Lao is fantastic destination for photography and if you take the following into account there is no reason why you won’t come away with some great shots – without upsetting anyone.
Digital photography is spreading fast and particularly in popular tourist centers such as Vientiane, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Pakse, the usual range of batteries, memory cards and even a limited range of cameras are available.
There are still plenty of old-school film cameras around, and Fuji and Kodak color print film in ASA 100 or 200 are available in large towns. A few of the better photo shop in Vientiane and Luang Prabang carry slide film, typically Ektachrome Elite or Fuji-chrome Sensia. For B&W film or other slide film stock in Bangkok, where film is relatively cheap, before you come to Laos. Processing is inexpensive.
Most internet cafes have card readers and can write photos to either CD or DVD for about US$1 or US$2.
In rural areas people are often not used to having their photos taken, so smiling ask permission before snapping away. In tribal areas always ask permission before photographing people or religious totems; photography of people is taboo among several tribes. Breaking such taboos might not seem like a big deal to you, but it is to your subject.
Lao officials are sensitive about photography of airports and military installations; when in doubt, refrain, and if you get stopped be as apologetic and dumb-tourist as you can be.
As in other tropical countries, the best times of day for photography are early to mid-morning and late afternoon. A polarizing filter is helpful for cutting glare and improving contrast, especially when photographing temple ruins or shooting over water.
Moisture is the biggest threat to your gear so during the rainy season (from June to October) pack some silica gel with your camera to prevent mould growing inside the lenses. Also always carry a plastic bag, at least, to keep your gear dry when the heavens open.
The wet season isn’t all bad. The skies are clearer and the greens of the forest are much brighter, compared with the hot season (March to May) when you’ll often find a layer of dust damping down the colors and adding glare to the skies.
Outside major cities and towns electricity is not always available. This is a problem if you need to recharge batteries, so be sure to pack enough and keep them charged. Standard camera batteries are readily available in big towns but you’ll be lucky to find them out in the sticks, so carry all you’ll need.
Lonely Planet’s Travel Photography contains tips on how to get the most out of your camera.
Blank videotapes in popular formats, including DV, are readily available for sale in Vientiane and Luang Prabang, and to a lesser in extent in Savannakhet, Pakse and a few other provincial capitals.
Tags: Photograph and Video in Laos