This was a photography tour I had been waiting for a long time, a special “advanced photographers only” photography workshop around my adoptive city of Hoi An, Vietnam. For the occasion I had Drew Hopper co-leading the tour with me. The idea is to run workshops focusing on merging Travel and Street photography to create more compelling images. May is one of the best months in terms of weather and human activity in central Vietnam, so I knew it would be a very special tour.
Because it was an “advanced photographers only” thing, most of the participants were returning students that I had previously met on other tours. Four of them were actually attending this 3-day workshop for the second, third and even fourth time! Others had joined our photography tours in other countries. What it meant was that I knew most participants’ levels in photography, plus I knew they were chilled out. Like, very chilled out. Running a photography workshop with easy going people usually helps the workshop itself, allowing me more time to teach and not solving people’s requests.
After a hilarious welcome dinner (blame the participants!) we started day one very early, as we needed to reach a more remote fishing village in the South of Hoi An. A very special photography workshop means very special locations. Of course, we were blessed with the perfect weather through the whole tour, offering us the most stunning sunrises of the year. It is also one of the hottest time of the year, which is fine as there is no way we take photos in the middle of the day.
The place was extremely busy with fishing activity, and the first couple of hours on that beach were really wild. A great way to bring the new participants up to date with the craziness of our locations and the pace of the workshop!
In order to alternate with open space, we walked through the village and went to visit some people I had met in the last months. People in this area are very keen to invite us into their homes as they never meet foreigners. It is still a very untouched place that I am keeping for these types of workshops.
Back to Hoi An town, and after a well-deserved coffee break (only our second coffee for the day!) we focused the workshop on the street side, applying techniques allowing us to shoot in harsh light. Of course, we didn’t last long walking the streets at 11 am with the summer heat and went for an early lunch, allowing us a good break before starting again at 3 pm.
For that afternoon I wasn’t going to allow us to visit a location too close to Hoi An so we headed South again, as I knew the area would be very busy with the rice harvests. We spent the afternoon in a tiny village surrounded by fields, meeting locals working in the fields. Everyone was so keen to get to know the “crazy” foreigners walking in their muddy fields that it made the interactions very easy. Around sunset time we moved towards the riverside, hoping to capture sunset reflections. Of course, after finding a huge herd of ducks I lost most of the group. Apparently, ducks have the same effect as puppies and it creates a vacuum sucking all my students into an abyss of animal love.
After a little bit of night photography in Hoi An and an awesome “manual” dinner (rolling our own food is so much more fun!), we headed back to our hotel. At least some did. Others were thirsty, still.
Day two, blessed once again with an incredible sunrise. Fishing nets and a busy market was at our program, which once again didn’t disappoint anyone.
This market is one of my favourite around Hoi An and allows us to really work on the light and how to capture a brief moment. Coupling these photography techniques with the street inspiration that Drew brought to the group ensured very interesting results from everyone. Back to Hoi An and after a well-deserved break, we met for lunch before departing for the lagoons in the North.
To my favourite part of the tour now: the lagoons located between Danang and Hue offer such incredible photo opportunities if you know where to go and if you get there at the right time of the day. And that meant another early start on Sunday! This is one of the toughest early starts I do on any tours as we are blessed with having an amazing local restaurant not far from our hotel, where food is spicy (Hue style) and beer is cheap. Very cheap!
Anywho, I think this picture from that last morning will talk for itself. My plan is to buy a piece of land over there and wake up with that view every day for the rest of my life!
Sunday afternoon was our final photo review and as you can imagine, the photos displayed were just amazing. It had been a very creative and fun weekend and there are no others ways I want to run my photography tours. Thank you so much to the group, you have been wicked all the way!
Looks like a great tour! I am sure that Drew brought a unique element to this trip and that the participants learned a great deal. Thanks for sharing the experience Etienne!
Thanks for your comment, and I am very much looking forward our June tour together!!! 🙂
Now I’m really excited about our tour coming up !
Such fantastic images and so much fun to be had. No wonder I keep coming back !
The 5-day tour you and Cathy will join in June is taking us to even more remote locations! 🙂
Confession from a Nikon user :
Dear Etienne, initially, I did not expect too much to learn from this Photo Tour. I bought a full frame sensor camera with 4 Nikkor lenses and I believed my gears cover more than enough for the trip. The first evening we met and I found at least 4 of the tour members used Fujifilm cameras, What? I got a big question in my mind.
When we were taking pictures, I found other people are trying to take pictures from various angles using the titled LCD screen. Then I began to know my limitations. A full frame camera is too heavy, even the Nikon D750 does has tilted LCDs but the contrast focusing was too slow… My gears became my limitations, it was not a camera to camera comparison, not the sensor difference or lenses but what made the gears the best use for the photo taking situations. I took pictures since 1983 and I used various brands of cameras including 6×6 large frame camera. The last 10 years was a matter of changing from Canon to Nikon…, the addiction to the way for the best feature of the Nikon gears became my picture taking habits – which limited the ways I take pictures with creativity and visions.
I am going to re-visit the basis of photographic techniques – composition, colors, layers and interaction of objects. Gears are the assistant, knowing them well is good. It’s not a matter of how to make the best use of the gears but I need to develop a good photographic sense of what do I see, then how I capture the moment with the gears. I know how I should put the First things First, thank you.
Thanks a lot for the feedback Vincent, I am glad we could help you on your photographic journey. Gear is often overrated and the creativity that comes from using more simple gear and sticking to it is worth much more than getting new gear that we never learn to use.
[…] that people were only growing clams there since from my experience running photography tours in the lagoons of central Vietnam I knew that oyster shells can be very […]