Photographically, this has been a great trip. I enjoy writing the little stories almost as much as taking the photographs. It’s like a poor man’s journalism.
But not all photos get used. Either it was an unplanned grab shot or it just didn’t fit into a story. Such photos are a little bit like orphans, and like an orphan, they need to be loved too. So here you are – some photos that didn’t make it into a story.
I love faces. There is a window into the soul through a person’s face. I usually ask permission to take a photo – I just raise the camera to face level, smile, and say “Okay?” The vast majority of the time, I get a positive reply. Then I busy myself with my camera, pretending to fiddle with buttons and settings and the subject soon gets bored and ignores me. That’s when I can get the shot – when the person has forgotten me and is not thinking about a camera being pointed at him. This man’s job is to care for the water buffalo – there are at least thirteen of them in the picture. Soon the rice planting season will begin and both buffalo and man will be working hard.
(As always, click on each photo to see the large version.)
But you can’t always ask permission – and why would you bother to ask two little boys on a bicycle? I don’t normally like to take “sneaky shots” of people – I feel like I am invading their privacy – but in this case, I just grabbed the camera when I saw the shot coming up. The boys? They could’ve cared less that I didn’t ask permission, as long as they got to see their picture on the LCD screen on my camera. After many giggles and punching each other on the shoulder, they rode on home.
Generally, I don’t pose people for photos – I want to get them doing what comes naturally – but sometimes I may direct them, at least a little bit. This man was busy stacking rice seedlings on a cart. While other folks pulled the young plants out of the ground, he carried the bunches to the wagon. The seedlings will be replanted soon in a bigger rice field or paddy. The first few shots of him “acting naturally” were great, but the backgrounds were ugly buildings. I just motioned him to move a little to his left – and I got my shot.
Sometimes, patience is required. This little girl was cute as a button. She probably had never seen a westerner before and was both shy and curious. But during most of the time I watched her, she had a finger in her nose – not a very appealing photo. I waited – and waited – and waited. I think Mom saw what was going on (that’s her on the left) and said something to the child. The finger was removed, and I got the look on her face I had hoped for.
And sometimes, I just plain get lucky. No skill – no great planning – just pure unadulterated luck. I was standing next to the railroad tracks when a train came by. I raised the camera, found a window to focus on, zoomed in tight and panned as the train swooshed by. I really wonder what was going through this young person’s mind. Was life as painful as the face seems to indicate?
I don’t normally take landscapes – I don’t have the artistic eye for composition that is required of a good landscape shooter. However, while Mr. Cu and I were out looking for faces, we went by this bucolic view – and we had to stop and take a few shots. I do wish the sun had been out so the colors would be brighter, but any day taking pictures is a good day.
I also seldom take pictures of buildings and such - - what I derisively call “postcard pix.” But on this trip, thinking I may not be back in Hue, I wanted to get shots of some of the local famous landmarks. This is the Ngo Mon Gate, the king’s entrance into the imperial headquarters inside The Citadel. The costumed men in the shot were preparing for a festival and parade that night.
A different kind of photo. This one is actually a failure. Here’s the background info: when taking photos early in the morning, some objects are brightly lit, but there are also deep shadows. The inside of this boat is in deep shadow. Your eye does a pretty good job of compensating, but a digital camera is not as good as your eye. There is a computer technique call “high dynamic range” (HDR for short) that merges three photos together. The first photo will be intentionally underexposed to you can see the bright spots are toned down, another shot is overexposed so you can see shadow, and the third is at normal exposure. Though I fiddled a lot with it on my laptop, the sky kept turning out grey. I’ll play with it some more on my big computer when I get home.
Finally, sunset on the beautiful Perfume River of Hue, taken near the end of the trip. In our last night in Hue, I thank all of you for joining us on this trip.
Tam biet, Viet Nam.