Our Tours: The Right Angle
Any great experience you have in life is fuelled by passion. And that is how I feel about photography and travel. Why did I start my own photography tours? Because of the lack of quality in these type of tours in Southeast Asia. Often photo tours are structured heavily by the itinerary that local travel guides provide, leading you through tourist haunts and commercialized areas. These are tours designed by people with dollar signs in their eyes, not by photographers with a zeal for experience and an eye for the sincere and subtle details of their surrounds. For me, experience is key. When I take people on tour, we not only travel and discover new things together but I engage them in their craft. All of those on my tours become fully immersed in the landscape of their lens. Workshopping is continual and intimate with lots of one-on-one time (I don’t do groups above 6 people). All of these elements help make my tours among the best in the world. Because it all comes down to passion. When I wake up in the morning, I know this is exactly what I want to be doing and that makes all the difference between an average and a great tour.
Locations: Off The Tourist Trail
Whether it is Vietnam, Laos or Myanmar, I partner with locals who specialize in specific regions and who share a passion for photography. We devise an itinerary together based on the best photographic opportunities –be they seasonal or cultural. And we avoid the common tourist trails as much as possible! Our dates are also flexible, depending on what is happening at the locations as we visit them. Our locations are not dictated by a schedule; rather our schedule is dictated by the locations!
Group size: Small is smart!
I limit the group size to a maximum of 6 people for tours I run myself and to 8 people for the tours I run along with another photographer, because experience has taught me that more is less. I once ran a tour with 12 people and felt there was not enough time to spend with everyone; it was impossible to give them the individual experience that I wanted to. Everyone has unique and different skills and therefore requires special one-on-one attention. While we have group tuition and coaching, when you are traveling things happen fast and you need to be in the moment – having a small group enables me to be more available to each member whilst on location. I wonder how photographers who run tours above 12 people handle busy situations – I doubt their clients get as much as they should out of the tour.
Photography Workshops: Actively improving
For every tour that I run, I select relevant topic areas to workshop through and also design specific workshops for people while on tour (once I have seen them in action). All tours include at least two photo critiquing sessions as well as workshops. This not only gives each person invaluable insight into their work but also enhances the group bonding experience. These sessions, combined with focused workshops result in better photographs! And that is what you’re ultimately taking the tour for –to improve as a photographer.
Portraits: People are our focus
If you’ve looked through my portfolio, you’ll notice an overwhelming number of people photos in the Southeast Asian region. While I love taking landscapes, people are my passion. Portrait shots engage viewers because they are emotive. And while we travel through stunning locations and have ample time to take landscape shots, my tours are also designed to maximize the time we spend with people in remote locations. Up close and personal, without overstepping the boundaries.
May it be the local markets or small village countryside, we meet and interact with a lot of people, which gives us plenty of opportunities for portraits. However, my tours are always respectful – you will learn the best way to approach individuals when taking photos so that it is respectful of their values and traditions.
Over the years I have run the Hoi An Photo Tours, I have met many people who are reluctant to approach individuals for a portrait photograph. As a result, they were never able to capture any decent portrait shots as they always stayed far from the person. During the tours I would help people with this, helping them understand how to get close to people with the right attitude, without being rude or remiss about the culture. This is so necessary – photographing people brings a whole new depth to the art form!
Skills: Giving it your best shot
Developing your photo skills is an absolute must on my tours. During the tour days we will work on all your camera settings, finding the optimal settings for different situations and learning how to master these quickly. But most of the tour is aimed at developing composition and storytelling skills. We focus on different topics and apply them to daily situations. So you are guaranteed to go home a better photographer than before – plus you will have had an amazing travel experience!
Experience: The bigger picture
As I said in the introduction, my tours are motivated by a personal passion for photography, travel and teaching. I look at the bigger picture of my life – what makes me happy; what keeps me driven. This is why my tour prices are reasonable in comparison to others and why each schedule is vastly different from any other tour you will find in the region. I also believe in giving people as much personal attention as possible, meaning my group sizes are the smallest around. When you think of the experience you want to have, think of the bigger picture. What do you want to achieve from a photo tour? If you want to come back a better photographer with a life experience unlike any other you’ve had, then one of my tours if for you.
If you are in Hoi An, come check out my photo gallery on 42 Phan Boi Chau street, or on its website.
‘My passion for travel and photography made Pics of Asia happen’