Top 10 photogenic Spots in Penang
Yes you see it right! In this article, I will be sharing with you guys the top 10 most photogenic spots in Penang. Some of which might blow your mind. (Just kidding). If you guys had followed me on instagram @yzhensiang, you guys might already notice the Volume 1 (Landscape Edition) of the series #photographingpenangwithyz a while back. The main purpose of this series is to share with you the locations which I personally think are the best to get you started with photographing landscapes in Penang together with some detail insights. If you guys had missed it, here is the article for you. All the locations in one place! Without further ado, let's get started!
Location #1: Air Itam Dam & Kek Lok Si viewpoint.
This location is better suit for sunrise as it’s facing east directions. One very important reminder is to bring mosquito repellant if you do not want to feed the mosquitoes and risk getting dengue. Although it is not advisable to go in large groups (you might risk yourself being chased away by guards), it is however advisable not to go alone as that place can be a little secluded and dangerous. A group of 2-3 person should be perfect! The recommended lens to be used here will definitely be a telephoto lens. As the zoom range will allow you to play with perspective and get some interesting shots. If you’re not a photographer, this place is also good for morning jog/hike. Pro tip, do go early if you are not hiking up so you’ll have parking space as it does get pretty crowded during the weekends. The main attraction of this view is of course the city backlight of the kek lok si temple and with proper lens you’ll be able to see the details of the structure as well. On top of that you’ll also get the view of the city itself in the background. I would say this could be one of the location that benefits the best out of a telephoto lens.
Location #2: Penang First Bridge viewpoint & middle East Coast.
Just like the first location, this location is also suitable for sunrise as it’s facing the east directions. But it also works for sunset, as the light from the sunset will make the structure glow (If that is what you are looking for). This location also gives you a very vast array of options along the coast. You’ll be able to get a diff view point along the way down. Also if you plan to start a healthy lifestyle, this will also be a good place for you to do your morning jog all the way up to Karpal Singh Drive. Do be extra careful if you reach when the sky is still dark, a few cases of robbery has been reported before. Lens recommendation will be a zoom lens. Anything from 24-200mm works very well. A telephoto lens if you’re planning to get close up of the bridge. Wide angle if you want to include some foreground texture such as the mud, boats, waves, human activity.. etc. Go early so you’ll have parking space as it’s pretty crowded during the weekends with all the hobbyist fisherman visiting the same location to board their boat. I would say this is the one and only epic place to view this giant structure up close, if the tide is low, you can even climb up to one of its pillars underneath (remember to keep an eye on the tide level if you wanna go home). This is overall considered an easy place to reach and shoot. Highly recommended for newbie and it is labelled as a must visit location. Bonus tips: you can also align the moon or the sun when it rise in the middle of the bridge using The Photographer Ephemeris (TPE) app to predict and pinpoint the approx location.
Location #3: Green Hall / Padang Kota Lama.
This location is suitable be it for sunrise, sunset, blue hour, nightscape. It’s a full package! As its main attraction is the high-rise skyline along the gurney drive. If you are looking for a cityscape view, this could very much be your first go to location due to its easy accessibility. On top of that you might also catch people fishing along the coast and also nice wave form at times. Plus point, the wind here is very good too! One thing to note, do take very serious attention on the tide level, they might rise very quickly and also the wave might be huge! Beware if you are going alone, especially during dawn hours, there will be a group of drunk people there. For this location, literally any lens will work in this location be it telephoto lens to get close up cityscape photo or wide angle to get some wave actions and rock formation. Parking space isn’t much of a concern during morning as there are plenty of them by the roadside, but during night, it is usually crowded as there’s a food court nearby. Bonus food tips, the rojak and mee sotong in the foodcourt is good! I would say this is one of the location in the list of epic locations which have an exclusive view of the skyline. You can totally photograph them without getting disturbed. It is very peaceful with very good breeze.
Location #4: Dove Jetty, Jelutong.
This location is superbly ideal from dawn to sunrise. Once reaching the Jelutong coast along the Tun Dr. Lim Chong Eu Highway, you’ll have 3 locations to choose from, mainly I label them as “The Kampung” (First one if you’re coming from town), “The Hut” (Second/Middle) and “The Broken Jetty” (Third). Sadly, the third one is now locked during the early hours of the day (only the entrance section before the gate is open), leaving you with less composition to play with. The main attraction of this location is of course some fisherman action and their unique broken and old handmade jetty. Accessibility is easy, as you can just park your car by the roadside and walk there, but it’s now harder as they’ve build road dividers and bus stops. Highly recommended if you park at the first location (Ikan Bakar stall) and walk to the rest. As it is near to the dumping ground, no doubt that there will be a slight pungent odour all around, but it’s bearable. The wind here is good too! Do beware that the jetties are old, so don’t stand on the jetties in group! As you do not want to risk falling into the contaminated sea water or blocking the entrance of the fisherman working. Also be very careful with your steps. (Check stability before stepping). Wide angle lens works charm. But telephoto will allow you to get closeup actions of those fisherman on their boat kind of shots with butterworth as background. Bonus tips: there will be a period of the year where the tide level is actually high enough to cover certain parts of the wooden bridge, it will give you some varieties in your collection. And oh! The first jetty usually have lots of cats, highly recommended for cat lovers. Warning: you may want to step on the mud for the middle jetty to get some shots from the bottom angle. Overall a highly recommended location for those who love wooden rustic jetty with characteristics!
Location #5: Kedah Road Flat.
If you are looking for the best vantage point for our mighty Komtar, look no further as this is the one and only place which offers you with such a majestic prime view. The variety that you can get out of this block is insane! From prime wide angle view to telephoto view of mainland to close up houses, to abstracts shot and even rustic feel with the old shop lots underneath. That’s not all! This location is also superbly good for both sunrise and sunset!! Accessibility is easy, just park your car on the dedicated roadside car park. But one thing to note, now the lift requires access card, so you could ask permission from the resident (do talk to them, they are really nice people) or to use the stairs directly to go to the upper floors. I would say somewhere about 15-18 floor offer the best balance view between being too high or too low. As this is a residential area, keep your volume low, and leave without leaving a footprint! Bear in mind to always respect others privacy! Wide angle lens is highly recommended to get the prime view, best if you could get at least 17mm (ff equivalent). It will allow you to salvage the best out of the scene. Be daring to experiment with a telephoto lens and you’ll be rewarded with something special and unique! Bonus tips: you might want to setup a tripod for your shots so you can blend shots from different time together! They’ll definitely look epic! And and! Timelapse is highly recommended! I mean after all it’s the best view of the town, at least in my humble opinion.
Location #6: Penang Hill.
One and only prime view overlooking the whole George Town, Penang! Unless you get a chopper 😂 Other than offering an exclusive prime view, you’ll also be able to experience different types of landscape phenomenon and environment changes up here! Other than that, it’s also good for you to breath in some fresh air after a long week but of course only before or after the sun, as it does gets pretty sunny during the day. It is highly recommended for you to visit during the early morning (6.30am train) to gain the advantage of chilly weather and also catching the sunrise. But don't worry as sunset works as fine. The light will be shinning on the building from behind the hill creating a different kind of beauty (glowy buildings). Accessibility is easy, just park your car on the dedicated roadside car park or their multilevel carpark or back gate car park. Ticket purchase is required for you to take the train up unless you plan to hike up then it’ll be free. If you’re hiking up, do take your time to slowly explore the surrounding areas as there are quite a lot of British houses along the way but of course do not trespass as there are some houses which locals stays there. I would recommend a 85mm lens to get the prime view of the town, anything beyond will be extreme. Wide angle will be approximately 24mm-35mm as anything wider than that your composition might look wonky. Bonus tips: Always observe the sky and your surroundings! Wonderful things happen and they change very quickly. Pro tip: Towards year end are usually the season for seaclouds, so prepare your coffee and ready your gears for it! However do expect to pay slightly extra for the tickets compared to a non peak season price.
Location #7: Second Penang Bridge.
This location offers you the exclusive view of Penang 2nd dragon, The Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah bridge. Along the coastline, you’ll be able to get different view and shapes of the bridge in your frame. I would recommend roughly about 200-300m to the left from the so the so called viewing deck to get the best curvy view with the pillars not being overlapped. However this is very subjective depending on what you want. Flying a drone might allow you to get the “S” curve shape of the bridge (It is considered to be near the airport, so do check with the proper channel if you can fly it). It is recommended that you visit during sunrise, but sunset works too as again the sunlights will be shinning on the bridge itself creating a golden glow dragon! Accessibility is easy, just park your car by the roadside or open space there. Do be careful if you’re there alone as there are quite a lot of suspicious people around during dawn. I would highly recommend a lens which is at least 300mm to get a close up view as wide angle pretty much doesn’t do justice portraying its grand-ness. Afraid not if you do not own a super telephoto lens. A lens with approx 85mm works as well, it’s just not that close up. Bonus tips: Make sure to get a selfie at the viewing deck with a telephoto lens so that the compression makes the bridge close and next to you. You can also wait for hobbyist fisherman to start fishing to give yourself a mix of shot choices. Last tips! During certain public holiday, such as the Hari Raya, the center columns will light up, which will provide you with a even better and exclusive shot!
Location #8: Sungai Burung & Balik Pulau paddy field.
Looking for something a little more “kampung” and “landscape”? This location will be a bonus for you. From wooden huts to clear rivers to muddy textures to wide spread paddy field and even crazy night sky! Yes I’m talking about the milkyway galaxy and fake aurora 😂 However I must say shooting milkyway from here will be hard now as the light pollution has increase over the years. But surreal night landscape? Yes please. It is recommended that you visit this location during sunset as it is facing towards the west. But sunrise is possible as well. Accessibility is easy, just park your car by the roadside and make sure not to block others pathway. Do be extra careful if you’re there alone as there have been quite a few cases of robbery on photographers. If you have no interest towards photography, it’ll be a good place for you to cycle around (bicycle rental available there) and experience countryside. Any focal length lens work here but I do recommend going for the extreme length (Either super wide or super telephoto). Bonus tips: Go during the odd hours at night, and you might find fisherman fishing in the dark under the clear night sky (you might want to apply lots of mosquito repellant). Also aim for the appropriate season before you go, certain season portrays different look such as having a mirror reflection water, green/brown paddy field or empty field with textures. It’s all your call! Before you ask, my personal favourite timing? Go when it’s storming.
Location #9: The clan jetty (Mainly Tan & Chew Jetty).
This location will give you the most authentic “Penang” feel. What can be more authentic than wooden huts and jetties built by the coast in the heart of George Town. I bet you guys already known it as a touristy spot but to be honest it is one of my favourite location during year 2014 due to its easily accessibility. Both sunrise and sunset works for this location. However both jetties are now lock early in the morning. (8am for Tan jetty and 9am for Chew jetty). Therefore visiting during sunset is your best bet in getting golden hour and burning sky shots. Sunrise is possible with Tan Jetty as you can still shoot through the gate or the public area beside the Thai Restaurant. Parking is easy, there are plenty of parking space (private and public) opposite. It is totally safe if you’re there alone to shoot but don’t take it literally as things might still happen. It is also a very good place to chill with sea breeze coming in when it is not low tide. It tends to smell a bit during low tide. Any focal length lens works. Just experiment with your composition and be daring enough! Additional tips: Try to aim for high tide! You’ll thank me later for not having to endure the smell and the nasty mud texture.
Location #10: The Top, Komtar.
Finally the grand finale of all 10 locations. It happens to also be one of the highest vantage point in town. Standing at the tallest open roof platform looking downwards give you a sensation of satisfaction looking at the city movements at its own pace. But of course beauty comes at its price. You’ll need to pay for the ticket to enter this location. Since it is a paid location (not cheap), you’ll want to maximize your experience there, highly recommended that you visit before sunset hours (latest by 6pm as you’ll need to queue for their lift to go up and you definitely do not want to be late) and stay until past blue hour (about 7.45pm). Accessibility is easy, as there are many dedicated parking lots and shopping malls nearby. A few things to take note, flying a drone is not allowed, tripods are allowed (so far I haven’t got into any trouble yet). I would highly recommend a wide angle lens of at least 16mm - ff equivalent (the wider the better) to get the “perfect” wide angle city view. Be daring to experiment with telephoto lens as you’ll be able to suck in lots of details from above. Bonus tips: Wait till the magic hour (mixture of golden sky and blue hour) to step into the rainbow bridge. Don’t hog the bridge for hours as you might get shoo-ed away and pissed lots of people. (Do note that you’ll also need to queue to enter the rainbow bridge). Lens skirt is recommended if you’re shooting from the open platform if you do not want to risk dropping your camera down when shooting over the 1.7m glass railing or getting unnecessary flares when shooting on a tripod. Lens hood is recommended if you do not have lens skirt.
Hope this article do somewhat help to give you an idea of where to begin. A point to note, you might not always get the best light or sky to photograph but that is the beauty of landscape photography. You keep going to the same location and discovering the possibilities of different lighting conditions and hopefully through practice, your shots keeps getting better and better.
Also, if you guys would like to check out a more finely curated series by me called Penang Landmarks, feel free to do so. This collection comprises of the best images of the landmarks in Penang that I have gotten throughout the years.