“It is a tour where people need to be ready to get dirty,” says Etienne Bossot, speaking of his Mu Cang Chai photography expedition through Vietnam. “At this time of the year we find a lot of activity in the fields. It is a great combination of village, market, and landscape photography.
Etienne is part of the photo tourism boom, holidays where your casual photographer learns the skills and tips of professionals, changing holiday snaps into print-worthy acts of photojournalism.
Along with the expert photography lessons, travelers get to see unique, specialist views of Southeast Asia as they explore, taste, and savor the charms of rural Vietnam.
North Vietnam’s Fall Photo Op
“First and foremost it is about the photography workshop,” Etienne tells Travelogues. “The workshops include everything from dealing with the camera to improving composition skills and dealing with how to approach people to take their pictures.” Photo tourism has been on the rise in the West for years, with photographer-led tours popping up from Tasmania to Tuscany, but the boom has been slower in Southeast Asia.
Now is a special time for photo-centric tour operators like Etienne in Vietnam, because, contrary to what one might think, photo tourism in Southeast Asia can be surprisingly seasonal.
We visit the most photogenic spots at the best time of the year.
Etienne has two tours on offer in Vietnam in September, in Ninh Binh and Mu Cang Chai. “September is the rice harvest in the mountains of North Vietnam, a perfect time to visit.” Etienne’s Mu Cang Chai is a largely landscape tour takes travelers on an eight-day trip from Y Ty near the Chinese border to Bac Ha, where travelers can focus their lenses on the local ethnic markets. The Ninh Binh tour is shorter, featuring just three days and coming from Hanoi.
“We visit the most photogenic spots at the best time of the year,” says Etienne. “We mostly focus on people photography, with a bit of landscapes. The workshops include everything from dealing with the camera to improving composition skills and dealing with how to approach people to take their pictures.”
The Growth of an Industry
Now that practically everyone has a camera in their pocket and celebrities are cultivated on Instagram, everyone is in search of that perfect snap.
Etienne is one of a number of operators in Southeast Asia taking advantage of the area’s beauty. There’s also Alex Cearns in Sri Lanka, Kathy Adams Clark in Thailand and Cambodia, and others take travelers where they want to go and teach them how to record the experience. Singapore hosts two major operators taking tourists everywhere from Everest to Bandung, with one hosting an astrophotography tour at Indonesia’s Mount Bromo.
Big companies and big money are involved in making the most of camera enthusiasts, but there is still plenty of space for the personal touch. “As the groups are small, I can easily personalize the teachings to anyone,” says Etienne, whose groups are never more than six people.
Etienne hosts tours in Bangladesh and Myanmar – and he even has a 10-day trip planned for October of this year to Iran. These days, travelers go wherever their lends leads.