Etienne Bossot is one of Hoi An’s most established photographers. Having conducted photographic tours in Hoi An since 2009 to thousands of visitors, he now also runs photo treks to Laos, Myanmar, Bangladesh and soon, rumor has it, to Iran. But in Hoi An, Etienne Bossot’s Sunset Photo Tour teaches you everything you need to take excellent photos – it is an experience that must be considered cheap at any price.
We kicked off by boat to the riverside area of Thanh Ha , near the pottery village. Suddenly we were plunged into centuries-old Vietnamese life where hoes and scythes are used to work the fields and produce is strapped to rickety barrows or ancient, rusted bicycles.
As farmers worked alongside their animals in a to-die-for, rustic setting, Etienne provided tips on composition and light showing us how to create fascinating people images beside sun-coloured, shooting corn, delicate sesame, peanuts and burgeoning haystacks. ‘If you stand back and zoom in, you have no way of changing backgrounds and exploring different textures and other possibilities. Get in close!’
‘Get in close’ he urged a second time, looking up at the cloudy sky bleeding white and overexposed. ‘Keep the frame below the horizon and take the sky out of the picture’. So easy! Why had I never thought about it like that before?
The Sunset Tour also jumped in and out of cottage industries – corn threshing machines in front yards, old women plucking peanuts and others preparing trays of rice flour confections. ‘Less is more!’ Etienne counseled. ‘Consider just showing the hands feeding the corn , invariably you’ll tell more of the story that way.’ A new world of composition possibilities began to unfold in all of us. A new way of thinking.
Thus the tour presented a unique collection of ‘snapshots’ of authentic and unstaged Vietnamese life. And, as we passed through this bucolic wonderland, our host ensured all were catered for, making suggestions and demonstrating by example. We saw what caught his eye and noticed what we normally never notice.
After a time, we were exploring for ourselves. Indeed, I lost the group completely after becoming mesmerized by a woman methodically stacking her bicycle with what appeared to be an impossible load of hay.
The tour ended with the stark contrasts of bright lights punching through the darkness of the Old Town. Here we learned some great tips on night photography (including moving people and objects) which provided instant results after years of battling in these conditions.
Etienne Bossot’s Sunset Photo Tour had everything budding photographers could possibly need. It provided a marvellous journey through Vietnamese rural life and quadrupled everyone’s ability to capture it photographically. Amazingly, some simple rules of thumb about aperture, shutter speed and ISO, that anyone could follow no matter how inexperienced, revolutionized our photography in a single afternoon.
Tip: Many of Etienne’s quick fix tips and basic philosophy of photography are up fro grabs in blog form on his wonderful website www.picsofasia.com
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