Monday, October 1, 2012

Vietnam Photo Expedition-Workshop: The Verdict

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

In order to properly sum up a verdict about my Vietnam: North of the 16th Parallel Photo-Expedition/Workshop requires me to separately analyze its expedition and workshop components...and here's why.

In my view, the photographic opportunities during the trip were endless. Whether Hanoi's teeming street life, or the misty beauty of Sapa/Bac Ha, or in Hoi An and Hue...there was so much photogenic scenes ready for the taking, that it'd be difficult not to rate this photo expedition as a success.

Add to this that the travel logistics (as set up by Ms Xuan Tran of Eviva Tours Vietnam) were virtually flawless, that the hotels chosen were all up to my expectations (especially the Golden Silk Boutique Hotel in Hanoi), that the weather cooperated in every locale (we missed a disruptive landslide on the mountainous road from Sapa to Lao Cai by a day) , that the participants were all yes, the photo expedition was a success. The emails I've already received from the group participants confirm this.

Vietnamese photographer Maika Elan's daily help and assistance were indispensable to everyone in the group, and I thank her for her talents and in being so conscientious...and for having such unique peoples' skills.

That said...I'm less sanguine about the workshop's actual results, and my verdict on the multimedia workshop rates an "incomplete".

The objective of the expedition/workshop was "Emulating real-life photo assignments, the aim of the workshop is to assist its participants produce multimedia bodies of work ready for publishing."

I started it off hoping/expecting the participants would be able to produce two projects: a travel-themed documentary and another based on a human interest story. Due to a multitude of reasons, only two group participants met this rather high bar of expectation. Two other participants completed one project each, but these needed some additional participant completed the still imagery of a project but not the audio for a multimedia project...while the remaining three participants had the stills and audio inventory but did not produce projects.

I do recognize that applying my stringent class objectives during the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop on the Vietnam Photo Expedition/Workshop's participants was asking too much of non-photojournalists...especially because of the structure and pace of our itinerary.

As the trip was based on a "touring" itinerary, its pacing and the relative short stops in each destination may not have allowed enough time to the majority of participants to complete their projects. Although I did anticipate this at the planning stage of the trip, and included 24 hours in Halong Bay...thinking that being cooped on a cruise boat with nowhere to go would clearly wasn't enough.

So would I set a photo expedition/workshop to Vietnam again? The answer is an unqualified yes...but this time, it would be based on a destination-event specific itinerary and program...and not on an overly ambitious touring itinerary.

And would I amend my future workshops' objectives? No is the short answer.

 Photo © Maika Elan. All Rights Reserved

For those who are interested in gear; my usage (estimated) statistics on this trip were:

Fuji X-Pro1 : 60% of the time (mostly because of street photography in Hanoi, Hoi An and Bac Ha)
Canon 5D II: 30% of the time
Leica M9: 10% of the time (for specific portraiture photo shoots)
iPhone 4S: Whenever I thought of it.


XF 18mm for the Fuji X Pro1.
Voigtlander f1.4 40mm for the M9
Canon 17-40mm f/4 L

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