Capturing waterfalls in Laos and Vietnam | Lyf&Spice

by Vanessa Wanders Miles
Aditi Shukla in a boat in Lunag Prabang in Laos

Aditi Shukla in a boat in Lunag Prabang in Laos

Wanders Miles Travel Photography Series welcomes Aditi Shukla to talk about capturing boats and waterfalls in Laos and Vietnam. She is an explorer, dreamer, and soul-searcher. Her impulsive trips are documented on her travel and food blog Lyf&Spice. Her motto is to travel and eat as much as she can around the globe and share her experiences to inspire others.

Photographing Boats and Falls: Making waves in Vietnam and Laos   

I have been trotting all over South East Asia for the past couple of years. My idea of photography was rather random and I would click just anything and everything. Since my trips to Laos and Vietnam a few months ago, I realized a sudden shift in focus. The scenic beauty of these pieces of paradise found me inclining towards waterfalls and boats, and my camera reel seemed to burst with these water shots.

I’m no professional and I use my DSLR on and off, but my phone is something that is with me at all times. For now, I’m going to focus on phone photography. These are tips based on my experience through trial and error and on something that works for me. There are millions of better photographers than me, and I hope to learn from them and hone my skills.

Photographing Waterfalls in Laos

Let the height be just right

Keep the height of the waterfall in mind. As tempting as the angle-adjustment mode can be, it is wise to stick to the natural format. Adjusting it might only stretch it out and mess with the height of the falls. Remember, you want to show the falls in all their glory, but without imparting a false image.

Keep the flow real

This is the trickiest part as it would mean getting rid of all photo-editing apps, or would it? With a plethora of editing options at one’s disposal, there is a fine line between a real and a false image. It is imperative to stick to the real side by enhancing the natural features of the fall and bringing out details that would otherwise go unnoticed. On the other hand, a severe colour contrast could only do harm and falsify the image. When it comes to the softness and tone of the water, minimal adjustments to keep it soft or harsh can be done. I would say tweak it only a little to retain it in its natural form as much as possible. Use the slowest possible shutter speed to capture the natural flow.

Watch out for reflections

When you think of waterfalls, you ought to realise that there is going to be a lot of light shimmering and reflecting back from the sheet of water. You have to lower the brightness of your screen and click the picture from the right angle, thereby avoiding direct light on the lens or water body. Choose a patch that receives relatively less sunshine, tilt your phone, and click downwards. At the same time, change your settings to manual and adjust the ISO and brightness.

Kuang Si Falls photographed by Lyf&Spice

Kuang Si Falls

Photographing Boats in Cambodia

Don’t blur out the background

According to me, if I need to capture a boat in its entire scenario – with people rowing, ripples forming near the oars, birds flying in the backdrop, and the canopy formed by trees and branches it passes through, it ought to convey a vivid picture. Blurring the background will not help. Keep the screen clear and capture the postcard-perfect scenery in its complete form, just the way it is.

Capture people in action

Just as the sky would be dull without the sun and clouds, so would a boat without a rower and crowd. A boat depicts motion. When you think of capturing the picture of a boat, don’t you automatically associate it with some event -be it fishermen flinging nets into the water or rowers rowing boats in a rhythmic pattern? The idea of boat photography, to me, is to convey the essence of the emotions involved. I like capturing rowers sleeping on their boats, fishermen in action, passengers tucking themselves in, and men/women stocking their boats linearly during closing time.

Focus on the bow

Focusing on the bow or the front v-shaped tip of the boat gives scope to capture the gorgeous scenery around you. This can be done when the boat is still. Ask the boatman to stop for a few minutes when you reach your fairy tale scene. Take a few minutes to get your angle right and with a stiff hand (and preferably a mini tripod), click the Instagram-worthy shot.

More on Lyf&Spice

There you go! Those are all the tips I have to share. Hope to venture out on an all-boat trip sometime soon in the coming months.

  • Camera used: Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
  • Apps used: PhotoeditorPro, Snapseed.

Articles on Vietnam & Laos:

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