Kav Dadfar is a freelance writer and photographer based in the UK. His work has appeared in the likes of Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, American Express, Daily Mail, Sunday Times Travel, Express, The Guardian and many more. Kav is also the founding editor of a new travel magazine called JRNY, a collaboration of over 20 freelancers who will write, design and produce this high-end magazine. As a frequent traveller to Thailand, we asked Kav to share some of his experiences from this amazing country.
Please tell us about your first visit to Thailand. What were you expecting and how did the reality compare?
My first trip to Thailand was way back in 2006. It was the first time that I had ventured somewhere that wasn’t a holiday resort. Just a few days before Christmas I decided to book flights to Bangkok and stuff a newly purchased backpack full of things I would not need for four weeks (I didn’t know any better). With no research done, no plans, no expectations, and no idea of what I was doing, I boarded the flight with no preconceived ideas of what to expect.
As I walked out of the airport to a cacophony of noise and heat which practically stopped me in my tracks, my first impressions did not have time to materialise. The chaotic nature of Bangkok can be too much on your first jet-lagged night. But in the days that followed I slowly began to love this city more and more. Everything from the sumptuous smells of food stalls on the sidewalk to cramming myself onto the skytrain in Sukhumvit.
Where is your favourite place in Thailand and why?
There really are extraordinary places all over Thailand. For me, the one place that constantly pulls me back is the Mae Hong Son region. The town itself is the epitome of the word picturesque. An ornate and magnificent temple perched beside a perfectly still lake in the centre of town would be enough to make even the most dismissive traveller coo with delight. But bend your neck backwards and look at the seemingly impenetrable mountains all around and you will realise you are somewhere special.
Beyond the town itself, this is an area teeming with culture and history. Head into the jungles (with a local guide) and you will be welcomed in for tea at almost every village you pass. This is somewhere that the famous Thai hospitality reaches new heights and is my favourite place in Thailand.
And your most memorable experience in the Land of Smiles?
To be forced to pick one memorable experience in Thailand that I would say is my favourite is bordering on cruelty. How could I possibly conclude that I enjoyed ambling around on the pristine beaches in the south more than hiking in the jungles of Mae Hong Son? Or feasting my way through the walking street markets of Chiang Mai sampling the mouth-watering food being more memorable than watching the sunset in Sukhothai Historical Park? There are just far too many to choose from . . .
Where in Thailand have you not yet visited but would most like to?
There are so many places in Thailand that I want to visit. But one place that has evaded me so far that I am desperate to explore is Kaeng Krachan National Park. I would love to go searching for the elusive black and spotted leopards and the variety of other wildlife such as bears, golden jackals and even elephants.
As a writer and photographer, if you had to choose only one would it be words or pictures?
I have always enjoyed taking photos more than writing. I started my career as a photographer and writing came further down the line, so often photos come more naturally to me than words. So, if I could take a picture instead of writing a “thousand words” then I would prefer that.
You’ve worked with many high-profile publications capturing the moment with people and places. How do you bring a commercial brief to life when the topic is so subjective?
The most important part of any shoot is the research. That does not just mean researching the destination but also the brief itself. I would ask questions from the client and clarify anything that might not be clear. I also try to get a sense of any preferences in style and even tones and colours that the client might have. This all feeds into a shot list that I write for myself (and sometimes get it approved by the client) and use it as my task list when on a shoot.
For budding travel photographers, please share your top tips for preparing a photo shoot abroad.
As mentioned above, research is such an important part of any shoot and will help you to create a shot list so that you have a clear idea of what photos to take. But it is also really important not to cram too much into a shot list. One of the biggest attributes that a travel photographer needs is patience. Patience to wait for the right light or for a car to move out of the way. The only way that can happen is if you have the time to wait for the perfect shot. If you are rushing around lots of locations taking a quick snapshot and moving on, you will often miss the opportunity for the best photos.
Where (and why) are your top three locations to take photographs that really capture the spirit of Thailand?
From glorious, vertigo inducing views from the many sky bars to the endless street photography opportunities and magnificent temples, Bangkok is one of the world’s best cities for photography.
Sukhothai Historical Park
The historic sites of Sukhothai will make you eat through your memory cards faster than a delicious pad Thai. In the golden late afternoon light, this park looks its glorious best.
While Chiang Mai itself is a great location for photography, it is the surrounding regions that offer so many more photo opportunities. From endless layers of mountains as far as the eyes can see to hill tribes adorned with intricate clothes, Northern Thailand is a must for any photographer.
And three words you feel perfectly describe this beautiful Kingdom.
“Land of smiles” – sorry, but it really is true!
A big thank you to Kav for sharing his experiences and photos from Thailand. Keep an eye out for more travel stories and photos from Kav’s new JRNY magazine.
All images in this article are copyright of Kav Dadfar and used here with kind permission.
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