On the night of the full moon on the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, arguably Thailand's best holiday of the year takes place.  The "Krathong" is about 10 inches in circumference and traditionally made from a section of a banana tree trunk and decorated with banana leaves, flowers, and candles.  Often small coins will be placed in the center.  In addition rafts and khom fai's will be launched in the river and air respectively.

Aside from venerating Buddha.. the release of the krathong symbolizes releasing your grudges and hard feelings.  Anger disappears down the river with the krathongs journey down the river, or into the night sky with the khom fai.  You'll see Thai people either reading from a paper they made up listing all which they wish to cover, or just bowing their heads in a silent prayer immediately before releasing their krathong.

On this full moon of the 12 month on the Thai lunar calendar we met up with some good friends, drove to the klong where our boat and boat captain was waiting, and minutes later we're in the water away from the crowds and now afforded a perspective you won't see if you're not on the water.  The perspective of facing the people head on as they launch their krathongs, and the unforgettable perspective of life on the klong as we drive by klong home after klong home, kilometer after kilometer.  Each home is unique, some are a work of art, and the one thing they all have in common is the wonderful "Thai cheer" as they meet in groups to enjoy this holiday.  It's impossible to pass by a gathering without either being invited to join them, or being greeted warmly as you pass.

 

Two Thai girls prepare to launch their Khom Fai (floating lantern) on the On-nut khlong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5.6  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm Quantum Strobe

Khom fai's (floating lanterns) are released in the thousands in parts of Thailand, but in Bangkok you'll have to look hard to see one released.

 

 

A Thai family launches their krathong on the On-nut khlong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F8  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm  Quantum Strobe

Entire families read a list of their grudges and a prayer for the new year in a display of solemn family time you might not see for the rest of the year. 

 

 

A cute little girl with her own krathong.  Loy Krathong Loy Krathong..

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  148mm  Quantum Strobe

Small children are encouraged to float their own krathong as they're raised in the Thai culture.  They'll often spend time decorating the krathong themselves, or working in a "krathong assembly line", which you'll see many of.

 

 

Together they launch their krathong.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F5.6 IS  F4.5  1/125th  ISO 400  130mm  Quantum Strobe

Couples and newlyweds launch their own krathongs.  I was very happy to see Styrofoam only occasionally this year.  Last year the klongs were literally plugged up with thousands of Styrofoam krathongs that needed to be fished from the klongs and disposed of.

 

 

A family party on the banks of the On-nut Khlong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F6.3  1/125th  ISO 400  85mm  Quantum Strobe

Life along the klong is relaxed and friendly.  You'll see many of these "cabana's" placed in most every property.  As you pass by in your sampan they'll invite you over or cheer you on your way.

 

 

A young couple launches their krathong.  Photography

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5  1/125th  ISO 400  175mm  Quantum Strobe

Teenage girls launching small personal krathongs are a common sight, the young boys choose to drink and smoke and aren't at all interested in the krathongs or the holiday itself.

 

 

Young girls dress and put on lots of makeup for Loy Krathong events.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F8  1/125th  ISO 400  140mm  Quantum Strobe

Beauty and talent contests for the younger boys and girls are part of every Loy Krathong venue.  Small girls made up to look the part.  This little girl caught my interest because she looks like a younger carbon copy of my wife.

 

 

This older Thai man appears to have something on his mind before the launch of his krathong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5.6  1/125th  ISO 400  165mm  Quantum Strobe

You don't see a lot of elderly launching krathongs. You'll see them as part of family groups, but not often will the launch their own krathong.  It's interesting to watch as their technique will be somewhat more polished and formal than the others.

 

 

Swimmers capture the floating krathongs and remove the baht coins

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5.6  1/125th  ISO 400  105mm  Quantum Strobe

As you pilot the sampan up the klong you'll need to be mindful of the many young boys silently swimming in the dark as they search for krathongs and the few small coins in the center.  And then in some areas they'll be quite open about it which I gather isn't appreciated by many Thais.

 

 

This young lady shows off her krathong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5.6  1/125th  ISO 400  78mm  Quantum Strobe

I work really hard to achieve candid captures, but every now and then a pretty young girl will notice the big camera and beam her best smile your way.

 

 

Khlong river patrol in their Zodiak

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F6.3 IS  F4.5  1/125th  ISO 400  95mm  Quantum Strobe

Official security patrols in inflatable rafts will be seen putting out "small fires" as they slowly make their way up and down the klongs.

 

 

A young Thai lady offers her krathong and prayers.  Bangkok Thailand

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  195mm  Quantum Strobe

A single girl.  I watched her walk from a small empty soi into the crowds by the klong and then to the waters edge to launch her krathong.  Her prayer took longer than most.  When she was finished and her krathong was floating down the klong, she quietly stood and cleared the area as quickly as when she came in.  She wasn't here to party or enjoy the festivities.  She let some serious feelings go and then left.

 

 

Even older men go baht coin diving in the On nut Khlong

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F5.6  1/125th  ISO 400  200mm  Quantum Strobe

The rewards of the krathong coins can be significant as witnessed by this older man and his sampan floating mostly hidden under an overpass bridge as he swims for krathong after krathong.  He didn't want anyone to see him and he'd selected a great location in a very quiet place where many krathongs funneled. 

 

 

Two boys count their baht coins during Loy Krathong, On-nut Bangkok Thailand

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4.5  1/125th  ISO 400  200mm  Quantum Strobe

These kids were working with the old man.  They'd take the coins from his hands and place them in this blue grated bowl, and then count the coins and provide a running subtotal.

 

 

Krathongs float off down the khlong, Bangkok Thailand

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  140mm  Quantum Strobe

Here an entire family chooses to launch their krathongs together.

 

 

The Khlong homes in On-nut offer a very relaxed khlong life

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm  Quantum Strobe

This is a nice example of a private gazebo like structure.  Almost every home has something along these lines where they'll sit out to eat and drink most every evening.  This is my fourth year studying the same klong and I find the lifestyle relaxed and quite enjoyable. 

 

 

This small Thai girl looks like a Thai version of Buckwheat!

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm  Quantum Strobe

Does she look like a female Buckwheat or what!  I just couldn't resist making this capture.

 

 

loy krathong is a family affair, family pictures.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm  Quantum Strobe

It appears I wasn't the only person out in a sampan taking pictures this great Loy Krathong evening.  I'd started to take my huge powerful strobe for granted, but one look at this ladies tiny built in flash reminded me.

 

 

Monks enjoy Loy Krathong as well.  Bangkok Images

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F7.1  1/125th  ISO 400  70mm  Quantum Strobe

Would you be surprised to see krathongs funneled into a nearby temple and stripped of their coins under the direction of monks?  I remember the first year, now on my fourth year I recognize some of them.

 

 

A lone Thai girl eats cotton candy during Loy Krathong 2009

Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/125th  ISO 400  165mm  Quantum Strobe

 

Cotton candy?  I watched and captured this cute Thai woman and her cotton candy from a distance.

I hope you've enjoyed riding with us in our sampan along the On-nut klong.  It's a great opportunity to see klong life up close and personal.  The experience will stay with you forever.  Take a stab at photographing the action and see how it turns out.  It's all fun!

A reader asked:  "How did you make those captures in near darkness like those in the readers questions area last week?"  This week I answer this question, but I'll be answering it in the readers questions section below.  Don't  miss it!