A couple of days in Vietnam and a little street photography

Vietnam has to be one of my most favourite countries to visit for both work and to catch up with a few good friends.  The food is always good and the local people very friendly. My visits there are often quite disorganised and unplanned at the best of times - but they just work out to be such great fun.  This last trip (nearly 2 weeks ago now) was no exception and while I had my latest camera in for repairs I was left with an old Olympus E-PL2 to play with on the streets.  This is not usually my choice of camera for street photography but I will work with whatever I have at the time.  For most of the street pics that I took on the streets of Vietnam I used a wide angle 12mm f/2.0 Olympus lens and occasionally the 45mm f/1.8mm lens or the voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens.

Patiently waiting - check out the amazing rings on the fingers

A moment in time on the train line in Hanoi

In the shade of an umbrella

I often hear people talk about needing to use a specific lens for street photography (and some are very adamant about their choice), however, I believe in thinking about where and how you are shooting and what sort of a story you want to tell at the end of your day on the streets. My favourite lens for many years has been the Olympus 50mm f/2.0 lens mounted on either the Olympus E3 or E5, but this was the first travel abroad where I had decided to travel light and use all micro four thirds gear (shame my Olympus OM-D E-M5 died only 3 days in to the trip).

In Vietnam, things on the street happen quickly.  There is no time to change lenses or even take a few steps back to get that wanted photo.  You will look left to capture something interesting, then when you turn around, you will find something else will be happening that you want to capture, but will find it too difficult to get distance between you and the subject when using a larger lens.  In the hustle and bustle of the streets of Vietnam, I not only want to capture my subject, but I also want to capture a little of the surrounds and have my photos tell a story that situates them in the context of what is happening, so I generally choose the 12mm lens in this situation.  Its a great fast lens - however at times it can be too wide and the resulting perspective might not be what everyone likes in their photos.  I do get up and close to my subjects and am usually greeted with a friendly smile (and I try to use some of the local language as well). On my old setup I would also use a 12-60mm zoom lens to get a little more flexibility.

Breakfast in a row on the street

Rest Time

Popular local transport

The love and happiness on a hot day

Room for 3 in the shade

Look this way!

Not on the train lines, please!

Recently I have received quite a few emails about what settings I use on my camera to capture my photos.  With the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 I generally use an f-stop between f/2.0 and f/4.0 depending on the detail I want in my photo.  I use aperture priority mode most of the time and more recently, since I have had the new Olympus OM-D E-M5, I have also been switching on face detect - yes I know I will get a lot of criticism for these comments about settings, but on this new camera it is quick and it works well.  On the E-M5 I can also shoot at a much slower shutter speed if needed, due to the new stabilistaion system in the camera.  The technology in these cameras has really improved over the years and I have made a few street outings to test some of my changed methods of shooting.  The old face detect systems used to be slow and I used to always have it switched off as it was more of a hindrance then help.  I also generally use spot focusing, iso set at 200 - 400 (depending on the situation) and centre weighted metering.  If I am shooting with other cameras or lenses my shooting style will differ, thats why I think it is absolutely important that you understand what your camera can or can not do.  I have over the years taught myself to zone focus (especially with my full manual lenses) and to also shoot from the hip or crouch down low to get the shot that I want.  Just because someone says to shoot at f/8, shutter speed 1/250 and bump the iso up, this rule does not apply to all cameras (especially if it is a micro four thirds camera).  There are so many factors that will depict what settings I use on my camera.  The days I was in Vietnam it was quite overcast at times so obviously I change the settings to also suit environmental conditions.  The same if I am shooting early mornings or late evenings. The best advice anyone can give you, is to understand your camera and what it is capable of.  Anyway - enough chit chat and here is a few of the photos from the streets of Hanoi in Vietnam.

Sales, Sales and more Sales

Colour on the streets

Fresh sweet fruit

Keep walking

Time for a hair cut

Rest time on a colourful street

Clean dishes

A bike, 2 children and heaps of fun

A happy Balloon

Rest time while life passes by

Keeping out of the hot sun

Still working hard!

Waiting patiently

Working in the markets

Shopping and txting in the markets

What size hat?

Afternoon Shadows

The Taxi Boys!

So What!

Still waiting

non-verbal communication

Up close and personal

The last two photos here are proibably not considered street photography examples - but they show you the city of Hanoi from the river

Hanoi from the river 

Old and new

The images captured here were taken over a period of a couple of days and over 20-30km of walking on the street with a new pair of teva shoes.  The new pair of shoes was perhaps a mistake but when your old shoes break there is really no choice.  As a street photographer - the other most important things one can have other than a camera, is comfortable shoes and easy to carry gear/bags.  Over these distances large DSLR cameras and lenses with be heavy after a while.  I did meet another photographer from Holland who had walked 20km the previous day with his heavy gear and he was very keen to rest the day I spoke to him (and also to check out the gear I was using and the photos I was taking).  

Posing with a heavy camera setup and beautiful girls

The one good thing about using small camera setups on the street is that you are less intrusive when you want that close up photo and I find this works well for me.  When I used to carry all my large gear around I was often seen as a professional photographer and had so many more people avoid looking at me when I had the camera view finder near my eyes.


Please note that all the images used here are copyrighted to the Footless Fish and should you want to use any please contact me.



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