Sebastian Jacobitz, a 29-year old photographer from Berlin and a member of the collective Berlin1020, shares with us his favorite places to visit in Southeast Asia and photography tips on how to capture their beauty.

Southeast Asia is a very diverse region that can be a real challenge for photographers. There are so many impressions and each city is like a new world you can dive into. Today, I want to present five cities or regions and present my favorite spots and how to create unique photographs. We also recommend checking out theĀ best trips for photographers and get inspired by these beautiful locations.


I start my list with one of my favorite cities of them all. Hanoi seems like it has been created by a sci-fi author. It is a very fast-growing city and a mix of traditional Vietnamese architecture and modern Western technology. There is so much to explore that it can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially considering that you have to get used to the traffic as well.
My absolute favorite spot was the Hoan Kiem lake during the car-free time. Beginning on Friday evening, cars are not allowed around the lake and people are conquering the roads. They are selling goods, making music or simply have fun.
Equipped with a flash, I made use of the light in the background at the central place near the entrance of the Old Town. To create the light trails, use a slightly slower shutter speed, something around 1/10s will usually do alright. Zone-focus by setting the aperture to around f/8 and get close to the people. This style is a great way to emphasize the wildness of the night in Hanoi.


The next city on the list is again in Vietnam. This time we are going far to the south though and face a really different atmosphere. Saigon is very Western and when moving around District 1, it feels more like a typical metropole by Western standards. There are still some traditional markets where you can photograph.
Saigon is also sunnier and a little warmer than Hanoi, although the breeze from the ocean side helps, it is still favorable to stay in the shade.
For the traditional market, I prefer to create a more mystic atmosphere by underexposing the photograph in a way, that only the subject is visible, but not much of the surrounding.

Despite the traditional markets, District 1 has some great opportunities for you to take some pictures. The famous post office is a typical tourist spot with photographers gathering around to capture the unique architecture of the building.
Just a little to the front, I found the statue to be more interesting for my purpose. In combination with the sun, you can create some silhouettes by photographing directly into the sun.
With this style, you need to be very careful to not overexpose the image. Close the aperture as far as f/16 and use a very fast shutter speed, to avoid any clipping in the highlights. Then wait for some subjects to enter the frame and you can capture silhouettes, that you can also enhance in the post-processing.


My next flight took me to Indonesia and one of the biggest cities in the world Jakarta. This city seems so chaotic that it was difficult for me to find access to it. As a pedestrian, you will have some troubles going around that town because it is not really built to walk around, but to take a scooter.
I would definitely recommend meeting up with local photographers because they have some insights and tips for some great locations. With their help, you are able to find unique spots that you wouldn't find otherwise.
As with Southeast Asia in general, people are very friendly and welcoming. Be prepared, that locals also ask to take a picture with you. Particularly when walking in the lesser-known areas in Jakarta where not many tourists come up to you to ask for a photograph.
Be open to meet new people, smile and make friends while walking in the backyards of Jakarta and you can find interesting stories to take home.

Make also use of the Buddhist temples and the great colors they offer. Especially in the evening when the sun hits the colorful walls at a lower angle, the effect is even more increased.

Indonesian Jungle

My next station on my trip leads me outside the city and near Mount Ijen in the Indonesian Jungle. I stayed with a local family for around six weeks to document the sulfur miners on Mount Ijen.
In general, I would recommend booking a homestay. It was one of the greatest experiences to live with a local family and get a real insight into the local culture. Sometimes staying at the hotel can feel secluded from the authentic life and more distant from the locals.
As a photographer, I want to absorb the atmosphere and be close to the people to get the best photographs. A homestay is definitely a great adventure and the hospitality is great as always in Southeast Asia.

Mount Ijen is known for its "Blue Fire" at night. But the mountain also has a lot to offer during the day and from a photographer's viewpoint, I would rather want to visit the mountain during the day.
Climb down the crater with a tour guide and enjoy the unique impressions that you gather there. With a tour guide, you can also ask to get close to the sulfur miners at the bottom of the crater. Don't forget that the sulfur smoke is toxic and always wear your gas mask and face protection. Gear wise, if you are too afraid to lose a camera due to the dust, rather take something more simple and inexpensive with you.

Chiang Mai

The final destination on my trip was in the north of Thailand. Chiang Mai is known for its beautiful nature and temples. Personally, the city wasn't a highlight for me since it is very much focused on tourism and it is difficult to explore the true culture of Thailand when everything is tailored for tourism.
Yet, there are great tours You can book to the surroundings of Chiang Mai. I decided to visit an Elephant Sanctuary for a day and have to say it was one of the greatest experiences I had on my travel.

The Elephant Sanctuaries around Chiang Mai adopt elephants that have served in traditional camps and give them a new shelter. The difference is, that tourists aren't allowed to ride the elephants and that they can live freely there without having to entertain the tourists. Although the elephants can be really intimidating due to their sheer size, the photographs have been taken with a 35mm lens with my FujiX100F, which is a great travel camera for me.

As you can see, you don't need a Tele lens to get some great animal photographs, but can also get closer to a relatively wide-angle lens. In general, I would recommend taking the camera you are most familiar with for your travel as well.

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