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Sunday Night Shooting @ Chiang Mai Night Market

chiang mai sunday market vendor

Images shot with Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8

Every Sunday evening, the streets in the centre of Chiang Mai’s old town are transformed from free-flowing scooter thoroughfares and become instead arteries clogged with the cholesterol of slow moving human traffic.

Some are selling, others are buying, and all not moving very quickly whatsoever as the Chiang Mai Sunday night market is held.

As the market is in the centre of everything in Chiang Mai’s old town, it’s good to spend the daytime exploring the streets and a few of the temples nearby before the market is set up.

tuk tuks in chiang mai thailand

monk and songthaew chiang mai thailand

yellow thai buddhist flags

old men t chiang mai night market

Of course, Chiang Mai’s Sunday night market is a massive draw for the tourists, but I found myself visiting a few times even when living here too.

The place just seems full of energy, and some of the street food is really good too.

As the main walking street runs east/west, it’s also a great spot for some golden hour photography as the market is being set up.

Most people seem to like going after dark, to get the night market feel, but it gets too busy for me to enjoy. Walking around in the last of the day’s sunlight with a vintage lens like the Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 on my Sony NEX is far more enjoyable.

The whole scenario of activity happening in a picturesque setting at the best time of day for photography makes it perfect for shooting, and knowing it happens every week means being able to plan a visit specially for shooting in the golden hour.

Once the light has gone though, the shots you can get after dark are not to be sniffed at either.

Fruit

market at chiang mai temple

chiang mai sunday night market

T-shirt

girl in red dress chiang mai night market

man at chiang mai night market

Don’t worry if you happen to be in Chiang Mai on the wrong day(s) and don’t catch the Sunday market, as there is also a Friday morning market in a different place too.

And in between the Friday morning market and the Sunday night market, there’s the Chiang Mai Saturday night market.

Don’t worry either if you’re not in town for any of these, because the Chiang Mai night bazaar (below) is held every night anyway, again in a different place.

It’s huge, and you could easily spend an entire evening perusing the stalls while eating and drinking along the way.

chiang mai night bazaar

coloured lights on chiang mai night market

chiang mai walking street

Robert Capa famously said that if your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

Other common photography wisdom states that the longer your lens, the creepier you look.

I was using my Super-Takumar 55mm f1.8 for these pictures, which meant I could get a few candid shots in amongst the ones of the stalls and goods.

The lady eating clearly saw me though.

Being able to open up the Super-Takumar to f2.8 (I never go wide open) also meant I could keep the ISO sensibly low, especially as there was enough ambient light from the market stalls and street lamps to work with.

In truth, if you’re in a city, there usually is.

I personally spend as much time looking for light to use as I do subjects to shoot, and rarely (if ever) use a flash.

The Chiang Mai Sunday night market is something that anyone who has the chance should visit once.

My tip is to arrive early whilst the light is best for photography, and stay until you’ve had your fill of both night shots and street food too.

chess on chiang mai street

phonebox in chiang mai thailand

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The Chiang Mai Sunday night market closes the centre of town and sees 1000s of tourists throng to buy all the street food they can eat and all the souvenirs they can carry. As the market begins to be set up in the early evening, it's a great chance for some photography during the golden hour as the sun is setting. After dark, the opportunities for great shots continue as the ambient lights are turned on. No visitor to Chiang Mai should miss the Sunday night market if they have the chance to go. For those who aren't able, or are but yet to, these pictures give a taste of what it's like to be there.

 

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