NORTH VIETNAM IN ANALOG

As a continuation to my earlier post “Snap Shots from North Vietnam“, photographs in this post are all shot with my good old Leica M6 0.72 classic, coupled with the 35mm Summicron-M lens. As mentioned in my earlier post, I just wanted to travel light for this brief trip to North Vietnam, where I made stops over in the capital city – Hanoi, Sapa (within Lao Cai province), and the magnificent Halong Bay.

I brought with me a few rolls of Fujifilm Superia400 negatives – not a professional grade film though, but I simply love the colour and texture this film delivers. If you need something fast, with nice grain and pleasing colours, this one is for you (just my personal opinion). And very reasonably priced as well compared to the professional grades. Nonetheless, I did not really shoot much, rather spending more time soaking in the unique culture, tradition, lifestyle and the ever so colorful hill-tribe people of Sapa.

Shooting film on an analog camera really brought me to another dimension of photography. I use both digital and film cameras, and to me, they each serve a different purpose. Film and digital capture are completely different media. Throw the new-age dominant word ‘megaPIXEL’ out of the window when you use film. Forget about shooting on rapid burst mode (like what most people did on their DSLR – sound like a machine gun rattling off), in the hope that ‘one’ of these shots turns out what to be what you’re hoping for. I’m guilty of that too, but in film photography, I find myself thinking a lot more before my finger hits the shutter.

A lot of hard work is involved before you click. For my M6 set-up, you frame your shot moving forward and backwards (due to the fixed lens), you meter the scene manually (no aperture or shutter priority here!), you focus manually (no rapid auto-focus here!), and there’s no chance of you switching ISO (ASA in the case of film) as and when you like (till the next roll). And after going through all these hassle and finally hitting the shutter, you don’t get to see any result till you get your film processed. Then you crank the advance lever to prepare for the next shot. But hey, guess what – I love it! I find the joy and satisfaction in going through all these hassle before I hit the shutter. It makes you understand what photography is all about. I find satisfaction in every single shot I take (whether it turns out good or not). Most of all, the elusive result of the ‘film look’ at the end of the day simply gives me the allure of a photograph as “a special moment captured in time”.

I will sign off here with a series of shots taken during my brief trip to North Vietnam. This is my first post containing photographs taken on film with my Leica M6, and hopefully, more to come.

All photographs in this post taken with Leica M6 (with 35mm Summicron-M ASPH). Fujifilm Superia 400 negatives. 16 base scan. All photographs unedited.

Arriving early morning in Lao Cai province, North Vietnam, after an overnight trip. Upon disembarking the train, I was instantly mesmerized by the tree on the left with beautiful striking red leaves. Coupled with the scene of the train, I knew I had to take this shot.

A visit to one of the hill-tribe village in Sapa, Lao Cai province in North Vietnam. Life is very simple yet beautiful in this village. Here, a mother with her little boy preparing the vegetables collected.

An old granny in traditional hill-tribe village costume sewing local handicrafts for sale in a local market.

BUFFALO AT WORK: The spectacular scenery in Sapa includes the famous rice terraces that spill down the mountains - a breathtaking view indeed. Here a villager with his buffalo plough the rice field. Cat Cat hill-tribe Village, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam.

THE LONG WAIT: These group of hill-tribe villagers were waiting patiently for us to finish exploring the village school before touting us to buy a piece of their local souvenir in Cat Cat hill-tribe village, Sapa, Lao Cai, Vietnam. A portrait of Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese Stalinist revolutionary leader can be spotted on the facade of the school building in the background.

A typical street of Sapa in Lao Cai province, North Vietnam. Buildings in Vietnam are recognized as slim and narrow, with numerous homes packed close together.

A community of around 1,600 people live on Halong Bay in four fishing villages. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture. Other than their primary activities, they are now also leveraging on the increasing influx of visitors by selling souvenirs and snacks on their small boats.

BY THE BEACH: A leisure afternoon by the beach on one of the many small islands on Halong Bay. With the increasing influx of visitors every year to this incredible World Heritage site, water and beach activities are being created as attractions.

Majestic and mysterious Halong Bay: The bay consists of a dense cluster of over 3,000 limestone monolithic islands each topped with thick jungle vegetation, rising spectacularly from the ocean. Several of the islands are hollow, with enormous caves. Hạ Long Bay was first listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, in recognition of its outstanding, universal aesthetic value. It took me quite a climb to reach the peak on one of the island, but the effort was well rewarded with a breathtaking view of the bay.

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~BONUS SHOT TAKEN ON COMPACT CAMERA (Olympus XZ-1)~

I decided to end off this post with an additional shot taken with a digital compact camera (Olympus XZ-1). Pardon me for this twist but I just wanted to show a picture taken from within one of the caves that I visited in Halong Bay. A beautiful sight indeed, with a light ray striking through an opening in the cave, which falls neatly on a unique rock resembling the goddess of mercy.

WITHIN THE CAVE: Beyond the breathtaking vistas on a boat cruise through the bay, visitors to Halong come to explore the caves – some of which are beautifully illuminated for the benefit of tourists. Shot taken with a digital compact camera. Shot hand-held at 1/5 sec at f8.

~Editorial & Photography by Loy Chuan (Jun, 2012)~

Do you like this? Share it:
Mojan - 19 June, 2012 - 11:17 PM

fantastic pics, you see how the people life over there.

Anthony Pond - 20 June, 2012 - 1:50 AM

Enjoyed your thoughts on shooting film vs. digital, Loy. It certainly is a purist approach to image making. I Like the glimpse of Vietnamese life you show here. Love the dramatic light in the cave, and well done for handheld at that shutter speed.

loychuan - 20 June, 2012 - 11:48 PM

Thanks again for the kind comments Tony & Mojan. Yes, the cave was really dark inside, and I’m surprised a compact camera does the job pretty well. You’re right Tony, shooting film is a totally different approach and there’s lot to learn about photography from it. Cheers!

Sue - 8 July, 2012 - 11:51 PM

I love your shots here :) And I couldn’t agree more on shooting film! I love how it looks and I absolutely adore the satisfaction I get with each shot and roll. I develop my own films and every time I do it, it’s like a whole new surprise with each roll.

loychuan - 9 July, 2012 - 11:04 AM

Thanks very much Sue for viewing my blog. Glad you like what you see. Yes, shooting film is a definitely a joy and there’s so much to learn from it. Every time I will anticipate eagerly for the outcome. Where are you based? Happy to know another film shooter in you! Cheers!

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