Chiang Mai Temple Photography w/ F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8

chiang mai temple photography

Images shot with the vintage F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8

One great thing about living in Chiang Mai is how easy it is to walk around in the compact old town, exploring and finding places that aren’t on the tourist maps.

One Chiang Mai temple I visited (Wat Pha Khao, not far at all from Tha Phae Gate) is one example of this.

The temple cannot compete with the main ones in town, being less than half the size and having less than half the exposure on tourist routes.

I only really went there because I’d been eating at Cafe 29, a place opposite Wat Pha Khao that I often went to when I first arrived Chiang Mai.

I went there less after living in Chiang Mai for a while, but it is a good spot for some dinner in the old town.

The temple made a nice little discovery on one particular day I spent shooting with my vintage F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8; mainly for the array of little fat kids in the yard with begging bowls and grinning faces.

Statues of them, I mean.

two buddhist statues and flower

two child buddhist statues

statues of young buddhist monks

buddhist statue chiang mai

Being surrounded by these was a little strange if I let them spend too much time in my peripheral vision, although this wasn’t a bad thing – I felt uplifted, as temples always make me feel.

Inside the temple, I saw something that, of all the temples I’d ever been to, was new to me.

The main Buddha and the five smaller statues in front of him were underlit, with the light changing colour every five seconds or so.

It sounds tacky, but what it actually does is bring their faces to life. As the shadows and colours change, the expressions on the faces seem to alter slightly.

I couldn’t stop looking at it.

A trick of the light of course, and not something that can be replicated in a still photograph, but I was mesmerised.

buddha at wat pha khao chiang mai

Chiang Mai’s main temples

The two Chiang Mai temples that everyone goes to – the main, famous ones in the old town – are Wat Phra Singh and Wat Chedi Luang.

I was surprised to find out the former has a sister temple in Runcorn, England, in an old pub.

I’ve never been. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Runcorn, never mind the temple / pub.

So you can be sure that while the photographs in this set are from various different temples, they are all from Chiang Mai.

They were also all shot with the F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8, which is a great starter vintage lens if you’re new to them. Check them out on eBay here.

And if you need something to shoot it on, the Sony mirrorless cameras like I used here give great image quality in a small body that’s ideal for your travel photography too. Go see the latest prices on Amazon.

temple in chiang mai thailand

chiang mai temple roof

wat chedi luang chiang mai

stone buddha chiang mai

temple decoration in chiang mai

as you sow so you reap

Chiang Mai temple photography rules

I do love taking photos around temples, but one thing I don’t like doing with my temple photography is taking shots inside them.

I see plenty of people who do, and that’s up to them. I’m not judging; it’s a personal choice.

I happily take pictures in churches without thinking.

I guess my personal refusal to take photographs in temples stems from being told not to in a temple at Erdene Zuu Monastery, Mongolia, after I had already taken a few.

I remember immediately deleting them, even though nobody asked me to, and I’ve never regretted losing those shots.

Some things are more important.

Now, if I really want a picture of the interior of a temple, I will see if I can get it from standing outside and shooting in. If that’s not possible, I forget it.

My personal thing about not shooting inside temples is worth more to me than the shot.

The rules for temple photography in Chiang Mai seemed to be that it was allowed.

It’s just my personal rule that prevents me from doing it.

golden buddha in thailand

monk at chiang mai temple

temple stupas in chiang mai

buddhist nuns in chiang mai temple

Broken Buddha statues

A little later in the day, I came across something at another temple that made me stop and take a closer look.

Although the temple itself wasn’t particularly interesting either inside or out, there was a collection of broken and headless Buddha statues under the bodhi tree.

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen broken Buddhas under a tree, but it was the most photogenic collection I’ve come across.

two headless buddhas under tree

buddha figurine with no head

two headless buddha figures

old religious dolls under tree

I think there’s something atmospheric about seeing the broken Buddhas there; something quite sad, and even though they were small, it brought to mind the fall of something great.

Be it the ruins of an empire, or merely the denouncing of a religion by one person, the destroyed Buddhas in their final resting place were a sorry sight.

In reality, they would most likely have been broken accidentally, with the bodhi tree being the most respectful place for them to remain afterwards.

To throw them away with the rest of the rubbish would be highly disrespectful, and people might not want to keep an imperfect Buddha that has been broken and repaired.

A big part of Buddhism is the cycle of life, death, and reincarnation. At the same temple, I noticed a symbol of this and was lucky enough to be able to capture it.

No other creature really encapsulates the cycle of development and rebirth like a butterfly, and I like to think that maybe it wasn’t merely coincidence this one was sitting where it was that day.

butterfly on thai buddha

Chiang Mai old town photography

Chiang Mai’s temples are a major attraction for many of the thousands of tourists who pass through the city, but just wandering the streets of the old town provides plenty of opportunity for more photographs.

Most of the remaining images here are from the southeast quarter of the old town.

I’m not sure how popular Nirvana or Kurt Cobain are or ever were in Thailand, but someone thought enough of the late singer to immortalise him on a wall.

Better than yet another Che Guevara, I suppose.

The classic Mercedes was an unexpected find too, but unfortunately looked like it hadn’t been driven for a while, and the dog just seemed completely uninterested in his surroundings or the fact that he was sleeping on a road junction.

I took a few shots of him, experimenting with shutter speeds and waiting for different vehicles to come past, even trying with an empty street there.

In the end though, and to wrap up this blog post, what’s more Thai than a tuk-tuk?

kurt cobain graffiti in chiang mai

vintage mercedes in chiang mai thailand

dog and tuk tuk thailand

…p.s. if you’ve enjoyed this collection of Chiang Mai temple photography and think others will too, why not share or pin it?

Chiang Mai Temple photography with a vintage F.Zuiko 38mm f1.8! featuring Wat Pha Khao, some headless Buddhas, a few freaky kids, and Kurt Cobain.
written by
Hi, I'm Lee - creator of My Favourite Lens and the one whose work you're seeing whenever you read a post on here.
I shoot as much film as I can in as many different cameras as I can, and I enjoy playing with vintage lenses on digital cameras also.

Everything I do and what I learn along the way gets shared on here, to inform and inspire you to get out and shoot as much - and as well - as you can too.

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