I’ve been slowly easing into my routine back home since returning from Asia one week ago, and want to take a moment to stop and reflect on this life changing journey.
There are endless stories, many written on this blog, some scribbled in a journal, others tucked away in secret or recorded only in my mind—many to share with the world, some reserved for family and friends, others that will never be told. But sometimes photographs tell an even better story and move us in way that words can’t.
I’m eternally grateful that I took the time to record so much of my journey, and now I’ll be able to look back on it forever, reliving the most amazing moments of my life and passing it on to future generations. Perhaps more than the writings, though, I value the collection of photos I’ve amassed over these past few months—to me, they’re worth more than any of my material possessions.
I’m not a professional photographer by any means, just someone with a passion and a love of visual communication. These certainly aren’t the most incredible travel photographs you’ll ever see, but they all hold a special meaning to me, and they represent a starting point. They’re the benchmark on which I will improve on over time, challenging myself to do better.
I didn’t plan most of these photos. They were vistas I stumbled upon, or spur of the moment captures that just happened to turn out decently well (though my goal is to be more intentional in the future).
It was tough narrowing down from such a huge selection as each one is tied to personal significance, but I tried to include shots from a wide range of scenes and subjects. For my fellow photos/aspiring photos out there, I’ve provided the equipment details along with a brief story behind each image.
10. Kanchanaburi, Thailand
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/640 sec, f6.3, ISO 320 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
This was taken from an observation deck at Elephants World, a sanctuary for rescuing and rehabilitating elephants. We spent the day there volunteering and getting up close and personal with these gentle giants. The natural landscape of greenery and distant mountains provided a nice background, and I waited for a single elephant and his mahout to enter the frame before shooting. See more of that adventure here.
9. Halong Bay, Vietnam
iPhone 6+ / Editing: Afterlight
On my first night in Halong Bay just before sunset, I hopped into a kayak with my new friend Chelsie in the back. We paddled out to the bay and took advantage of the ‘golden hour’. I didn’t have my wide angle lens with me, so I handed her my phone and she snapped this shot. It’s simple, but I love the composition and mood. It’s hard to take a bad photo in one of the most enchanting places in the world—even a cell phone can convey how special this place is. See more shots of beautiful Halong Bay here.
8. Sapa, Vietnam
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/3200 sec, f2.5, ISO 125 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
The two days spent trekking through Sapa provided the most visually breathtaking moments I’ve ever experienced. Every step was a new photo op and without trying, I ended up with hundreds of shots. While walking along the outskirts of one village, a toddler ran up a dirt path and perched himself onto a boulder, waving and smiling at us. His mother stood by in the distance as he captured our attention and hearts. He cried when we began to walk away, hoping we’d come back. “I’m going to adopt a Vietnamese baby someday”, one girl in our group sighed.
7. Koh Tao, Thailand
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/400 sec, f4.5, ISO 200 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
It was the week after I left home. My second day on Koh Tao was spent wandering the streets alone, and I came across a bamboo & henna tattoo shop. Feeling inspired by my new sense of freedom, I requested a henna of Not all who wander are lost in Thai writing to commemorate the start of my journey. Before the ink had a chance to fade, I took a photo to immortalize this moment in time. It was a spur of the moment decision while lying on the beach, so I propped my camera on a towel, looked through the viewfinder to compose the shot, set the timer and situated myself in place as the shutter released. It took a few tries to get it right, but I ended up with my first solo travel self portrait. I look at this photo now and it’s so powerful. Part of me wants, more than anything, to go back to that moment so I could relive the next few months all over again. I had no idea how much my life was about to change.
6. Vang Vieng, Laos
Canon 6D, EF24mm f/2.8 lens, 1/100 sec, f4, ISO 800 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
Nestled between a winding river and limestone cliffs, the town of Vang Vieng was more than the notorious tubing party pitstop I had anticipated upon arrival. On my last evening before sunset, I caught a motorbike to a location along the river outside of the main tourist area and captured several photos of the stunning landscape. Take a look at the entire set in my Laos post and see for yourself why more Southeast Asia travelers should add it to their itinerary.
Canon 6D, EF24mm f/2.8 lens, 1/2500 sec, f2.8, ISO 125 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
After claiming Sapa to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in person, it’s no surprise that it makes an appearance twice on the list. The rich and seemingly endless landscape of carefully carved terraces makes it impossible to take a bad photograph, and I could fill an entire post with images just from this day (and I actually did that, sharing over 60 of them here). The natural hazy air doesn’t make for the most ideal shooting conditions and I didn’t think to bring a UV filter on my trip, but post processing definitely helps.
4. Kayangan Lake, Palawan, Philippines
Canon 6D, EF24mm f/2.8 lens, 1/320 sec, f2.8, ISO 100 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
The dream-like quality of this photo was just as powerful in person, and I wanted to portray that emotion by placing the angle from my perspective. The islands surrounding Palawan contain so many hidden gems—Kayangan Lake being one of the most well-known. It wasn’t easy choosing just one image to represent this part of the world, and I shared many in my Philippines post in an effort to take you to these surreal places with me.
3. Koh Tao, Thailand
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/1250 sec, f5.0, ISO 160 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
It’s hard to compete with the unspoiled islands of the Philippines, but Shark Bay in Koh Tao was the first place in Thailand I fell in love with. It still remains my favorite beach in Thailand, and it’s easy to see why from this photo. After capturing this image from the top of a steep grade of steps leading to the sand, I spent the afternoon snorkeling, sunbathing and sipping coconut shakes. It was only my fifth day in Asia, and the first moment I truly felt at peace with my decision to leave.
2. Private island, Coron, Philippines
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/2500 sec, f2.8, ISO 100 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
The day before leaving Coron Island, a few friends and I chartered a boat to take us around the more remote locations without any tourists. A handful of new friends joined us and we found a secluded, private island and were served fresh grilled fish and veggies grilled up by the captain. After lunch, I pulled out my camera to take advantage of the dreamy surroundings and asked one of the girls’ to be my subject. I experimented with different scenes and she offered to switch me places, so I set up my composition, held the camera in place and gave her instructions on how to focus. We had a great time and got a few really fun shots—this one being my favorite.
1. Pai, Thailand
Canon 6D, EF50mm f/1.4 lens, 1/200 sec, f8, ISO 200 / Editing: RAW + Photoshop
Most people who travel Thailand place Pai at the top of their list, and for good reason. Between its cloud covered mountains, rolling fields, canyons and waterfalls and laid back hippie vibe, it’s a small slice of heaven. I spent a total of nine days in the area—longer than any other one place. On this day I made a new friend, we rented scooters and were riding through the countryside. A clearing opened up and revealed a rain shower passing through the mountains in the distance. I immediately pulled over and told her we couldn’t miss this opportunity. After capturing several images of the landscape, she told me to jump in one of the shots so I handed her my camera, gave her a quick debriefing and told her to snap away. In one of the frames I was turning around and the movement was perfectly captured in this shot. Post processing further enhanced the mood and months later, it’s still at the top of my list of favorite travel photographs.
And there you have it, friends. My best captured travel moments and the stories behind them. PS: If you love instagram as much as I do, I’m always updating and posting new images there, so make sure to follow me!
Did your favorite make it on the list? Do you dabble in photography as well, or want to see more posts like this? There’s a lot of changes on the way, and I’m in the process of narrowing down what I really want to focus on—but a big part of that depends on you.
I’ll clarify more in upcoming posts, but for now, I just need to know one thing: How can I help you? How can I add value to your day—your life? Apart from house related projects, what do you want to gain/learn/feel when you visit this blog? Don’t be a stranger. Please let me know in the comments—I’m all ears!
Love all your pictures! How did you travel around Asia with your camera? I will be going this summer and would love to bring my Nikon D5000 but worry with the limited space/theft.
Hi Carolyn! I just kept it in my purse close to my side at all times. It was worth the risk to me to be able to capture the images.
While reading your posts, I’ve often wished I could download or purchase prints of your photographs. Is that something you would consider for the future?
Hi Liz! Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to order prints 🙂
Hi Jenna Sue!
I found your blog during the 6 week design challenge (or something like then when you redid that cute bathroom). The two types of blogs I love to follow are design and travel blogs. As a young twenty something the day I decorate a home is a long way off, but travel is my true passion. Travel is what I do, so I of course have loved following your journey through SE Asia! I started my blog a year ago just to have a broader place to document my travels and have really found your transition inspiring. Thank you for keeping it real and bringing us along! I have to say SE Asia now might be next on my list! I’ve done multiple countries in Europe and in Africa, India and Costa Rica and I would love to further explore both Asia and South America.
Thank you and I can’t wait for what’s next!
I just absolutely love reading your blog! I have never followed a blog before but am in love with your writing and hearing about your travels. I also live in Sonora and saw you grocery shopping. I wanted to say hi and tell you how much I enjoy reading everything you have to say but I am shy! I hope you continue to share!
Aw, you should say hi next time Ella! I’d love to meet another local 🙂
Karie W says
I didn’t know you had a blog much less had been keeping up with your travel. I happened to see a post mentioning your blog. I started to read from your first blog of leaving home. I am not a big decorated :/. I enjoyed your travel blogs as this is the first and only blog I have ever read or kept up with. I enjoy the pics and with this entry, very interested in the “behind the scenes” of the pics. I love photography :). Your blog is certainly an inspiration!
I knew some of those images had to be timer shots. Takes nothing away from the artful composition and subject matter. In fact, it’s more impressive. Thank you for sharing this work with us.
I stumbled across your blog part way through your trip and have loved reading every word. I think I connect to it and you because I’ve been feeling lost lately (in life and a relationship) and I enjoy how you’re approaching life. While your blog isn’t a self help blog, to me it has helped in more ways than you know, offering a different view and opening up possibilities in life. I only wish I could sit over coffee with you and hear your stories and gain your advice and knowledge 🙂 Wherever the blog goes, I’ll definitely follow along whether it’s personal or decorating. Thank you for opening up and sharing your amazing adventure!
So glad to read that, Elise. I’m sorry you are feeling lost. Life can and will get better 🙂
Natalie S. says
Wow, my thoughts echo Molly and Britt and others, they said it so well. I have been following you for maybe about a year, made myself start at the beginning and read every blog post in order. I binge read your blog for awhile! Just when I caught up, it was about summer, and then you were off on your trip! I have loved it all, but I think it is because you are honest, write from the heart, and are just so good and gifted at all you do. You are also beautiful on the outside, but haven’t let that go to your head, and spoil who you are on the inside, like some shallow people do. That is so refreshing in this day and age of what the media pushes on us, especially women. Because you have such a joie de vivre, and write about what you enjoy, and can do all that while being introspective, and communicate to us in a clear way about anything from projects to philosophy, and reveal your humanity at the same time….that is why we think you are amazing!!! Blog on! Natalie S.
What a sweet thing to say, Natalie! Thank you for making my night… <3
I only recently linked to your blog when Sarah Sherman Samuel was looking for laundry room inspiration and found yours. I LOVED your laundry room and had a large back hallway closet with an unfinished pine sliding barn door at my cottage. AND I owned 7 of the exact same wire and canvas baskets that you had – having just stumbled upon them on clearance at Walmart in Canada. This project remained unfinished post-reno last summer. I leapt into action, sent my husband off to the lumber yard and out to his workshop to whip up shelves for staining while I painted the back wall in a dark gray. I then researched aging wood and applied tea (for tannins) and a vinegar/steel wool concoction to get the most amazing barn wood look for the sliding door (not to mention the ridiculous cheap cost of this method). I took my galvanized sliding hardware down, ORB’ed it, reinstalled it all. Then I loaded up the closet. I can barely keep the door closed….I love how the inside of my closet looks so much I’d rather keep it open!
So that behind me, I went back to your blog, bookmarked it, and sat down to read your most recent post. AND you’d left home ! I have to say I was a bit disappointed. I felt like I’d missed the boat. But I absolutely LOVED reading about your travels. I have gone back to read some of your older posts, have since sent my husband back to the lumber store and his workshop to build ceiling beams based on your kitchen. So…..I will continue to read no matter where you take your blog. You are clearly a talented creative person on many fronts and I have found lots of inspiration and trust you will continue to share your talents and inspiration and experiences. I look forward to reading !
Thank you, Lisa! Glad you found inspiration in multiple ways 🙂