I wanted to do a follow-up to Friday’s post on giving your photos a sense of place. This is a travel image from my month-long trip to Thailand several years ago. If you’ve been there or to any neighboring countries, or seen photos, perhaps you guessed the location. That was the idea! I composed the image so that the traditional Thai long-tail fishing boats were silhouetted against a wonderful sunset on the little paradise called Koh Lipe off the coast of southern Thailand.
I wanted to include the little boy fishing off the boat (at right), but in this shot he’s a bit too small. Right afterward I got a few where he was more prominent, but by then it had gotten pretty dark. This image turned out to have the best balance between the overall scene and the slow-paced, sea-focused life going on here. That really is the core idea behind including a sense of place into your photos. The goal is to include elements that will help to add some key details, and yet capture enough of the scene to both take advantage of the light and put the viewer into the scene – all in a well-composed, attractive image. The small things you do to give your images a sense of place will breathe life into them. And that can definitely be a challenge!
Koh Lipe was, when I visited, undergoing a transformation. It had been ‘discovered’ by tourists recently and so the vanguard of (mostly) backpackers had arrived. A small-scale building boom was going on. No resorts..yet, but there may be now. Next to the largest harbor and beach lies the island’s only real village. It’s a busy warren of rustic little lodges, eateries and a few gift shops. Definitely a buzz about the place. Outside of that it was still pretty quiet.
The beach in the above picture is on the other, quieter side of the island, accessible via a walking trail through dense jungle. I arrived just in time for sunset after a full day encircling the island on foot. I stayed in a sort of shack perched above a rocky section of coast not far from the backpacker village: a half-hour walk or 10-minute boat ride. My simple wood bungalow was open-air, had no electricity, and was much quieter and more peaceful than the village. Great snorkeling was steps away. And best of all, it cost $7/night. I suspect Koh Lipe is not the same now, but it has a ways to go before it becomes Koh Samui or (gasp!) Phuket.
A great option near Koh Lipe if you really want to get away from it all is Koh Tarutao. It’s a National Marine Park, so is nearly undeveloped and very pristine compared to many of the Thai islands. The best way to visit is to simply bring along a tent and food, walk down the road from the ferry terminal and set up camp at one of the beachside sites. There is one restaurant near the dock. I’m guessing it hasn’t changed much, being inside a park. It’s a rather large island with dense, mountainous jungle and a seemingly endless rugged coastline dotted with empty beaches.
This morphed into a travel post I guess. I’m going to cheat and include a second image (from Koh Tarutao). There are many islands in southern Thailand, but unless you want a resort experience or the (full-moon) party scene, you would do well to research the natural areas, then when you arrive look further for relatively undeveloped places that may not even show up on the web. They are out there. Thanks for reading!