Luminous Vietnam Photo Tour Workshop
My Luminous Vietnam Journey was far and away the best photo tour I have ever been on. It was more than a photo tour; it was an investment in myself as a keen photographer, and gave me the opportunity to engage with ordinary Vietnamese people and some extraordinary professional photographers in David and Phuoc. — Lindsay Earle, Zimbabwe
Welcome to our Luminous Vietnam travel photography tour spectacular! Vietnam is definitely on the ‘can’t miss’ list for anyone with a camera interested in the many splendors of travel photography. One of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant cultures offers spectacular scenery, stunning historical sites w/ marvelously rich interiors, 54 colorful ethnic groups, and a friendly populace that rank it among the great photographic destinations of the world.
This photo tour workshop is led by National Geographic contributor and multi-major award winning photographer David Lazar, along with Vietnam’s premier all around shooter, the irrepressible Nguyen Vu Phuoc! Teamed with our logistics master Diep, David and Phuoc are constantly working to have you in the right location with the best light for any particular photo shoot.
There’s always a mix of free & street shooting, portraits & people, landscapes & landmarks, and providential surprises! There are also a number of arranged shoots in stunning settings, both with professional and impromptu local models. You’ll get the chance to photograph in places both on & off the beaten path, with unparalleled inside access and an extraordinary number of impact image making opportunities.
The itinerary is has been carefully selected and purposely scheduled to run in mid to late June, offering the best photographic conditions of north and central Vietnam within a two week period. The country has many micro-climates, and there is no “perfect” time. June is hot and there might be occasional and welcome tropical showers. They are brief and often provide dramatic light and color to the skies. Moreover, June provides the best visibility of the year for Ha Long Bay, and is also rice planting season. By the time we arrive many mountain rice terraces will be carpeted in ethereal green, while others will have farmers and their buffalo working them. (Please don’t go on an April or May Vietnam photo tour; you’ll be disappointed).
“We feel very privileged to have participated in “Luminous Vietnam”, and would highly recommend it to anyone who is a keen photographer, especially those wanting to take some distinctly different images to give an edge to their portfolio. Our photographers and the itinerary provided so many opportunities for fantastic and unique photos which would be impossible to get on our own. – Lyn Vernon, Australia
The atmosphere of the tour reflects the nature of its leaders – fun and relaxed, yet keenly focused when it counts most. For those new to the photo tour concept, it should be noted that instruction is informal, voluntary, and takes place largely in the field. Luminous Vietnam has been designed with every skill level in mind, novice to advanced. Novices will never feel left behind, and advanced shooters will never be held back. For those interested, Photoshop and Lightroom tips and tricks, as well as image review, normally take place at the hotel as time allows.
We would be remiss not to point out that David Lazar and Nguyen Vu Phuoc are more than just outstanding photographers. They are also outstanding gentleman who sincerely care that you become a better photographer. Rest assured that they honor the First Commandment of Photo Tour Leadership – Thou shalt not put thine own photography ahead of esteemed guests’! There is no “leader hogging” here, as is all too common on other tours. No sir.
The combination of David’s relaxed approach and attention to detail, along with the sheer zest and playful genius of Phuoc, makes for a very special Vietnam photo tour adventure indeed. Photography Life magazine just recently published an outstanding interview with Phuco, including images from Vietnam, available here.
Photo Tour Leaders
David Lazar is a renowned travel photographer & contributor to myriad publications, including National Geographic. Practical Photography has called David “…one of the world’s foremost travel photographers”, while Photo Review Australia said his “…travel photography is among the best we’ve ever seen.” See David’s Gallery.
Nguyen Vu Phuoc is regarded by many to be Vietnam’s top all around photographer. From documentary to photojouranlism & simply stunning travel work, the irrepressible Phuoc is a true joy and inspiration to travel & shoot with. The amount of inside access he avails all LJ participants is astonishing. For select images, click on Phuoc’s Gallery.
Seemingly endless Rice Terraces & colorful Tribal Peoples of the Northern Mountains
Professional Ao Dai Model Shoot at Hanoi’s ancient Temple of Literature
The Imperial City of Hue w/ Professional Model Shoot in ancient exotic settings
Fabled Ha Long Bay 4-star two day Photo Cruise, Floating Fishing Village & Caves
The absolutely stunning Salt Ponds and Workers of Khanh Hoa Province
Exotic & Bustling old Hanoi Street Markets
The warm & welcoming people of Vietnam
The wonderfully photogenic UNESCO World Heritage site of Old Hoi An
The ancient Dynasty of Champa – vanishing Cham Culture & vast Sand Dune Sunset
Vietnam Photo Tour Workshop
Day 1 – Welcome to Vietnam! – Old Quarter, Hanoi
While some of you will arrive a day early to get acclimated, those arriving today should try to do so by 1 pm, if possible. David Lazar will conduct an orientation & slideshow at 3 pm at the hotel. Afterwards you’ll continue with a more informal orientation at a local watering hole. As the sun drops, photograph the magnificent Wat Arun on the Chao Phraya River from a premium vantage point. A sumptuous Thai Welcome Dinner follows.
Day 2 – Ao Dai Elegance & Emerald Waters – Hanoi & Ha Long Bay
Gorgeous models clad in the quintessentially Vietnamese Ao Dai meet you at the Temple of Literature. With its manicured gardens and ancient architecture, it’s a perfect setting to photograph the grace and elegance of the ladies in their Ao Dai. Then to legendary Ha Long Bay sailing in picturesque luxury this afternoon amidst 3,000 karst limestone rock formations jutting from the emerald waters.
Day 3 – Sunrise Bay to Imperial Hue – Ha Long Bay – Hue
Awake in your 4-star stateroom for sunrise on Ha Long Bay if your wish, or sleep in for a bit. On the shooting schedule this morning are fishermen casting nets from small boats, an interesting island cave, and of course the amazing, ever changing bay-scapes. Enjoy lunch served on deck on the return to the wharf. Then back to Hanoi for the flight to Hue.
Day 4 – The Fishermen & the Emperor – Imperial Hue
At sunrise photograph fishermen casting their colorful nets, etc. After breakfast, photograph the making of colorful incense sticks, and then step into history at the gloriously exotic grounds of Emperor Tu Duc’s tomb. Free shoot as you wish, and/or stick with the team as they work the scene for images. Thien Mu Pagoda and monastery is next up, followed by afternoon & sunset at Tam Giang Lagoon and its surrounding villages.
Day 5 – Hue Away and a Bridge of Lanterns – Hue – Hoi An
Early morning finds us at the glorious grounds of the Imperial City w/ professional Ao Dai models. The approach here on this incredible “set” is as if you’re on assignment for a travel or fashion magazine. Once the shoot is over there will be time to explore and free shoot more of the ancient city. After lunch take the spectacular coastal drive to Hoi An for an afternoon in the old city around the ancient Japanese Bridge.
Day 6 – Fishing Village @ Dawn to Old Town – Hoi An
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of old Hoi An was once the busiest port on the South China Sea,ruled by the Champa Dynasty for 14 centuries. Today’s shooting begins at a local fishing village, where nets wriggling in silvery fish glinting in the morning sun are raised from stilt platforms. Catch the colorful morning market on return. Afternoon gallery & shoot w/ Rehahn in a small farming village.
Day 7 – High Skies and Low Roads – Hoi An – Khanh Hoa
Sunrise shoot and a short drive to Da Nang and flight to the seaside resort of Nha Trang for lunch. Scenic drive north from Nha Trang to Doc Let. Free time this afternoon to explore the beach or catch up on your images. Dinner and to bed early to rest up for one of the most exciting shoots of the trip tomorrow.
Day 8 – Salt of the Earth, Sea of Sand – Khanh Hoa & Phan Rang
The salt ponds of Khanh Hoa are perhaps the most photogenic anywhere on earth. The scene of workers, salt and reflective pools is like a tropical arctic, and at its best borders on the surreal. Afternoon will find you at another great scene to the south, the vast sand dunes of the now vanishing Cham people.
Day 9 – Blue Eyes, Blue Skies– Phan Rang – Hanoi
Spend the morning in Phan Rang on people and culture photography, highlighted by fishing net weaving in a nearby village and a visit with a wonderful Cham family whose daughters have rare blue eyes. Great opportunity here to learn more on how David works his portrait magic in different types of light. Later take an afternoon flight back to Hanoi for some street shooting in the old quarter, time permitting.
Day 10 – High Road to Mu Cang Chai – Hanoi – Mu Cang Chai
After a good night’s sleep & breakfast in our lux Old Hanoi hotel & spa, it’s time to hit the stunningly beautiful mountains of the north with their seemingly endless rice terraces and array of colorful tribal peoples still living in the traditional ways. They include Red Dzou, Nung, Tay, Flower Hmong, etc. This afternoon photograph one of the two most spectacular terrace valleys of legendary Mu Cang Chai, and their inhabitants.
Day 11 – Rice-Scapes & Tribes - Mu Cang Chai – Lu Village – Sapa
This morning – not too early because of the mountains – photograph the second awesome rice terrace locations with Black Hmong and/or Red Dzao to add interest and scale. The scenic mountain road to Sapa also offers some excellent landscape opportunities plus exclusive (no tourists) visits to Lu and Red Hmong tribes.
Day 12 – Mountain Heart – Sapa – Rice Terraces & Villages
Sapa is the heart of the northern mountains, and it’s easy to see why with such a stunning location. Even though its growth over the years is largely due to tourism, we still love the place as a gorgeous respite with great food and a lot of charm. Plus it’s surrounded by myriad rice terraces and tribal villages!
Day 13 – Photographers’ Choice - Sapa – Bac Ha
It will be Photographers’ Choice for the first shoot today – likely going to a village not on any tourist map to photograph the vanishing Red Dzao tribe. A fabulous Sapa lunch follows, then off to Bac Ha in the afternoon.
Day 14 – Market Marvel & Hanoi Descent– Bac Ha – Can Cau – Hanoi
Morning shoot at the Vietnam’s most colorful tribal market, followed by the scenic drive back to Hanoi. It will be tough to leave, but we must! Arrive back in Hanoi by mid-afternoon. Free time at our old quarter hotel until your Farewell Dinner to remember…
Day 15 – But I Don’t Want to Go Yet! – Hanoi – Parts Unknown
We understand completely, we really do. Just a few more days? Yes, you feel great, warm and aglow. But underneath that glow is a tired puppy. Home is calling, and hopefully, some well-deserved rest. There’s a brand new portfolio of great images just waiting to make their world debut! No hurries no worries. We’ll pick you up at the appointed hour, bring you to the airport and bid you a fond farewell. With time to spare.
*Please note the above itinerary is only a brief, subject to change in the daily shooting schedule. A 30+ page detailed schedule and information kit concerning traveling for photography in Vietnam will be sent to all participants approximately 100 days prior to tour start date.
**All photographs are always by Luminous Journeys photographers or participants.
What’s Included in the Price of Your Vietnam Photo Tour?
Photographer fees and top English speaking guide
In-country flights, airport & ground transport
All meals from Day 1 dinner though Day 15 breakfast
Plenty of bottled water & refresh towels throughout
All entrance, zone and camera fees
Local model & village donations
Drinks @ lunches & dinners (other than water)
Trip cancellation or medical insurance
Gratuities for hotel porters, drivers or local guide
Vietnam visa fee
End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leaders
More Knowledge – Better Pictures
Dressed for Elegance
The always lovely and elegant áo dài (long garment) is quintessentially Vietnamese, and came to prominence beginning in 1744 as the regal dress of choice styled by Nguyen Lords of Hue.
Basically the áo dài is a silk tunic worn over silk pants. It can be seen in many colors, but white is the original classic and symbol of purity. White is worn by high school girls as a school uniform, most commonly in the south and the central coast region around Hue and Da Nang. The conical hats shown in the photograph on the left at Emperor’s Lake in Hue, are called non la.
The modern, sexier version of the áo dài was redesigned in Saigon in the 1950’s to emphasize the female form, and considered somewhat provocative. “The áo dài covers everything but hides nothing,” said a designer of the time. The garment was very popular and commonly seen on Saigon streets in the 1960’s and 1970’s, but virtually disappeared after the northern communists took power upon the defeat of the Americans. Publicly the new government disapproved over reasons of indecency, but it was really more about the áo dài being such a popular symbol of the South.
The Lost Dynasty of Cham
Although unknown to most westerners, the once mighty Champa Kingdom was a dynasty that lasted more than 1500 years, longer than the Roman Empire! The Cham were a largely Hindu culture that controlled most of central Vietnam and parts of present day Cambodia. They even as far as sacking Angkor in 1177, and killing the king. From their capitol port city of what is now the World Heritage site of Hoi An, they dominated the South China Sea trade for more than a millennia. In addition to the sea trade, the Cham maintained a highly sophisticated culture with exceptional artistic expression, particularly in the realms of architecture, pottery, bronze, silver and gold. Cham gold works are considered among the most unique and superbly crafted anywhere on earth.
The reasons for the Champa Dynasty being “lost” to history are largely due to the plights and deeds of Vietnam itself. First by numerous wars over centuries that ended with Emperor Minh Mang’s annexation of the last remaining Cham territory in 1832. Suppression and persecution followed, and then colonization and wars by western powers.
The Nguyen Vu Phuoc photo shows a woman tending a grave in a uniquly Cham gravyard.