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Hoi An is one of the best places in the world for travel photography. The city is filled with incredible backgrounds that are rich in color and history. I use a photography technique called “fishing photography” to capture the beauty of the bright yellow architecture and charming locals. Read on to find out more tips about the best places to enjoy my favorite town in Vietnam.
I find a spot on Cua Dai bridge just as the light starts to spread its rays across the water. Below the fishermen have already started to toss their nets to pull in their catch of the day. Captured at just the right instant, the nets spark gold in the sun. They echo the yellow tones that wash over the whole city of Hoi An.
Mornings, like today, I wake up early to find the ideal spot and frame my background. Then, all I have to do is to wait for the right subject to enter my lens. This is called “fishing photography”, and sometimes, not always, but sometimes, it results in the perfect shot.
For example, in the photograph below, the ochre walls with layers of peeling paint and distressed edges brighten the landscape. They reflect off the water to create a gorgeous backdrop for this woman who happened by on her bicycle.
An Open Air Photography studio
I think of Hoi An as my open-air studio. I can wander from the Cua Dai bridge to a narrow plant-filled hem alley to an aerial rooftop view. Each time I catch a different angle by simply allowing the subject to come as it may. From the sun on the harbor to the yellow walls that make perfect backdrops, the city surprises and inspires me.
As a travel and portrait photographer, I am always seeking light. Here, in my adopted home, sunshine surrounds me.
During the day, there is the natural light that reflects off the buildings showcasing their bright lemon paint. At night, there is the glow on the river from the candle-filled Hoi An lanterns that tourists purchase and release. This is when the color of the city shifts to a soft, golden hue. The light and tones are always changing in the yellow city of Hoi An. I love to shoot the same background at different times to see how the mood changes as the colors deepen.
There’s something happening on every corner. Depending on my location, I might catch a few students walking by in their perfect, white Ao Dai. Or a woman might enter my frame carrying a basket of spiky dragon fruit purchased from Tra Que organic village.
Even on a rainy day, there’s a play of color between the yellow walls and the women wearing bright raincoats.
Some of the best spots in Hoi An
The city is full of craftsmen, tailors, artists, and shoemakers, to name but a few talents.
Hoi An’s Ancient Town is like a ballet of non la conical hats as customers move between stalls.
A few of my favorite photography locations consist of tourist areas before the rush and off-the-beaten-path locations that I’ve discovered.
Hoi An Central Market
The Hoi An Central Market is a wonderful place for an authentically Vietnamese photographic expedition.
The key is to wake early. Start between 5 am and 7 am and catch the sunrise on the market stalls when only locals are around.
At this hour, you’ll see street grills starting to smoke as skewers of meat are placed on the coals. Women carry fruit in baskets, while men fill up local cafes to smoke and drink coffee before opening their workshops.
Secret Places to Look for Great Photos in Hoi An
One of my favorite angles to shoot from is by bird’s eye view. I scout out the rooftop of a building that is just a little higher than the others. I can usually find the entrance through a market or coffee shop; it’s just a question of finding the hidden stairs.
From above, there is just something about the light in Hoi An that is truly unlike anywhere else.
Hoi An’s hidden alleyways are another frequent place to scout out photo opportunities. I find the hems between Bach Dang and Tran Phu particularly photogenic with their narrow paths winding between mossy walls. The other advantage of alleyways is that they create a natural frame for subjects.
The Unesco World Heritage Ancient Town
It only takes a bit of exploring to understand why UNESCO chose Hoi An Ancient Town as a World Heritage Site. From the ancient trading port to the French colonial influence of many buildings, the town reflects both indigenous and foreign artistry. All while maintaining its signature cheerful charm.
The streets are too narrow for cars, and motorbikes are only allowed in the ancient town during certain hours. The luxury of being able to walk freely through the town makes it an ideal location for exploring. It’s especially intriguing for those who love the idea of visiting remnants from the past.
844 of nearly 1000 ancient buildings in Hoi An are written down on the UNESCO list for their historical value. Many of the old houses have been turned into museums or artist’s workshops. Their unique design includes a street-side entrance that is convenient for customers. The backs of the buildings open up to the river, making it easy for loading and off-loading goods transported by boat.
A Travel Photographer’s Dream
The colors will take you to another era, and naturally lift your spirits. With so many hidden hems and local treasures, it’s easy to wander for hours. Most local people speak some English, and are friendly to visitors, so it’s easy to find your way.
My work often takes me to remote areas, so having an enchanting place to come home to grounds my traveler’s soul.
Hoi An’s Ancient Town is a major tourist attraction in Vietnam. Yet, it still represents a place where there is an appreciation, and even reverence, for culture and heritage. The golden hues that one experiences by day or by night make this one of the most magical places on earth.
My goal is to take photographs that make people want to visit Vietnam just by seeing images of the country. Hoi An is the perfect location for amazing travel photography that transports the viewer to a diverse land of wonders.
It is an enchanting experience that never gets old, no matter how many years I’ve lived here. I often feel as if I’m at home in another era, living amid a rich cultural heritage that time has preserved.
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