Banaue, Philippines

Epic Photo Location: The Banaue Rice Terraces

Of all the places in the Philippines, I think it was Banaue that I was most looking forward to. The images of the landscapes and rice terraces are all over the social media and marketing for The Philippines. I couldn’t wait to get my lens on them, and head out and explore them as well.

But, as the jeepney I caught from Sagada rolled towards town it poured rain. At times, I’m sure the driver couldn’t see more than 10 meters in front of him because of the fog. But, somehow the ride was still a lot of fun. I should have known it would be a bit of foreshadowing for my next couple days in Banaue. The forecast was showers, with a chance of occasional brilliance.

Banaue, Philippines

Photographing the Villages around Banaue

With heavy fog in the air my first morning in Banaue, I slept in a little bit. Later in the morning, I headed out to do a village trek in the area.

I started with a visit to a village called Tam-an. Just outside of Banaue, this little village is perched on a hill’s edge with incredible views of the valley. I stopped there, pulled out the drone, and took a flight to get an overview of the area. It was fun, not only because the views were beautiful, but because the drone served as such a nice ice-breaker into conversations with the locals. They all came out to chat.

Then, I pushed on towards the village of Poitan. However, I managed to get totally lost on the way there and found myself wandering aimlessly through some rice terraces. By the time I found the trail down to Poitan, I was covered in mud all the way to my waist.

Again, the hike down to Poitan was stunning. It cut across some rice terraces, but also carved along the cliff-side lending to some beautiful views of the area.

By the afternoon, the rain rolled back in and cut into my dreams of shooting photos from the classic view of the rice terraces.

No Batad, Bad Brendan!

I had plans of catching a ride out to an area called Batad. The terraces out that way are meant to be the most beautiful in all The Philippines. However, it poured rain the whole day. And, if I’m being honest with you, I probably should have just fought through it anyways. Of course, the weather could have been better that way – although, to be fair to myself, it probably wasn’t.

I hiked up to the viewpoint for sunrise, but struck out. Then, in the afternoon, I hiked up again – again, I struck out. Fog and rain made it impossible to shoot the rice terraces of Banaue. Of course, since the day was so “blah” I didn’t vlog it.

One Last Attempt at the Rice Terraces

I got up for one last sunrise in Banaue before needing to leave back for Manila. It really was my last possible attempt at photographing the classic view of the rice terraces. It was now my 4th time up at the viewpoint, although this time I was smart enough to hire a tricycle for 150 pesos ($3) to get there.

The tricycle driver promised I would get great views and that the fog would lift for me at about 7am. And, magically, it did.

Banaue, Philippines
First view of the rice terraces through the fog.

At about 730am, the fog lifted through the valley and I was able to get some decent images, and even a drone flight, of the rice terraces. It kind of made all the struggle worth it. I’d almost say I got lucky. However, lucky would have been catching amazing light on the first day, and having the freedom to then explore other regions the rest of my time in the Banaue area. This was 100% persistence and patience.

Of course, about 15 minutes after I got all my shooting done, the rains came back in. It was kind of funny/sad at breakfast at the hotel. All the other tourists were complaining that they couldn’t see the terraces, and they wouldn’t get any photos. But, just an hour earlier, it had been marvelous.

At 5pm that afternoon, I was back on another bus headed for Manila.

Photos from Banaue Rice Terraces

Here are some of the photos from the shoot up at the Banaue Rice Terraces on the day I finally got some light and some holes in the fog. What an absolute epic photo location.

Banaue, Philippines
Insane views.
Banaue, Philippines
A little bit of nice light punching through over the rice terraces.
Banaue, Philippines
The valley leading into Banaue.
Banaue, Philippines
Waterfalls and Rice Terraces, what else does one need?
Banaue, Philippines
This is the location they shot that epic wakeboarding scene on the rice terraces in Banaue.

What’s Next?

I’ve still got 3 weeks or so in The Philippines. My next trip is to Bohol Island. There, I’ll hopefully be photographing the Chocolate Hills, Tarsiers (one of the smallest primates in the world), and a couple seascapes.