Travel Photography on Koh Chang
I like to take photos, and you’ll see a few thousand of them on this site. But they aren’t great. I don’t have a good camera and tend to use my phone for most photos nowadays. My photos look OK. But when you compare them to a ‘real’ photographer’s – they look very amateurish.
If you’re into photography then you’ll know that having a good camera doesn’t necessarily mean that you can take great photos. But wouldn’t be great if you could learn how the pro’s do it and then come back from your holiday with some photos that would wow your friends.
Big thanks to Stefano for this guide on planning a photography trip to Koh Chang. He’s a Melbourne-based travel photographer. You’ll find loads more tips and great pics from around the world on his site.
Whenever you talk with somebody about Koh Chang you expect the following comments: sorry I know only Koh Samui or fantastic beaches, I loved to sunbathe all the day or never rent a scooter there (we will come back later to this). I called my wife and I said “What about doing photography trip to Koh Chang” and she said “Yes, let’s book the flights”.
It didn’t go quite that way. I did not mention that my ultimate goal was photography. She suspected it maybe. She got a confirmation once I was packing.
November 2014 – Planning a photography trip to Koh Chang
Tickets organised, accommodation booked, that’s it we are ready to leave for our vacation….well maybe not quite as quickly. That will be in January and it is now November, still two months to go.
It was a long time I was thinking about a photography trip to Koh Chang. I received good feedbacks from few friends that visited the island multiple times. Thailand is most definitely a top world destination however Koh Chang is not mentioned as much as other islands, which is a good sign, not overly touristy.
There are three things I usually do when planning a photography trip:
1. Travel the place with Google Map and Google Earth. This is an important step. It will avoid futile visits to sites that everybody may talk about but there is not much appeal from a photography point of view.
2. Identify all the possible interesting photography subjects and add them to a Google map. These can be viewpoints, light houses, interesting villages, panoramic roads and I could go on and on
3. Verify how and where the sunset/sunrise will be for your landscape photography. There is a fantastic tool called Suncalc You can input the place and the time of the year and you have a view of the sunrise/sunset direction
I would print the map if I know I will not have internet connectivity on the go.
The top spots for landscape photography in Koh Chang are at sunset, which is a fantastic news for me as I am a bit of a slow start. They are mostly on the west coast, except one that is on a small bay on the east coast
Villages to visit in my list are Ban Salak Phet and Bang Bao, both fishing villages although the second one more on the touristy side.
Bang Bao is also the main port for the daily excursions, definitely a good place for some late evening shots
Bad news is that the roads can be challenging to drive and there is not a full loop of the island, which means I would need to drive 2-3 hours from one end to the other (not very practical for sunset shooting)
What photographic gear should I take with me? There are few options but I decide at the end to go for:
• 1 x Nikon D600
• 2 x lenses, a Nikkor 24-120mm (to cover most of my photography) and a Sigma 12-24mm (I love the wide angle inside narrow environments and the villages lanes are definitely narrow)
• 2 x tripods, a professional one (heavy one, sigh) and a gorilla pod (a light one with flexible legs). I would use the heavy one for the landscape photos and take the other one otherwise
• 1 x Powershot SX280, I usually leave it in my pocket, quick and easy. There are times when a DSLR is way too much
• 1 x Shimano action camera, I would use this one for video and photos underwater
Did I forget anything? I organised a Travel Gear Guide if you are interested in more tips and suggestions.
January 2015 – Making a photography trip in Koh Chang
Finally we made it to Koh Chang!! I was really looking forward to it. Yes, we had a fantastic time. Here it is a full list of my finding and the cameras and lenses I ended up using.
First of all I was happy with all of my gear. Next time I would probably leave at home the wide angle lenses, not too many places I used it and less weight to take with me. The 24-120mm was enough for 97% of my photos.
I decided to rent a scooter to ride around the island. I have been driving scooters and motorbikes for the last 30 years (I started very early in my life). In saying that I had to take extra care in the Koh Chang roads, most of all in the South western side (Lonely Beach to Bang Bao). The ride to Long Beach was also a challenging one.
I think I had my best shot in Bang Bao. Have a walk down the pier and up in the light house 10 minutes before sunset. The view of the village is just amazing and, if lucky with the day, you will have a magical red background.
Camera : NIKON D600
Lens: Nikkor 24-120mm f/4G
F-Stop : f/18
Exposure time: 4sec
ISO : 100
Focal Length : 24mm
All the best Landscape spots are on the west coast. I have organised a map with them . There is only one exception, Long beach. Here are the other locations, aside from Bangbao:
1. Kai Bae Beach Sunset (1/15sec @F/18, 70mm, ISO 100)
2. The fishing village (Bang Bao)
3. The Bailan Dock restaurant (3sec @F/18, 24mm, ISO 100)
4. Long beach
5. Kai Bae View Point (6sec @F/18, 27mm, ISO 100)
Best Location: Bang Bao Village
Plan to spend here at least two sunsets, if not three. This is the most picturesque area of the island. There are plenty of opportunities, just wonder around the village. Most of the people will leave as soon as they come back from the daily trips. In fact there are not too many accommodations here, compared with other areas in the island.
There are no beaches, which may explain the lack of overnight stay; there are instead plenty of restaurants with a great fish menu.
About photography, here are two examples of what you can expect.
Best Location I Missed
There is one spot that I did miss and I would definitely go for if I visited again. This would be an interesting one for both sunset and sunrise.
It’s between the main ferry pier (the one you will arrive from mainland) and White Sand Beach, just after Klong Son Bay. You cannot miss it. It’s a steep ascend with two switchbacks and after that a steep descend to the west coast.
This is an excellent view point to either ways of the island. It’s a pity I didn’t realise the potential way too late!!
Overall it has been a fantastic experience. I was flying with my scooter in all of the mentioned points and visiting the island during the day with some stops at the beach (happy wife, happy life LOL)
( This article was based on ‘The Top 6 Sites to Take a Sunset Picture in Koh Chang. Stef is a cycling and movie photographer besides being a travel photographer for MEL365.com )