Fascinated by the horrible light

When most photographers talk about “looking for the light”, they are looking for scenes where the light is falling on-to their subject. However, in this alleyway in Fes, Morocco, I was fascinated by how the light was not on the subject. I knew it would be an interesting task to make these images sing. I hope you like them, because this is what watching life in the Medina felt like.

Notes for photographers

My first approach was to bring up the shadows and normalize the figures to the same light values as the background. This was a horrible mistake. First, the images were way to noisy, second they lost the visual mystery which prompted my initial interest in this location and lighting. Regarding the noise. I’m shooting with the Olympus OM-D EM-1 mk II, still , although one of my favorite cameras to use. However, with its smaller (and now older) micro-four-thirds sensor, it just doesn’t capture the dynamic range of newer (and larger) sensor designs like that in the latest crop from Sony and Fuji’s.

So for a while, I put these images away. However, they tugged at my memory, and as I thought about them more, I realized that the reason I stayed in this area with the “horrible light” was because I was fascinated by this up-side-down and backward arrangement of light. The subject not really in silhouette, but certainly not lit. I stayed in this spot for quite some time and watched so many different people, doing different things, walk in front of me. So, on second attempt, I emphasized the contrast, pushed the noise reduction a light and concentrated on bringing out only the highlights in the foreground shadow area.

Lei Wa

We were staying at the poshest place in Sapa, the Topas Echo Lodge with its infinity swimming pool and private hutch-roofed bungalows. But during the day Thao, our guide, would trek us through the hills and valleys to meet the local minority people. On this particular day, we were met at the entrance to the Topas Echo lodge by a gaggle of women from the Red Dao tribe. They congregate at the end of the walk way hoping to pick up a group of tourists to guide them on their trek. Their aim is to sell you some of their handicraft purses and such. All across northern Viet Nam, the local woman hand-weave, dye, sew, and stitch not only their local costumes, but also purses and bags to sell to the tourists.

At first I did not welcome Lei Wa to our small group of travelers (myself, two other photographers, and our guide Thao), but after some time, we welcomed her. At some point along the trail, Lei Wa pointed to some ducks as said “My ducks!”. We have crossed into her land, and Thao, who could make friends with anyone, got us an invitation into her home where we shared some rice wine and she modeled her full Red Dao custom dress. This dress represented hours of work, made of hemp (hand woven and dyed in the area), and hand sewn by Lei Wa with each tassel, cross stitch, and coin hand stitched. Early in our meeting, we were able to take a close look at her beautiful Red Dao hat with its long red tassels as she looked out over the lush Viet Nam landscape.#sapa

#reddao #vietnam  #northernvietnam#inancyimages #nancylehrer⁣ #lifehappensincolor #documentaryphotography ⁣⁣⁣⁣#streetphotography #photostreet #storyofthestreet #streets_storytelling #storytelling #lensculturestreets #travel #streetmarkets #streetphotographymag #streetphotographymagazine #streetfinder #withintheframeadventures #womeninstreet

Rice Harvest

I have had the luxury of spending this Sunday afternoon editing and processing my images from Viet Nam. Something about this moment and this trip, and I am relishing each moment with these images in a way that I haven’t in a while. I have slowed down, taking my time, experimenting, and reliving the experiences of being there. There is such a variety from gritty Hanoi street photography, market scenes, life in the hill towns, and even a few landscapes. 

One of the thrills of this trip, was that we were smack-dab in the middle of the rice harvest. Long treks up hills and through valleys were rewarded by being able to spend time in the field with the families harvesting their rice.

The top image shows many stages of the rice harvest, a corn field, and even a small vegetable garden. The yellow areas of this field, are ripe, ready-to-harvest rice. The family is cutting the rice and laying it down in large bunches on top of the cut stalks. After a couple of days, it will be dry enough to collect and thresh. In this field, there are large patches that have been completely harvested, patches that look to have been cut a few days ago, patches in the process of being cut, and patches not cut at all. The area of green around the little storage hut is probably a patch of sticky rice. We were told that leaves of the sticky rice plant grow taller than the rice stalks, so even if it were ripe, the yellow rice grains would not be visible. With regular rice, it is the opposite.

The little hut in the image is used for storage and is raised to keep anything in there from getting wet. Behind the hut is a patch of corn. Feed-corn is grown for the animals: water buffalo, pigs, and chickens. I think that the fenced in area is a small vegetable garden. These hill town inhabitants are nearly fully self-sustaining. The rice, corn, and animals are for their family alone and there is only one rice crop per year in this area.

It was not uncommon to see mostly women in the fields doing the harvesting, with one or two men to do the heaviest lifting once a large amount of rice or rice stalks have been collected. We spent quite some time with these folks watching them work the fields.

#riceharvest #hilltowns #northernvietnam #vietnam #withintheframeadventures#inancyimages #nancylehrer⁣ #lifehappensincolor#documentaryphotography ⁣⁣⁣⁣#streetphotography #photostreet #storyofthestreet #streets_storytelling #storytelling #lensculturestreets #travel #streetmarkets #streetphotographymag #streetphotographymagazine #streetfinder 

What’s coming up the road?

On the road to our first market stop in Can Can, we spent some time with these two women and their boy (not exactly sure whose boy this is). I was trying a new lens combination, a manual focus Zeiss 50mm f/2 – which is equivalent to a 100mm on my Oly.  I didn’t realize how shallow of a depth of field I would get and I have an entire series of this trio with the women perfectly sharp, but the boy just out of focus. When I realized this, I stopped down a bit but they had already tuned us out so I was able to get this more candid shot. These women are, I think, from the Flower H’Mong minority group. 

#cancau #flowerhmong #vietnam #withintheframeadventures #hilltownmarkets#inancyimages #nancylehrer⁣ #lifehappensincolor#documentaryphotography ⁣⁣⁣⁣#streetphotography #photostreet #storyofthestreet #streets_storytelling #storytelling #lensculturestreets #travel #streetmarkets #streetphotographymag #streetphotographymagazine #streetfinder 

Ya Got Trouble – With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for Pool*

Enough water buffalo for now (there will be more).

After a long, hard, hot, 3-hour trek up, down, and across the hills, valleys, and rice patties in the Sa Pa region in northern Viet Nam, we stopped at a small store for some cold drinks and snacks. We were with our trusty guide, Thao, and Lei Wa, a nice lady from the Red Dao minority who followed us from the start to finish of our trek (more on her later).

After spending some time looking out at the country-side that we had just crossed, two boys came out of the back of the store and started playing pool. I don’t often shoot with a long lens, but given how strenuous our hikes were, I was carrying just one Oly with a 12mm-100mm f/4 (full-frame equivalent of 24mm-200mm) zoom. When I saw the boys playing pool, I didn’t want to perturb the situation, so I used the zoom and bright background to get this image.

*If you don’t recognized the title of this post, it is a song from The Music Man – look it up.

⁣#vietnam #hilltownmarket #pool #lifehappensincolor ⁣⁣#withintheframeadventures #inancyimages #nancylehrer⁣

#documentaryphotography ⁣⁣⁣⁣#streetphotography #photostreet #storyofthestreet #streets_storytelling #storytelling #lensculturestreets #travel #streetmarkets #streetphotographymag #streetphotographymagazine #streetfinder

Another Sunday, Another Water Buffalo for Sale

It seemed like every town had a big Sunday market, and Bac Ha had one of the largest we visited. People would travel from their remote houses in the surrounding hills to sell their produce, poultry, livestock, clothing, and housewares. There was everything imaginable. I found the areas where people were selling their water buffalo to be the most fascinating and dynamic. Mostly men, but a few women would also be there in their traditional outfits.

⁣#vietnam #hilltownmarket #waterbuffalo #lifehappensincolor ⁣⁣#withintheframeadventures #inancyimages #nancylehrer⁣#documentaryphotography ⁣⁣⁣⁣#streetphotography #photostreet #storyofthestreet #streets_storytelling #storytelling #lensculturestreets #travel #streetmarkets #streetphotographymag #streetphotographymagazine #streetfinder