Why this photograph made my “Top 20” list of best photos from Southeast Asia

Why this photograph made my “Top 20” list of best photos from Southeast Asia

Why this photograph made my “Top 20” list of best photos from Southeast Asia


If I had to come up with a “top ten” list of my best shots from my Southeast Asia journey that would be a tall order.

Since everybody likes reading top ten lists, I will start with this one, with one minor change, I will make it a top twenty list (I took over 700 gigabytes of photos, it was tough to choose).

This photograph definitely made my top twenty list.

I took this photo, or should I say I stumbled upon this photo opportunity, at the Sunday Bac Ha Market located in Northeastern Vietnam. Every Sunday, Bac Ha hosts the largest and most colorful market in the area and attracts villagers from the surrounding hill tribes such as the Flower H'mong, Phu La, Dzao, Tay and Nung minorities where they gather to buy and sell local products.

The ethnic minorities wear colorful, traditional clothing (which they make themselves and can take about a year to do so) that just begs to be photographed. There is one major problem, they do not like to be photographed.

For the better part of the morning, every person I asked to take a photo of declined my request or asked for money (I do not pay for photos unless I hired them as a model). So many of my shots that morning were candid photos taken with my Canon 70-200 f/4 telephoto zoom lens.

The afternoon was quickly approaching and I was hot, thirsty and hungry, besides the tourist’s buses from Sapa were showing up in droves. It was time to head out for lunch.

Magnum photographer Robert Capa once stated, "If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough."

A great test for a travel photographer is to shoot with a wide angle lens. It forces you to be more intimate with your subject rather than the “run and gun” style with a telephoto zoom. Also, since you are shooting wide it allows the photographer to tell more of the story and give a complete picture of the subject’e environment to the viewer.

So after lunch I slapped on my wide angle lens on my Canon 5D Mark II and headed back to the market.

I walked by some food stalls because I was intrigued by the sights and smells of exotic dishes. I notice this dish yellow looking dish and so leaned over to take a closer look and when I did the elderly woman turned around and offered one of those yellow stick looking things to me. I wanted to be polite so I took it and ate it. Then she grabbed my hand to have me sit down at the table and offered me more.

All I can say it was like eating slimy air.

They spoke very little English and beyond “hello,” “goodbye” and “thank you” I speak very little Vietnamese, but it is amazing how far hand gestures and smiling will get you. In between stuffing my face with that slimy, yellow thing and laughing with this family I somehow managed to make this photograph.

I like the “triangle” of generations portrayed in this shot. From the left side you have the daughter, at the top the mother and the bottom right the grandmother.

I love the toothy smile of the little girl.

I love the memories this photo brings back of spending time with this family, although brief, for it was a highlight of my visit to the Bac Ha Market.

And yes, I did have one of those slimy, yellow things in my mouth when I made this photograph.

Check back for more of my adventures in Vietnam!

Happy Travels!

Text and photo copyright by ©Sam Antonio Photography

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Taken on: 6th May, 2012. Copyright: All Rights Reserved - See Sam Antonio Photography's page of Flickr

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