I have a personal rule I follow when I travel, especially when I’m in Asia: I get an early start. Sure, I have my moments when I need to sleep in, but it’s just after sunrise when things are at their best. So this morning I woke up just before sunrise, ate breakfast, and set out on the streets of Bangkok with camera in-hand. As I strolled around a local market, I knew that getting up early paid off. The produce was being delivered, shops were getting set up, and there were little to no other tourists to be seen.

I got some of the usual market shots: stacks of produce, piles of chili peppers, and a few wide scenes of the market for reference. This is my second trip to Thailand and my fourth trip to Southeast Asia, so while there is no culture shock, I find that the first outing is usually a “warmup” for the rest of my trip. I didn’t expect to come back with any spectacular photos, mostly just good photos I could use in my training and tutorials.

Then, while walking back to my hotel, I decided to take as many side alleys as possible. I do this a lot, as I find that the empty, less-trafficked roads usually have the most interesting photographic finds. I walked past a man washing his motorbike, and my first thought was “wow, look at those tattoos!”. His ENTIRE back was covered, it was beautiful. I smiled, and kept walking.

Then, about 5 seconds after I started to walk away, I stopped. I had seen something beautiful and needed to photograph it. So, I went back and asked him if I could take his photo. It took a little bit of back and forth (he knew no English and I know no Thai), so I used my iPhone to translate my request. He happily obliged, and even was nice enough to pose twice so I could photograph him with my instant camera first, wait for it to develop, and then re-photograph him with the Fuji X-T1.

After I had finished, I thanked him and handed him the print. I was happy I listened my gut and turned around, but it felt even better to give him the photograph.

If you would like to see more photos from my trip to Thailand, including my #nicolesygram series, please follow me on Instagram.