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... Lindsay Earle, Zimbabwe

Welcome to our Vietnam photo 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.

The Luminous Vietnam photo tour workshop is led by National Geographic contributor and multi-major award winning photographer David Lazar. Teamed with our brilliant logistics master Diep Van, they are constantly working to have you in the right location with the best light for any particular photo shoot.


“I was overwhelmed with the beauty and uniqueness of the locations chosen and delighted with the images I was fortunate enough to capture. None of this would have been possible without Luminous Journeys and the entire team that made Vietnam a truly remarkable and unforgettable experience. You really are “World Class” when it comes to photo tour adventures." - Frank Romano, Australia


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 for this Vietnam photo tour workshop has been carefully selected and purposely scheduled to run in mid to late June. This offers the best photographic conditions in northern and central Vietnam within any 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 usually brief and often provide dramatic light and color to the skies. Moreover, June provides the best visibility of the year for Ha Long Bay. Just as importantly, it's 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 in the northern mountains, because the rice terraces will not be planted yet, nor be photogenic).


The atmosphere of the tour reflects the nature of David Lazar – fun and relaxed, yet keenly aware and focused when it counts most. For those new to the photo tour workshop 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 is more than just an outstanding photographer. He is also an outstanding gentleman & teacher who cares that you become a better photographer during your time with him. Rest assured that he honors our Prime Directive, always putting you and your photography first and foremost. There is no “leader hogging” here, which is an all too common complaint we hear about other photo tours.


The combination of David’s good natured leadership, Diep's remarkably seamless logistics, & the playful locals you will meet along the way, makes for a very special Vietnam photo tour workshop indeed.

Tour Type – Small group Vietnam photo tour workshop, 5 person minimum, 10 person maximum.* See T&C

Physical Difficulty – Light to Moderate. There are no long treks, and we provide unlimited bottled water

Transportation – 3 internal flights, air conditioned vans and mini-buses w/ plenty of space, 4-star luxury cruise boat

Photo Tour Leader

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.

Highlights - Luminous Vietnam Photo Tour 

Seemingly endless Rice Terraces & colorful Tribal Peoples of the Northern Mountains

Professional Ao Dai Model Shoots at Hanoi’s Temple of Literature/Imperial City of Hue

The Rolling Tea Plantations of Loc Coc and its Tribal Workers

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 & Temples

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

Itinerary Brief

Vietnam Photo Tour Workshop

Day 1Welcome to Vietnam! Old Quarter, Hanoi
Our driver will pick you up a Noi Bai airport, drive you 40 km into Hanoi and help with hotel check-in at La Siesta.  Free time before meeting at 3:00 pm for orientation & slideshow. Around 4:00 pm head out for a street shoot in the old quarter. After sunset we’ll position for high angle street scenes using tripods for twilight, motion blur action. A sumptuous Vietnamese 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.

Purple sunsrise fishermen on Ha Long Bay, VietnamDay 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.

Purple sunsrise fishermen on Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Day 4 – The Fishermen & the EmperorImperial 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 sunset and blue hour at the 'Bridge of Lanterns'. 

Ancient architecture in Hue, as seen on Vietnam photo tour worskhopDay 5 – Hue Away and Historical Hoi An 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.

Old Vietnam couple married 70 years near Hoi An
Day 6 – Fishing Village @ Dawn to Old TownHoi 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 to test your street photography skills.

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.

Salt pond workers in Khanh Hoa, taken on Vietnam photo tour
Day 8 – Salt of the Earth, Sea of SandKhanh 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 nearing Phan Rang will find you at another great scene, with a sea of blue and green fishing nets being mended.

Day 9 – Orange Dunes & Blue Skies – Phan Rang – Hanoi
Sunrise over the vast sand dunes with working Cham people makes for some stunning scenes and often fun photography.  You'll also have an opportunity to learn more on how David works his portrait magic in different types of light, in this case direct morning sun. From the dunes it's back to the airport for the flight to Hanoi, where there may or may not be time for some more street shooting in the vibrant old quarter.

Day 10  – Incense Village & Hills of Endless Tea Hanoi – Long Coc
After a good night’s sleep & breakfast in our lux Old Hanoi hotel & spa, we'll visit a colorful incense making village outside the city. Return to Hanoi for lunch before hitting the road to the stunningly beautiful tea plantations of Long Coc. Photograph the almost surreal landscapes, with local workers to add interest and scale, and without. We overnight in a charming Muong village Homestay where the home cooking is both authentic and fantastic!

Day 11 – Tea Hills & High Road to Mu Cang Chai - Long Coc - Mu Cang Chai
Sunrise on the round hills of tea can be spectacular indeed, especially with just the right amount of mist. Then it's off for the legendary rice terraces of Mu Cang Chai and its array of colorful tribal peoples still living in the traditional ways. They include Red Dzou, Nung, Tay, and Flower Hmong. This afternoon photograph one of the two most spectacular rice terrace valleys, followed by dinner at our wonderful eco-hotel with awesome terrace views.

Traditionally dressed Lo Lo ladies and girls in VietnamDay 12 - Rice–Scapes & Tribal Villages - Mu Cang Chai - Sapa
This morning – not too early because of the mountains – photograph the second awesome rice terrace location without and with Black Hmong people to add interest and scale. The remarkably scenic mountain road to Sapa also offers some outstanding landscape opportunities. But that's not all! In addition, we'll have exclusive (unknown to tourists) photographic visits with Lu and Red Hmong tribes along the way.

Traditionally dressed Lo Lo ladies and girls in Vietnam
Day 13 –  Photographers’ Choice - Sapa 
After a good night's sleep and breakfast at our gorgeous Sapa hotel, it's off to visit one or more of Vietnam's vanishing ethnic minorities, including the Red Dzao. You will not find this  on any tourist map! Fantastic rice terraces abound, so those will factor in to your frames at times.  Later in the day it will be time to check out one of the Sapa areas indigenous markets.

Colorful laquer bowls taken on Vietnam photo tour in Bac Ha
Day 14 – Market Marvel & Hanoi Descent– Sapa – Hanoi
Morning shoots with a variety of ethnic tribes, often  adorned in festive clothing. This morning can also be free time to shop or do as you please. Then, alas, is the long but very 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…

Beautiful girl in ao dai outside at Temple of Literature in Hanoi, on Vietnam photo tour

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, and is subject to changes in the order of days/events. For example, Ha Long Bay might be visited at the end of the tour, rather than the beginning.  A 30+ page detailed itinerary 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 by Luminous Journeys photographers or participants.

What’s Included in the Price of Your Vietnam Photo Tour?


 Photographer fees and top English speaking guide

 All accommodation

 In-country flights, airport & ground transport

 All meals from Day 1 dinner though Day 15                              breakfast. Lunches & Dinners include water, tea, or              soft drink

 Plenty of bottled water & refresh towels throughout

 All entrance, zone and camera fees

 Local model & village donations


 International airfare

  Extra dinks or alcohol @ lunches & dinners 

 Personal purchases

 Trip cancellation or medical insurance

 Medical expenses

 Gratuities for hotel porters, drivers or local guide

 Vietnam visa fee

 End of trip gratuities for photographer tour leaders

Getting Cultural

More Knowledge – Better Pictures

4. David Lazar - Vietnam 2016

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 went 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.

Today in Vietnam most Cham are Muslim, and are not averse to letting loose on a hot day, as David Lazar captured on the right.