I've been to Thailand half a dozen times over the last four years, but until November I had never visited during the Lantern Festival. To be honest, I didn't expect it to be quite as amazing as it actually was - Chiang Mai was transformed for a week into the Thailand we all dream about from home, a frontier of fascinating beauty, myth, and intrigue.
Whether or not Chiang Mai is actually the cultural core of Thailand is debatable, but for a week each November there's no doubt that this northern backwater is one of the most magical places on earth.
Since I was in town teaching a photography workshop, I might as well share a tip on capturing images in the dark. Assuming that you have an SLR or another camera with manual controls, you're most likely to spend most of your time shooting in Matrix or Evaluative Metering Mode. You want to switch to spot metering, so that your camera knows you want to expose only the lit bit of real estate you place under your focus point. In this case, I'm meting for the visible palm; I know that by metering on the hand, I'll send my background to darkness, and keep detail in the lantern. If I let the camera do the thinking for me in this situation, it would try and bring up detail in the shadows, which would lower the shutter speed a great deal, and result in a bright, blurry, messy photo.
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