Street Photography Vietnam Pt2 - Hanoi.

In April I went for a two week trip to South East Asia taking in Singapore and Vietnam.   This is an edit of  blog posts I wrote for the photograd blog during the trip.   I have come back to them and added some detail and retrospective thoughts.  

I felt at home in the city and enjoyed wandering the streets and capturing life going on around me. Hanoi is a busy and exciting place. The old quarter is a warren of narrow streets lined with shops, restaurants and cafes. So much of daily life takes place on the streets and that makes it great for street photography.

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Vietnam is the third largest exporter of coffee in the world and there are cafes everywhere. Iced coffee with condensed milk is their specialty, perfect for hot days when you've been pounding the pavements. Hanoi also has some excellent street food. Bun Cha was my favourite; it’s a tasty combo of grilled pork slices and meatballs, broth, herbs and noodles.

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I spent a little time doing touristy things, but I was really there to enjoy and capture the atmosphere of the city. The city has a great vibe, it feels hectic and relaxed at the same time. Even just crossing the street through streams of scooters feels like a challenge and you feel happy to be alive when you reach the other side.

The Train Street was interesting to see. People going about their lives right beside the tracks. The train comes through about twice a day and when it's due everyone clears off the tracks and disappears into their homes. Unfortunately the arrival of the train brings a lot of tourists which does slightly ruin the magic of the moment, but hey I was one of them.

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Hoan Kiem Lake is a great area for people watching and street photography. This is the main hub for people to get together. In the mornings people jog, do Tai Chi and dance in big groups. On Friday and Saturday evenings all the roads around the lake are closed and the place fills with thousands of people, playing games, watching street entertainers, singing ad hoc karaoke, and walking their fancy dogs.

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Apart from all the interesting sights and scenes, the main thing that made shooting in Vietnam a pleasure was how friendly and accommodating the people are. As long as I was respectful and flashed a smile most people were happy to be photographed. I would definitely have liked a bit more time to get to know Hanoi and dig a bit deeper. I was there for 3 full days but a month would be ideal to really get beneath the surface. I’d also like to spend more time in the newer parts of the city.

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Overall the trip was an excellent experience and I have some solid work to go towards my MA portfolio. Now I just have to go through the thousands of images, edit them down and relive the memories.

Street photography in Hanoi was great fun, there is so much to capture. Getting out and wandering the streets with the Ricoh GRII was the best way to drink in the atmosphere.   Many of the streets are quite narrow, particularly in the old town so the 28mm of the Ricoh was  useful, plus using a wideangle lens gives the images a bit more intimacy. 

I would recommend Vietnam, particularly Hanoi, for any photographer. The mix of dramatic landscapes and buzzing street scenes will test all aspects of your practice. 

Amsterdam with the Fuji X100F

Back in September I had the chance to visit Amsterdam and the unseen photo festival. When deciding what to take on the trip I decided it would be a good chance to try out my new Fujifilm X100F. I knew that I would be doing a bit of street photography and the X100F is well suited to this. Having previously owned the X100S I was familiar with the layout and design of the camera and knew that the form factor and image quality would be fine for this sort of trip. 

I'm not really one for writing technical reviews, so if you want to get the low down on the specs of the X100F I'm sure a quick internet search will give you what you need. Briefly it's a cropped sensor camera with a fixed 23mm f2 lens which equates to a 35mm in traditional terms. The camera has the same 24.3mp sensor that is in the X-pro2. 


Because I was doing street photography with the X100F I decided to try out the manual focus feature and shot the whole trip in Manual Focus and using the classic chrome film simulation. I did shoot RAW + JPEG but all of the images here are the out of camera jpegs with a little tweaking in Lightroom. 

I like to use manual focus when shooting street photography as it allows you to zone focus which I find quicker than the AF once you are used to it. On the Fuji X system there are a couple of tools that make it easy to manual focus. Firstly there is the focus peeking which allows you to have a coloured overlay that shows you what is in focus. The second useful tool is the distance scale, this shows you what distance the focus is set at, say 1.5m, and also gives you a rough zone focus calculator which gives you an indication of the zone that will be in focus. 

As in all big cities you can find great pools of light reflecting off of glass or metal. As the sun was setting it was being reflected into this shopping street by a glass building at the end of the road.
As in all big cities you can find great pools of light reflecting off of glass or metal. As the sun was setting it was being reflected into this shopping street by a glass building at the end of the road.

One issue I found whilst using the Manual focus is the system of the fly by wire focusing. Instead of a traditional mechanical focusing mechanism the X100F has an internal electrical focusing system which is adjusted by the focusing ring on the lens. This is ok, but it has some quirks and limits the accuracy compared to the traditional focus systems. 

The focusing works by turning the focus ring, but with it being electronic it does not have a fixed position or hard stops, meaning you can keep rotating the focus ring even once you have reached the end of the focus range, it also makes pre judging focus positions impossible because there is no physical indication on the lens. This means that you have to look at the distance indicator, either in the view finder or the screen, to check where your focus is.  The electronic focusing also is a bit of a pain because it is reactive to how the focus ring is turned. If turned slowly the focus will adjust in micro steps, if turned quickly by the same amount the focus will skip by a greater range.  This sometimes makes it difficult to react quickly to something, because my focus would be on 2m and I would quickly try to change to 1.5m and the focus would over shoot. It just means I have to keep an eye on the distance scale in the viewfinder. With a mechanical focus set up, in a Leica, for example, I can set the focus at 2m and remember the position for 1.5m and can quickly flick between them without having to pay attention to the scale. 

I would be interested to see an X100 style camera with a mechanical focus mechanism with a distance scale a bit like what Fuji did with the 23mm f1.4. It would make the camera a bit bigger, but a bit more useable in this situation. By the end of the trip I was beginning to get the hang of it and was getting faster with changing the focus accurately. 


I enjoyed getting to know the X100F, the image quality is a major step up especially from the X100S. General performance is boosted, it just feels that little bit faster to respond particularly on startup and flicking through the menus. It has already found some use on assignments especially when I need to be a little less intrusive. The leaf shutter also helps with this as it is silent. 

Amsterdam itself was a fascinating city full of life and an eclectic mix of people. It was a great place to wander the streets and hundreds of canals and rivers help to give it a different vibe to some big cities. I would definitely like to go back and explore the city in more detail. 

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