adults were enjoying the quiet summer afternoon.  I like how the three yellow umbrella stands near the girls mark the DOF. This was totally by accident, of course, as at the time I was experimenting with the camera settings and pretty much just pointing and shooting.

After visiting some old friends in Pattaya it was time to head to Krabi and get down to some serious relaxation. When I arrived the weather was nice and the blue skies were full of large white and grey clouds.  The prospect of rainy days was still on the horizon, literally, and at this point and I was determined to make the best of it regardless of the weather.  The hired car ride to the hotel was enjoyable and I got my first views of the limestone cliffs that loomed around every corner.  I regret not capturing images of these and plan to go back for that reason alone. I arrived at the hotel and was immediately pleased with my choice of accommodations.

 

At the low season prices the room hotel was well worth price.  There was some upkeep and renovations going on, common during the low season, but it didn’t interfere with my plans.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f2.8 1/30th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 1600

At the low season prices the room hotel was well worth price.  There was some upkeep and renovations going on, common during the low season, but it didn’t interfere with my plans.

 

My room on the third/top floor was perfect and the wrap around balcony provided a great vantage for setting up the tripod and working on some long exposure shots.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/8th (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 400

My room on the third/top floor was perfect and the wrap around balcony provided a great vantage for setting up the tripod and working on some long exposure shots.

 

The lower floor rooms all have direct pool access off of its balcony.  I could have spent the whole week in the hotel if I wanted. That’s not my idea of a vacation though.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8 USM @ f/2.8 1.0 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 800

The lower floor rooms all have direct pool access off of its balcony.  I could have spent the whole week in the hotel if I wanted. That’s not my idea of a vacation though.

 

Capturing sunsets from the vantage of the balcony was convenient and fun.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 1/100th (tripod) 24mm (38.4mm equivalent) ISO 800

 

Capturing sunsets from the vantage of the balcony was convenient and fun.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 1/40th (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 800

 

Capturing sunsets from the vantage of the balcony was convenient and fun.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 1.0 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Capturing sunsets from the vantage of the balcony was convenient and fun.

 

I spent the next seven days exploring taking pictures and basically having a good time.  Almost everywhere you go you can find a photo opportunity.  This image was taken from the table of a seafood restaurant at the west end of Ao Nang beach.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/125th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

I spent the next seven days exploring taking pictures and basically having a good time.  Almost everywhere you go you can find a photo opportunity.  This image was taken from the table of a seafood restaurant at the west end of Ao Nang beach.

When it rained it rained hard but for the most part it was passing showers.  One day the hotel staff warned me of expected rain for the entire next day so I opted to drive and ferry across to Koh Lanta out of the path of the wet weather.  Koh Lanta Yai and Noi (big and small) are the two southern most islands in Krabi.  The southernmost, Lanta Yai, showed great potential but it seems there is something holding the development of this area back. I found opportunities for taking shots few and far between. The locals, not seeming to want outsiders around, along with a few run down or abandoned resorts and an underdeveloped infrastructure gave it an unwelcome feeling.  The northernmost point of Lanta Yai was the exception where there is a luxury resort but little to do outside of the resort area. This not to say that someone else would not enjoy these islands.  I just didn’t find them that interesting.  My apologies for not having no images to back up these statements.  It seems my photojournalism days may be numbered.

 

Ferry to Koh Lanta.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/250th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Ferry to Koh Lanta.

 

These images were taken at the northwest point of Lanta Yai near the luxury resort.  The beaches are immense flat stretches of fine sand and silt.  The waves along this shore were among the largest I have seen in Thailand.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/1600th 17mm (27.2mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

 

That evening when I returned to Ao Nang the rains had not lasted the whole day and the evening light was nice for shots on the beach in front of the hotel.  Here I started practicing long exposures on a tripod in order to give the ocean waves a smooth mist like appearance

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/1600th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

These images were taken at the northwest point of Lanta Yai near the luxury resort.  The beaches are immense flat stretches of fine sand and silt.  The waves along this shore were among the largest I have seen in Thailand.

That evening when I returned to Ao Nang the rains had not lasted the whole day and the evening light was nice for shots on the beach in front of the hotel.  Here I started practicing long exposures on a tripod in order to give the ocean waves a smooth mist like appearance.

 

A short exposure taken at sunset from a tripod cropped down during editing.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

A short exposure taken at sunset from a tripod cropped down during editing.

 

Taken from the same location on the tripod with a slightly longer exposure.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 0.4 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Taken from the same location on the tripod with a slightly longer exposure.

 

The beach became a bit too crowded to my front so I turned the camera to the east and was surprised to see the hilltop lit up by the setting sun.  The waves in this even longer exposure are take on that look of being in motion.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 1.6 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

The beach became a bit too crowded to my front so I turned the camera to the east and was surprised to see the hilltop lit up by the setting sun.  The waves in this even longer exposure are take on that look of being in motion.

I roamed the beaches daily and found them to be clear of the umbrella and chair rentals, jet skis and multitude of vendors found on other beaches.  I’m not sure if this was due to it being low season but I did hear that there is an ordinance not allowing beach chair renters.  The east end of Ao Nang beach had vendors and massage ladies under the shade of trees off the beach.

 

The beaches were mostly deserted with few tourist around.  Not only was there very few beach goers but there was also very little trash.  Perhaps there’s a correlation between the two.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/600th 18mm (28.8mm equivalent) ISO 100

The beaches were mostly deserted with few tourist around.  Not only was there very few beach goers but there was also very little trash.  Perhaps there’s a correlation between the two.

At the east end of Ao Nang beach you can find a trail of wooden planks leading over a hill to a secluded beach with its own resort .  The trail offers some interesting vantages of that beach and Ao Nang Beach.

 

Peering through the trees at Ao Nang beach.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/7.1 1/100th 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 100

Peering through the trees at Ao Nang beach.

 

An attempt at getting a shot of the secluded beach from the trail.  I believe the name of the beach is Pai Plong Bay or beach.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/8.0 1/60th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

An attempt at getting a shot of the secluded beach from the trail.  I believe the name of the beach is Pai Plong Bay or beach.

 

Bring water and be careful as the trail is steep and in need of repair.  There are also signs warning of monkeys on or near the trail and be careful not to step on this little guy.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/125th 35mm (56mm equivalent) ISO 100

Bring water and be careful as the trail is steep and in need of repair.  There are also signs warning of monkeys on or near the trail and be careful not to step on this little guy.

Once over the trail you find yourself on a private beach with security that will ask you to sign their guest register before you enter.  The beach here is well maintained and seems to belong to the resort.

 

This shot was taken from the west end of the beach under an overhanging rock face.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

This shot was taken from the west end of the beach under an overhanging rock face.

As recommended by Steve, instead of showing the same image every tourist to Krabi has as their screen saver, turn the camera in the other direction and get the other side of the story.  This wasn’t my plan at the time as my focus was primarily on the rock formations on the water.  I did have a few shots of the cliffs over the resort.

 

k28

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/8.0 1/60th 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

Next time I will look to find a better composition.  Maybe a shot from a boat in the bay.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/7.1 1/50th 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

Boats can be hired from Ao Nang and other local beaches to the many small beaches that are not accessible by car.  It’s advisable to catch one from the public beaches and arrange a round trip as there were none for hire on Pai Plong beach.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/8.0 1/60th 16mm (25.6mm equivalent) ISO 100

Next time I will look to find a better composition.  Maybe a shot from a boat in the bay.

Boats can be hired from Ao Nang and other local beaches to the many small beaches that are not accessible by car.  It’s advisable to catch one from the public beaches and arrange a round trip as there were none for hire on Pai Plong beach.

 

Boats are interesting subjects but I had difficulties capturing sharp images of them.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS USM @ f/8.0 1/500th 200mm (320mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

Back on the western end of Ao Nang beach I discovered an outcrop of rocks with a concrete walk on it.  I used this location several times to capture a variety of images.  It became a favorite spot for shooting images and watching the sun set.  It’s not difficult to get to, just walk onto Ao Nang beach turn to the right so the water is to your left and follow the beach until it ends. Here you will find the rocky prominence.  To the right, away from the ocean, towards the last hotel on the beach is an easy climb onto the concrete path without having to risk climbing over the jagged boulders.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS USM @ f/2.8 1/250th 200mm (320mm equivalent) ISO 100

Boats are interesting subjects but I had difficulties capturing sharp images of them.

Back on the western end of Ao Nang beach I discovered an outcrop of rocks with a concrete walk on it.  I used this location several times to capture a variety of images.  It became a favorite spot for shooting images and watching the sun set.  It’s not difficult to get to, just walk onto Ao Nang beach turn to the right so the water is to your left and follow the beach until it ends. Here you will find the rocky prominence.  To the right, away from the ocean, towards the last hotel on the beach is an easy climb onto the concrete path without having to risk climbing over the jagged boulders.

 

In this image you can see the rocky point protruding out into the water at the end of the beach.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 70-200 F/2.8L IS USM @ f/10 1/250th 70mm (112mm equivalent) ISO 100

In this image you can see the rocky point protruding out into the water at the end of the beach.

 

On the far (west) side of the rocks is a tiny beach that I found to be an interesting subject.  Located in the shade of a cliff others may find it useful for other activities.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/2000th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

On the far (west) side of the rocks is a tiny beach that I found to be an interesting subject.  Located in the shade of a cliff others may find it useful for other activities.

 

I continued working on long exposures of the waves from the tripod.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 2.0 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

I continued working on long exposures of the waves from the tripod.

 

Looking back at the rocks and concrete walk from the west side.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/800th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Looking back at the rocks and concrete walk from the west side.

 

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/10 1/100th 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

 

These two images look to the south at the pillaring islands that add to the landscape. They were taken less than 10 meters apart at different times of the day using 35mm vs. 16mm, what a difference.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/500th 35mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

These two images look to the south at the pillaring islands that add to the landscape. They were taken less than 10 meters apart at different times of the day using 35mm vs. 16mm, what a difference.

 

This is one of my favorite shot of the trip. It was taken from a tripod with a remote in order to catch the splash at just the right moment.  A different angle a bit to the right or left might have provided a better perspective though.  This image has the near, mid and far elements crowded in line drawing attention to the bottom left corner of the image. I still like it though.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/800th (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

This is one of my favorite shot of the trip. It was taken from a tripod with a remote in order to catch the splash at just the right moment.  A different angle a bit to the right or left might have provided a better perspective though.  This image has the near, mid and far elements crowded in line drawing attention to the bottom left corner of the image. I still like it though.

 

You can capture Ao Nang beach at different angles and perspective from the rocks.  Be careful though, the waves can sneak up on you and your equipment.  I watched a lady standing near the edge, taking in the sunset, get soaked by an unexpected wave.  She was in her disco clothes, ready to go out.  I bet some poor guy probably had to wait another hour for her to change and get made up again.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/2.8 1/6 sec 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

You can capture Ao Nang beach at different angles and perspective from the rocks.  Be careful though, the waves can sneak up on you and your equipment.  I watched a lady standing near the edge, taking in the sunset, get soaked by an unexpected wave.  She was in her disco clothes, ready to go out.  I bet some poor guy probably had to wait another hour for her to change and get made up again.

 

As I continued to work on the long exposures things started to come together.  This was taken on the tripod with it set low to the ground.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 4.0 sec (tripod) 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

As I continued to work on the long exposures things started to come together.  This was taken on the tripod with it set low to the ground.

 

Shot from the same position with the camera realigned down the beach this six second exposure was the longest.  You can see tree branches and clouds become blurred due to the almost constant ocean winds.

Canon EOS Rebel T2i 550D, EF 16-35 F/2.8L USM @ f/22 6.0 sec 16mm (25.5mm equivalent) ISO 100

Shot from the same position with the camera realigned down the beach this six second exposure was the longest.  You can see tree branches and clouds become blurred due to the almost constant ocean winds.

I hope you enjoyed the images. I have to say that none of these images are straight out of the camera.  All were edited, some heavily, in Photoshop Lightroom.  I sent a few images to Steve and he was happy to post process and return them.  The changes he made were incredible.  These images were the closest I could get to what he produced following the sites tutorials and his advice.  I will leave it to him to post his versions.  I believe he was interested in doing a tutorial on it so maybe we will see them in the future.  Seeing what editing can do for an image I’m excited about getting into one of Steve’s workshops and learn more.

This was one of my most enjoyable trips to the Kingdom where the laid back atmosphere of Krabi provided just the right mix of what I wanted.  The Thais were awesome and didn’t seem negatively influenced by the tourism industry.  The samlor drivers were plentiful and not pesky.  Many of the bar owners and their staff were enthusiastic to have customers.  There was a variety of venues from pubs and lounges to music bars featuring hip-hop, reggae and live rock.  The restaurants were a bit low in stock on a few things, like lamb, this most likely due to it being the low season.  The thai food street vendors were plentiful and offered a variety that included some Thai Muslim dishes I hadn’t tried before.  There were a few tailor shops but not many and it was easy to avoid the touts. The hotel staff was always busy and eager to provide for an enjoyable stay.  I enjoyed a daily ritual of a swim and margarita at the pool bar, didn’t get a single massage for some reason, drank my fill of Starbucks and photographed as much as I wanted but discovered that I had only scratched the surface of Krabi.

The Rains did come, mostly short in duration and late at night.  With the rain came the clouds.  Without the clouds and their prismatic way of reflecting light my images would not have been as enjoyable.  It was a great vacation where I was able to capture some good shots with very little effort.  I look forward to returning during the monsoon for another Krabi show of light.