On the Tracks – A Photography Tour in Hanoi

The alarm clock went off… 3:30 in the morning! I had massive issues to get up since the night was a rather short one and waking up early does certainly not belong to my strengths 🙂 But for good reasons I still made the impossible, possible. A photography tour was awaiting me in the morning hours of the old town of Hanoi, called “Vietnam in focus – On the Tracks“…

Colm, the tour guide and Ken, a German-Japanese “working nomad” were already waiting for me in the hotel lobby when I showed up, struggling to keep my eyes open. Ken on the other hand side just finished his working day… ahm… night and was about to enjoy his well deserved end of the working day or working night, respectively :).

The first stop was the morning market close by to the train station, which we should visit later on. Still pitch black, the Vietnamese were scurrying around the market like tiny ants, squeezing themselves with little motorbikes and heavy luggage through the masses. People were negotiating the prices for any kind of fresh market products, vegetables or fruits. We took the chance to try to capture the lively scenery while I was still not entirely comfortable with my own camera settings. As an absolutely amateur, I was preferably using the auto-setting mode of the camera which made until so far in my opinion a fabulous job…. until we had to take shots of this particular market scene at night. Colm was helpful in order to get the setting of the camera right, even though not every camera is the same and it took some time to find the right adjustments. Honestly, I was struggling a bit with this new situation and not too many pictures were successfully accomplished according to my “German” standards 🙂

After a while it was time to move on to the old train station… we should not miss the first train arriving in town, in order to playing a bit with the exposure time. The train station and the old bridge were just fantastic objectives… old… rusty… timeless… priceless! Ken and I were shooting tons of pictures and we could not get enough of the scenery. From time to time, there would be motorbikes passing by on the lane next to the railway, leaving impressive light effects on the pictures. I loved playing around with the long exposure settings and suddenly I understood why usually people react strangely when I told them to take pictures with my auto mode 😀 So much fun… The highlight of this part of the tour was very close… a train arriving from the distance. Colm told us to mount the camera to the railing, so that long exposure shots were possible without moving at all. We could get just one or two pictures right since the train was moving quite fast and the long exposure time did not allow any mistakes. I would definitely try to use this technique more often in the future, I thought.

Next exercise was the so called “panning” which I  never heard of before. What the heck is that, I asked Colm. The professional photographer explained basically that one tries to freeze a moving object while the background remains in movement. Also here we gave it a try and we could shoot nice pictures of the morning rush hour, scooters which were passing the bridge just to get captured by our modern mirror-less digital cameras.

2 hours more or less passed by and it was time for a coffee break, a real Vietnamese coffee break. The black coffee in Vietnam is just super delicious… and super strong. This is what I was actually already looking forward to and after the first sips of the delicious “black gold” I felt the caffein kicking in. I was finally awake, lol.

On our way to the next section of the railway we passed street vendors, colourful funeral services and other lively activities on the street. When we finally arrived at the railway section we could convince ourselves of the local people living next to it: Preparing the food for the upcoming day, taking care of the door ways, carrying different goods from door to door and an old woman trying to sell vegetables to the locals.

The tour was finally over and beautiful memories and pictures remained, as well as improved photography skills. This tour is only highly recommendable, even though early in the morning 😀 Vietnam belonged to me to one of the most interesting countries of street photography.

Leave a Reply