I recently got back from a two-week trip to Vietnam. Having wanted to go there for years, I booked a bit of time out in my calendar, and went with a mate - travelling around the north of the country.
Usually when travelling, I pack a load of my much loved analog film cameras, similar to what is in my every day carry. Wanting a lighter setup, and to save myself a lot of time in the lab, developing and scanning negatives - I decided to trial shooting digital whist on my trip. For this, I got a mint Fuji X Pro 1 rangefinder, with a 35mm equivalent lens. You can read more about my switch, here.
With only a couple of weeks there, we did a bit of planning to pack out time out with as much awesome stuff as possible. Our trip took us from the capital, Hanoi; to the islands of Bai Tu Long Bay within the South China Sea - with us ending our trip in the mystic mountain town of Sa Pa.
As our days were filled with lots of scenery, people, food and everything in-between, I was able to quickly get to grips with shooting with my new X Pro 1. I decided to treat it like an analog camera, and would set it to a film box speed - just making it work throughout the day with the same mindset as 35mm film camera.
The first thing that I noticed when taking street photos and portraits, was how incognito is was for a high-end camera. With a small footprint, it goes wholly unnoticed compared a film (or digital) SLR, and with the simple dials on top, it allows you to fluidly shoot away, with little to no time taken away from capturing shots.
This was really important for our time in Hanoi, as the streets were CRAZY busy, with an almost overwhelming array of bikes and cars whizzing down the roads and alleys. Set to burst mode and at f/4, I was able to capture loads of shots of locals crammed on to mopeds with their friends, family or pets.
Moving onto our three day cruise - we were able to kayak in the sea, swim in lagoons and visit fishermen at one of the floating villages. Made of oil drums strapped underneath shipping palettes, the communities of fishermen live within these villages that have been built within naturally sheltered inlets. During the early mornings, they take their boats out get their catch. Making roughly £3 per week, their money is spent on diesel for their boats, fresh drinking water, and rice - which makes up a large amount of their diet.
We finished our trip by getting a night train to Lao Cai, then driving to Sa Pa - roughly 5,000 ft up. Taking a cab, we went further into the clay lined hillsides - having a bit of time to hang out with the locals and get a bit to eat.
This trip was a great opportunity to road test the X Pro 1, and to see how I would get on with digital after years of solely shooting film on trips. As far as digital rangefinder cameras go, I really loved shooting with it, and by shooting with RAW, was able to apply some custom film presets that I’d made - to keep in check with my love for the 35mm aesthetic. I’ll most definitely be taking this with me on my next travels, but may take a film camera to keep it company for those extra special moments.