" I Blog because I enjoy writing; If I wasn't doing it here, I'd be doing it somewhere else. It disciplines my thinking, it helps crystallize my thoughts and it relaxes me. It also records my journey. The fact that other people may read and enjoy it, is icing on the cake."
" What is written here is a personal journey into the pictures I like most, the issues I'm most passionate about, the places I've enjoyed visiting and my desire to teach aspiring travel photographers how to build on their ability to produce art and exceptional images. For those who are interested, it's also an insight into the sometimes glamorous, frequently challenging, often frustrating but hugely satisfying world of the professional travel photographer."
- David Kirkland
David Kirkland is the most widely published travel photographer in the Asia Pacific region. He is regularly commissioned by national tourism authorities to capture images that promote their countries worldwide and he has written and photographed 14 books. David owns www.kirklandphotos.com, the largest on-line photo library dedicated specifically to travel and tourism in the Asia Pacific region and he has a publishing company - Frontier Publications Pty Ltd - which specialises in producing high quality travel and souvenir publications. When he's not travelling, David lives in Brisbane, Australia.
I posted a different photograph of Colleen (above) on Instagram this week. Again she was bathed in Turmeric and she was norturing her newborn baby in a re-enactment of the traditional first-born ritual on Palau in Micronesia.
It received one of the highest numbers of followers of any image I have posted.
Yet, in that photograph, I had to ensure her nipples were not exposed because of Instagram’s ridiculous “show no nipples” policy which sees your account suspended or closed down if a woman’s nipples are discernible in the photograph.
It’s a draconian policy, with many photographers feeling compelled to cover a woman’s nipples with a dot or to blur them in order to post their photos.
I’ve just returned from a commission to shoot Vietnam and Cambodia for Wendy Wu Tours.
It’s the first time I’ve done an organized tour of a country which, I’d have to say, definitely has its place – particularly if you want to take in a country’s highlights in comfort, and you don’t want the hassle often associated with independent travel.
Here’s some of the notes and pics I compiled during the 14 day tour:
On traveling with an organised tour: Ah, the joy of sweeping past the queues or boarding that air conditioned coach parked just outside a major attraction after a long, hot walk; the reassurance of having your luggage checked, transported and loaded at the airport or hotel; the pleasure of not having to think about the logistics of travel from the moment you meet your guide – simply follow the singular instruction; be in the lobby on time. And, in Vietnam in particular, having someone on-hand who can help you make sense of an exchange rate where everything, it appears, costs seven million billion Dong (which amounts to barely anything), is an absolute blessing.
Well done to our local guide, Tuan (below), who – as it turned out – was also a bit of a Karaoke master.
The Attractions: We’ve certainly visited many of Vietnam’s highlights. We joined the queue at Ho Chi Mihn’s Mausoleum (mainly ’cause everyone else does, I guess, as seeing him laying there full of embalming fluid in a glass tomb and glowing was all a bit spooky to me). We braved the bustling streets of Hanoi in a rickshaw (the best introduction you can get to the city), cruised iconic Halong Bay, wandered the picturesque alleyways of Hoi An, and stood amid the splendour of some of the country’s most revered historic and religious sites. Tomorrow we head for the world-class beaches of Danang before wandering Saïgon and visiting its war museums to immerse ourselves the tragic history of this young nation’s struggle towards independence.
Cruising Halong Bay: Sadly, my cruise of Halong Bay is likely to be indelibly etched into my memory as the first opportunity I had to photograph these world heritage declared limestone monoliths from the air saw my drone rise to a metre then crash into the ship’s mast, before wildly whirring across the deck in what proved to be its death throes. Damaged in transit I presume. Otherwise, (more-so for the rest of the passengers I’d suggest), it proved to be a relaxing overnight experience, idling across glassy, emerald waters and weaving in between the towering natural structures, looking out from the top deck of these charmingly, old-world looking ships we travelled on.
Danang, where I traded the beach for a Buddhist temple. I had high hopes for some stunning beach shots of Danang but the weather was poor when we got there so I did a few quick snaps and headed to the city’s Buddhist temple to capture it in the morning light.
Arguably, Vietnam’s most photogenic city: Hoi An is popular among tourists and it’s a delight to photograph. It’s crumbling old buildings, its yellow, weather-worn walls with their coloured shutters and doors, and the pastel lanterns that dangle over its laneways, make it a charming place to wander around with your camera looking for opportunities.
Most Enjoyable dish you ask? ….not an easy one, but two dishes stood out to me: This simple shellfish soup (below) was amazing. Purchased in a random cafe (apparently it’s a common dish), where I could point to the photos on the wall and leave it to the judgment of my hosts to divine what I was on about. The Shells were dropped into boiling stock with clear rice noodles, and garnished with fresh Basil, a touch of chilli, shards of lemongrass and a sprinkling of black pepper soaked in lime, then served with a dozen grilled prawns and a chilled Saïgon beer. Exquisite. Total Price: About AUD$15 ( …..or seven million billion Dong).
My second choice was The Propoganda Cafe, a block from Notre Dam Cathedral in Saigon. Funky decor with great food (a super healthy fusion of Vietnamese and Western cuisine). You can walk out having had a beer and a meal for less than AUD$20.
Man’s inhumanity to man. It’s hard to come to Vietnam and not be mindful of the turbulent history it suffered but I think its every visitor’s responsibility to at least recognise what went on in the country, and reflect on the damage that was done and the far-reaching consequences that point to the futility of war. So, with this in mind, our group visited the Remembrance Museum in Saigon which displayed a most harrowing account of the atrocities that took place. For me, details of the tortures that were inflicted on prisoners of war left a particularly sombre impression. Imagine being confined to this cage (below) after a savage beating or laying your neck out on the guillotine. It’s just so hard to comprehend the suffering that took place, and the darkness of the people who inflicted it.
Quick Summary: I thoroughly enjoyed Vietnam and an organized tour is a great way to see the country’s highlights quickly and in comfort (certainly I can recommend the 14 day trip I did with Wendy Wu). We enjoyed comfortable accommodation and transport throughout the tour, a fine cuisine (though, personally, I could have eaten more local food) and a top tour guide who was well informed, and enthusiastically looked to meet everyone’s needs. While the itinerary was full, it was fun – which was the general consensus of the group I travelled with. I thought it was a great introduction to Vietnam which I’d like to return to and explore at my own pace ….maybe even theming the trip around cooking, he says.
Footnote: I’ll add more images to the Vietnam Gallery of our library at www.davidkirklandphotography.com when I return from my current assignment in the Cook Islands.
My brief assignment of Cambodia after Vietnam for Wendy Wong Tours was largely concentrated on the Kingdom’s biggest drawcard – Angkor Wat – regarded as one of the 10 great wonders of the world (though I could only find it formally recognised as that by Trip Advisor).
And, for a photographer, what a pleasure it was to shoot (despite the 38 degree heat, the 82% humidity and the seven million, billion other visitors).
While I managed to grab three monks for an hour to help me in the main temple of Angkor Wat, I most enjoyed Bayon Temple, with its serene faces that seemed to emerge from its sandstone towers.
Here’s a short selection from my three day visit:
Above and Below: I’d arranged with a nearby monastery the day before to have these three monks help me out with the shoot of Angkor Wat. Unfortunately I couldn’t take them to the other temples without permission from authorities.
At every turn, there was some unexpected display of creativity to see and photograph. I thought the hundreds of dancers carved into the sandstone walls (below) were made from a template but each of them was individually hand-carved.
Below: I loved this dappled light that shone through the trees onto the eastern entrance of Angkor Wat (sadly, it was to be the last time I got to see any more sunlight while I was there).
Below: More than two million people a year head down this ancient walkway towards Bayon Temple (you’re looking at the first couple to pass the barrier at 7am).
There were hundreds of these faces (below) carved into Bayon Temple – four on each tower facing in different directions – I guess to convey the message that the gods were all-seeing. There was a serenity to their expressions that made studying each one of them a pleasure.
…and here’s a few more captured along the way:
Footnote: As I have just written on my Instagram feed, I’m writing this post from the Cook Islands where I’m now on assignment just three days after my return from Cambodia – but it’s pouring so I thought I’d try and catchup. I’ll post a preview of my pics from the Vietnam trip I also did for Wendy Wu Tours shortly.
I’m doing a shoot of Vietnam, but the weather turned inclement so I wandered the beach of Nha Trang looking for some pics.
The city – and it’s six kilometre beach – is particularly popular for Russian holiday-makers who, it seems, aren’t that difficult to distinguish from the slight asian bodies that sprinkle it’s golden shores.