Discovering Vietnam – Words & Images


Vietnam has long been one of my most enjoyable places to travel and photograph. Most especially when you get outside the motorbike mayhem of the major cities, although they can be fun too. As director of photo tours for Luminous Journeys I am both lucky and a bit biased, as we do run photo tour workshops in Vietnam – public and private – several times per year. Our main publicly offered trip runs in the last two weeks in June, when none of the competition does. So far this has been our little “secret”, and we hope it stays that way. It just might, as recently we were contacted by another photo tour operator about partnering. They suggested to us that June is not a good time in Vietnam, and offered a more “suitable” month. Good grief. The suggestion of course was that we don’t really know what we are doing. After 5 very successful years of running Luminous Vietnam in June we beg to differ! We do June for several well thought out reasons. The most relevant to those of you considering attending, are summed up succinctly on our Vietnam tour page, paragraph 4. Please don’t go on a Vietnam trip offered in April/May, especially if it touts rice terraces. There are terraces, but there is no rice growing, or even being planted. Not yet…

Getting back on track… Here’s a quick rundown of just some of Vietnam’s most photogenic and accessible places:

1. The seemingly endless and continuous wow factor of the northwest mountain rice terraces

2. The 54 colorful tribal groups, many of them considered “vanishing”, who still wear traditional clothing and live lifestyles much as they have for centuries. Emphasis on “much”, as often there are signs of modernity, which is part of the vanishing process. Vanishing might be better termed as the ‘assimilation’ of the mobile phone generation

3. The French colonial Indochine streets and Chinese temple gardens of Hanoi’s old quarter, beautiful lakes and rustic bridges, colorful street markets, and one of our photographic highlights on tour, the Temple of Literature

4. The legendary karst limestone formations of Ha Long and Bai Tu Long Bays, plus Cat Ba Island, where the visibility in June is the best of the year!

5. The Imperial City of Hue and charming Hoi An

6. The magical salt ponds and workers of Khanh Hoa, which at its best looks like a ‘tropical Arctic’

7. The maze of Mekong waterways and Khmer influences near the southwest border

8. Fishermen and their variety of nets and styles of fishing

9. Colorful fishing net weavers

10. And a heck of a lot more! Vietnam is definitely one of those places a smart travel photographer will want to visit multiple times

That said… Travel in Vietnam can be on the challenging side for the first timer on their own. English is not widely spoken, and in the big cities the ancient Vietnamese talent for hustling foreigners can bring bouts of shouts of frustration. Always best to be well prepared. Travel with LJ or one of our fixers, and these frustrations disappear. With a good lead blocker clearing the way, the warm and welcoming nature of most Vietnamese soon becomes apparent. As travel photographers engaging with the people is a natural part of what we do, and certainly one of the great joys of discovering this amazingly diverse (people & landscapes) country.

Enough of my prattle for now, and let’s see some photographs from our fearless Vietnam photo tour leaders!

Lo Lo tribe, Vietnam
Mothers & Daughters – The Lo Lo are a vanishing tribe living in the mountains of the northwest
Hoang Su Phi rice terraces – Nguyen Vu Phuoc. Shot by Phantom 4 drone.
FC330 + 3.6mm @ 3.61mm, ISO 100, 1/150, f/2.8
Flower Hmong family at one of several Mu Cang Chai rice terrace locations

Ethnic Cham women at play, near Phanrang.
Khmer Monk – Southwest Vietnam
Patterns – Hanoi
Old woman hands in remote Vietnam
Hands of Time – Y Te
Talk about a “popcorn” ceiling!” –Rehahn
Classic Hoi An by Rehahn

Our Luminous Vietnam 2021 photo tour spectacular runs June 13 – 27. Be there! And discover yourself as a better photographer…

Bennett Stevens Written by:

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