Friday, October 28, 2022

Vietnam Photo Tour: The people and rice fields of Sapa

The second stop on our Vietnam tour was a place called Sapa. Located in the Northwest region of Vietnam, this area is known for the rice terraces and high mountain terrain.   

We got up early in the morning and boarded our bus for the 5 hour long ride out of Hanoi. We left the big city and headed up into the mountains. We had great weather, with big puffy clouds. At one point, I asked our guide if we could pull over to get a photo of the scenery. This photo was taken about 2 hours from our final destination. So pretty!

As we climbed higher and higher into the mountains, we started seeing the rice terraces, built into the hillsides. Once again we stopped to get photos, this time capturing the workers harvesting the rice.

At one point along our drive, I saw this pattern of mountains draped in clouds and knew that this would make a dramatic photo. I took a monochromatic shot like this in Switzerland years ago, and it is still a favorite of mine.

On our first full day in the mountains of Sapa, we walked through a village of the nomadic tribes people called the Red Dao. I was carrying a Canon R5 and a Canon R6 camera with me, with the Canon RF 24-105mm lens and Canon RF 70-200mm lens.

This was a great chance to teach the group about taking portraits, thinking about the aperture of the camera, the lighting, the background...

This woman was working in a market that we visited. I loved everything about her look, and also loved that the artwork behind her made the perfect background.

We visited many different temples on our trip, and stopped at one that was right along the Chinese border. Normally this border would be bustling with energy with people and vehicles crossing between China and Vietnam. But all import, export and other crossings have been stopped due to the pandemic.  It was eery as there was absolutely nobody visible on the Chinese side. They have all been quarantined to their apartments for months!

Inside the temple, there was an elaborate prayer ceremony happening. We all watched and photographed this colorful event.

After exiting the temple, I looked up and I really like isolating the dragon on the roof against the nice blue skies we had that day.

Of all the photos that we took in Sapa, this is one of my favorites. And here is why... When we were driving to visit a market early in the morning, our bus was heading down a hill and I saw this scene with the rice terraces and one lone tree. I knew that this would be a great shot, and asked if we could stop. Our guide said that there was no good place to pull over on the way down, but that we would try to stop on our way back in the afternoon. I marked the spot in my mind, and made sure we stopped on the way back. Our guide said that in all his years guiding in this region, nobody else had seen this and asked to stop and photograph it. I love finding unique photos!

On our last day in Sapa, we had overcast weather. That worked perfectly for photographing waterfalls, so that is exactly what we did. We all grabbed our cameras and tripods and I taught the best way to capture water in motion. Most of the exposures from my Canon R5 (with the RF 24-105mm lens) were taken between half a second and 2 seconds, using a Tiffen circular polarizing filter

I even set up my tripod to take photos of each of our photo tour guests as they came down the steps. You can see some of them coming down behind me in this photo.

As we walked through another town, we came across this woman who made fabric in the area. You can see that her left hand has turned indigo from the dies they use.

Of course, we took lots of photos of the rice fields.

Great patterns and lines.

I saw this little boy peaking out from this doorway and had to get the shot. 

This last shot is yet another favorite from the trip. We were walking through another market and someone spotted this woman sitting low by some produce. She had SO much character in her face, we just had to photograph her. I took the photo really quickly, because I did not want her to pose for the shot. I wanted to get the real expression on her face. Thank goodness for the eye detection on the Canon R5 to lock in instantly. Looking at the lines on her face, it just makes me want to know more about her life. 

Next up, I will share with you our early morning visit to a local flower market.


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