Friday, 13 July 2012

Vietnam - Part 1

View over Saigon, 1994

This post is based on panoramic images taken during our first visit to Vietnam in 1994.

Paul has had a fascination with Indochinese history for many years and was itching to visit Vietnam. We planned to travel in the south half of the country on this trip for 6 weeks. The first half was spent in Ho Chi Minh City (still called Saigon by the locals) and the Mekong Delta area and in the remaining weeks, we travelled from Ho Chi Minh City to Hue via Dal Lat. We made all the arrangements ourselves via FAX (yes, you could do all of this yourself without the internet, email and travel agents!!). We hired our own mini-van, guide & driver for a ridiculously low cost and headed into the Delta. This way we could stop wherever & whenever we liked without inconveniencing others. We visited Mytho, Cantho, Rach Gia, Ha Tien, Chau Doc, & Vinh Long before arriving back in Ho Chi Minh City several weeks later.

Rubber Plantation on the way to Da Lat
Hoi An

Dambri Waterfall near Da Lat
Anybody that has visited Vietnam will testify that it is an amazing country to visit. The people, food and the landscapes are incredible from a photographers perspective. We spent another 6 weeks in Vietnam exactly 1 year later and really noticed the changes as a result of the trade embargo being lifted in 1994. On the 1995 trip, we visited the Central Highlands and the north of Vietnam and still did not manage to see everything that this country has to offer.

Our Tips

1.Polarizing Filter - Make sure you take a Polarizing filter for all your lenses, except for your ultra-wide lenses which probably can't accommodate this filter without vignetting.
2.Tripod - To take great landscape shots you need a tripod especially if you are shooting with large format cameras as you will be getting slow shutter speeds even in bright light (the 2 stop ND centre spot filter used on the G617 camera doesn't help either).
3.ND (Neutral Density) Filter - To get a shot similar to the waterfall shot to the right you will need a fairly slow shutter speed so consider taking an ND filter to reduce the light.
4.Batteries & Memory Cards - Make sure you take a spare battery and sufficient memory cards especially if you are shooting in RAW. Also, consider taking an external hard drive to back up your images.
5.Camera Bag - Saigon & Hanoi were pretty hectic cities when we visited, and would be far more these days so we would suggest you consider using a 'sling' camera bag or similar as opposed to a 'backpack' style bag as you will be constantly changing lenses. These style of bags allow you to quickly access your equipment without removing them from your back. In addition, for security reasons, it is better to have a bag over your head & shoulder at all times.

6.Security - Consider removing your watch or any loose jewellery while walking around any of the main cities especially Saigon (Paul lost his watch on the first trip, but that's another story). Be especially careful when you are concentrating on taking photos and your attention is elsewhere.
7.Golden Hour - The 'Golden Hour' is the ideal time to shoot landscapes no matter where you are. The term is used loosely as it usually lasts longer than an hour. Try to shoot in the first couple of hours of the morning and the late afternoon for best results. In addition, you are likely to encounter far fewer tourists when shooting during this time of the day.
8.Lenses - We both shoot very differently with Mirrorless cameras. We both shoot with zoom lenses that cover 12mm (fisheye) to 200mm focal ranges. We also carry an APS-C (crop sensor) camera that extends our 200mm focal length to 300mm. Everyone has their favourite combination of lenses but this range will cover most of your shooting needs. Also, try getting into a habit of cleaning your lenses on a regular basis. The best way to minimize dust on your sensor when changing lenses is to always face the camera down when changing. Practise doing this quickly before you leave and it will save you heaps of time removing dust spots in post-processing.
9.Taking photos of locals - Most locals are more than happy to have their photos taken but it is always courteous to ask first. We will feature a post in the future highlighting people shots in Vietnam, so stay tuned.
10.Silica Gel - The weather can be extremely hot & humid in Vietnam, especially in the south. Make sure you take a few bags of silica gel to keep in your camera bag to absorb any moisture. Also, it is quite usual for hotel rooms to have the air conditioner pumped up resulting in your camera viewfinder & filter to fog up when you venture out into the heat. Allow your camera to adjust to the change in temperature for a few minutes before shooting. We usually only use the ceiling fans.

Paddy Fields enroute to Hue
Sunset over the Perfume River, Hue

Sunrise, Nha Trang

All the images above were captured on the Fuji G617 Professional camera using mostly
Fuji Velvia 50 transparency film (4 shots per roll). This camera produces 6cm x 17cm transparencies and allows enlargements up to billboard size, making them ideal for domestic & commercial display prints. The largest we have printed one of these images was 25m x 5m for an international trade show in Berlin.

Click here to read Part 2 covering the 6 weeks we spent in 1995 visiting the Central Highlands, Hanoi, Halong Bay, Ninh Binh, & Dien Bien Phu. Here are some links to Vietnam tourism sites that you may find helpful -

For more panoramic images of Vietnam visit our
Vietnam Gallery

If you have any questions about our techniques in shooting great landscapes in any format please leave us a comment below and we will get back to you. 

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