July 10, 2020.
The Buffalo races in Chon Buri had been on my bucket list for quite some time. The idea of young men racing Water Buffalo sounded like it would make some interesting images. I was not disappointed. We drove from my home in central Thailand to Chon Buri, and spent the night in a hotel not far from where the festivities would begin. We rose early the day of the races and found the location where a parade would start from a staging area to the stadium not far away. As we arrived race teams were preparing their buffalos for the parade. I immediately could sense that the buffalo were regarded as more than just working animals, their was obviously a bond between man and beast.
I wandered around the staging area making photos with my Leica, and a man came up to me and asked me to make a photo of his friend and his buffalo. I happily agreed and was taken to a man who obviously cared a great deal about his buffalo (image below). It turned out to be my favorite image of the day. It’s also a good travel photography tip. Sometimes the locals will lead you to a wonderful image. All you need to do is be receptive and and follow their lead.
The photo above is children in costume representing the Maniq or Mani people. They are the only Negrito group in Thailand. Another example of this is represented below with a buffalo and Mani figure.
The parade from the staging area to the stadium was a short one, and not a difficult walk. I considered this a good thing, as it was going to be a long hot day, and conserving energy is a good thing. The races take place in October, which is still quite hot in Thailand, so I strongly recommend you take enough water to stay hydrated. This day was actually the only time I have become dehydrated enough to become ill during my nine years in Thailand. It is not a pleasant experience. The stadium is also open without much cover, so it will be hot.
For photography, I recommend a long lens. I was using the equivalent of a 600mm lens for the action shots. Depending on the time of day and light, you will also be pushing the ISO up pretty high with a fast shutter speed to freeze the action. The rest is just timing and luck. I have seen some wonderful images made after a rain where the racers are splashing through the mud. That was not to be today. However, I was pleased with the images I made and would highly recommend the event.
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