Audley Vietnam specialist Mark describes both the story and the technical details behind six photographs he took on a recent visit to the country.
Corn wine for breakfast
During an early morning cycling excursion around the paddy fields of Mai Chau, I stopped at a local wine factory. The owner offered me some corn wine (it’s very strong, particularly at 9am) and let me take her photograph. I picked this spot because I liked the angle of the stool, the scattered corn husks and the fact you can see the owner’s house in the background. I used a fixed 50mm lens and a wide aperture at f1.8, to draw the viewer’s eyes to the lady’s face and soften the surroundings.
I love this photo because it’s so quintessentially ‘Vietnam’: there’s a man with a conical hat in the foreground, and then the greens of the lush paddy fields in the middle third of the frame, which lead to atmospheric mist-covered mountains in the background. I took this photo in Mai Chau, northern Vietnam, while enjoying my breakfast on the restaurant’s veranda. In order to get as much in the frame as possible, I used a wide-angle lens and kept the aperture at around f7.1 to create a good depth of field.
Hoi An by night
Hoi An is such a mesmerizing place by night. The UNESCO-protected Old Quarter, pictured here, is fantastic to wander around; you can breathe in the mixture of artisan shops and restaurants. For this image I wanted to let in as much light as possible while keeping the detail. To achieve this, I set up my travel tripod on the banks of the Thu Bon River with a 25-second exposure and a narrow depth of field, which allowed me to focus on the entire frame. I really like the colors in this picture, from the traditional shop houses in the background to the characterful Vietnamese fishing boats in the foreground — these have eyes painted on the front of them, an old tradition said to keep sea monsters at bay.
Hang En Cave, Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park
Staying overnight in Hang En cave has been one of the highlights of a decade peppered with travel throughout Asia. I wanted to show the scale of Hang En and with just my guide as the subject, and me as the photographer, it was really tricky. In this picture I called upon the rest of our group to climb down in to the pits with their head torches switched on and standing still, this allowed me to take a 15 second exposure to let in the ambient light and to help explain the size of the third largest known cave on the planet.
Mr Huu Ngoc
Mr Huu Ngoc is a famed Vietnamese scholar and cultural analyst. In his colorful life he has translated for Ho Chi Minh, written thousands of articles on cultural diversity and national identity, and been the voice of culture for a weekly newspaper. I feel very lucky to have spent an afternoon with Mr Huu Ngoc hearing just a handful of his tales.
Children playing in river
Rivers are the lifeblood of Asia and in the middle of the day when it’s too hot to go to school, children will play. I like this picture because it shows a before and after, the boy jumping out of the tree in the top left, and the after effect of his friends who’d just jumped seconds before leaving a big splash.
Tailor-made vacation ideas in Vietnam
Indulge your adventurous side and explore a number of Vietnam's scenic highlights including Mu Cang Chai and the incredible caves of the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park with time in the more well-known towns of Hue and Hoi An.
A great trip for the first time visitor to Vietnam, taking in all the major highlights with an island beach break at the end of the trip.
Explore the main highlights of Vietnam in luxury. Start in Hanoi followed by a gentle cruise in Halong Bay before visiting the charming town of Hoi An. Fly south to explore the Mekong by boat, relax on the beach on Con Dao Island before ending your trip with time in Ho Chi Minh City.
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