The Nikon V1 in Vietnam Part 2 – By Colin Steel

The Nikon V1 in Vietnam Part 2 – By Colin Steel

See Part 1 HERE and see Colin’s Blog HERE


The Villages & Fishermen

Hey folks, welcome to part 2 of this series of articles based around a short trip I made to Vietnam with my minimalist Nikon V1 travel kit and a Snapseed loaded Ipad for image editing on the move. I decide to focus part 2 on the villages I passed through and the somewhat unique fishing ports along the Central Vietnam coastline.

Vietnam, like many Asian countries is very heavily dependent on fishing and every village will have a morning market where the freshly landed catches are on sale. I love prowling these markets just before sunrise as that’s when I think the best shots are to be found. People are just setting up for the day, having some breakfast and/or a cigarette and there is a unique ambience that dissipates once the sun comes up and the day’s business begins. There is really no excuse for traveling to a location like Vietnam and then not getting up very early, you will get the best shots and the tourists will not even be stirring never mind had their breakfast. The shot below was taken at the market in Hoi An at around 5 a.m. and entailed a 4 a.m. rise. It’s also easy at that time to charter a small boat if you want to skiff around the harbor as the ferry’s and fishing boats arrive.

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If you are traveling the same route as I did from Hue to Hoi An along the coast just keep your eyes open and you will come across fishing activities at many places along the way. Just stop off, have a coffee, chill for a while and then wander down to the beach. People are usually too busy to bother with you and there are many nice shots to be had of the morning activities.

Maybe I have been unlucky but quite often in Vietnam I have encountered flat, grey weather and while this can give problems with many kinds of shots it can also be turned to your advantage and I quite like this kind of high key shot which imparts a feeling of stillness and tranquility.


Here’s another one taken in the evening but with a similar feel and treatment. It goes without saying that B&W suits these best and to be honest this is one of the weakest tools in the Snapseed suite and I think that much better results could be achieved using silver efex pro or some similar conversion software. The key to these shots for me is nearly always the stillness of the water, this allows you to ‘blow out’ the light bits and create a very nice contrasty look. In the above shot for example the horizon is lost completely but somehow it doesn’t matter to the feel of the shot and the vital pole on the right side holds the frame together. It’s impossible to legislate for weather when you travel so you simply have to vary your shooting style to suite what’s on offer and I often find that it helps me to ‘think & see’ in black & white. You may even want to set your camera up in a B&W mode so that you can see right away how the shots look. While this is easy to do with the V1 I generally don’t bother as I find it easy to visualize what’s going on with the light and shadows. You can see that a fair bit of noise has come into the shadow of the shot below and it wouldn’t be that hard to get rid of but I thought the shot gained a kind of grainy film look as a result.

I mentioned a stop off at the very welcoming fishing of Lang Co which much to my surprise turned out to be a Christian village. Lang Co means Egret beach as the birds migrate their in vast numbers at certain times of the year. The people were very welcoming and although no English was spoken its easy to communicate and build rapport with these folks. Unfortunately the beach wasn’t active when I got there but again I like the kind of simplicity and feel of the shots that can be got when you have this kind of overcast light. It just needs a dash of color to add interest. You can’t see it very well here but the boats are a very interesting curved shape and I am sure if you played about there are some very interesting shots to be had from the hulls.

Once in the village its nice to observe the people as they go about their daily lives. As I said, they were very friendly and I even got an invite from a couple with a new baby to share a Vietnamese pancake with them. This is a kind of light omelet type pancake stuffed with either pork or chicken and very tasty it is too 🙂 I mentioned that the village was Christian and I managed to get this very nice shot of this extremely nice old gentleman with his grandkids in what appeared to a be a simple little chapel.

By the way, this is one of the few shots in here that I didn’t edit in Snapseed as I just couldn’t get it to look how I wanted. Now that I see the nice rim light on the old fellows face I wish I had gone in tighter, never mind, a good reason to go back some day.

Something to watch out for along the coast is the large fishing nets that are set in the evening with a lamp on them to attract fish and then winched in at daybreak.


It’s very interesting to watch the fishermen emptying the nets but consequently difficult to shoot and you really have to be in a boat nearby to get the best of these shots. This was the best I could do on this trip and you can see the round, coracle type skiffs that the fishermen use for their mobility. I quite like the abstract nature of this shot through the orange net which has a nice triangular shape adding some interesting pattern.

I also like to hang about the boats as well and try to capture something dynamic as the fishermen come in. Sometimes you have to be pretty nimble to stay out of their way but it can also be rewarding. I shot the one below from an adjacent boat and although it was a very tricky exposure I preferred to forgo the face for some sky to highlight the Vietnamese flag. The V1 can be left on auto area focus for these shots in decent light and it will nail what you want just about every time, this allows you to forget the camera and work the shot (and of course focus on not getting crushed by the boat or trampled by the fishermen !!!)

These shots are from beaches along the Thu Bon estuary and, as I mentioned, it’s very easy to charter a small boat and have them stop wherever something attracts your interest.

I found the nice old guy below sitting at his net and he was delighted to show me how he winched it up and we helped him check it for fish. Given that I spent a lot of time with him and took loads of shots, I made the mistake of offering him some money and he politely declined. It made me think that maybe I should start carrying some packets of cigarettes or something which I am sure would have been willingly received.

Here is another shot of the next fisherman along which clearly shows the boats that the fishermen use. They can make these small light craft move very quickly and the are extremely maneuverable in and around the nets. The boats are very similar to Welsh coracles that, although used mainly on rivers, are valued for the same ability to turn and have shallow draught.


Getting back to the villages, one of the identifying markers of Vietnam is the colorful use of yellow and blue on walls and this of course makes an attractive photographic backdrop.

Keep your eyes peeled for the right kind of subject to blend with the color theme and its usually pretty easy to frame them in a door way or something. I got a bit lucky here as nearly everyone in this region wears a hat, either the conical coolie style or this type of soft hat and this can very often obscure the eyes and much of the face. For this reason I like to try to shoot low and its always better if you can engage the subject to get them to look up at you.

You can also watch for subjects in colors that work and compliment (or contrast) with the yellow backgrounds. I am not going to go into color theory here, just let your eyes tell you what looks right.

The backdrops also make for nice color and framing opportunities for portraits. Just consider that if you are taking portraits against that kind of background try to get contrast in the clothing and also watch the exposure, the light yellow walls can sometimes trick the meter. I find it’s better to stay a bit brighter to create a lighter feel and the yellow goes a very nice creamy color.

Well, while this has been a bit of a ramble I feel like I have hardly scratched the surface of this subject. I have mentioned it before but I still think it gets missed by so many, ‘you have to be there to get the shots !!’ Drag yourself out of bed and stay until the sun has set.

I think I will wrap it up here for part 2 folks. As most of you know I am an incurable camera junkie and I met some friends last night to discuss a potential trip to Tibet and one of them had a Sony Nex 7 which has just finally arrived in Singapore. He had some Leica glass on it and was showing me the focus peaking at work…..Oh oh ……..

It’s a disease !!!!

Anyway, here’s a nice portrait of a very lovely traditional Vietnamese musician. I really like traditional Asian music and bought a CD so that I can reminisce while writing these posts 🙂

Cheers, and take care,


Steve’s Nikon V1 Review is HERE

You can buy the Nikon V1 in BLACK or WHITE


  1. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I know it is not the camera that makes the picture, etc, but this reinforces the confidence I already have in my V1. I see you eyeing Nex7: getting to 300mm equiv with that option negates the portability mantra. V1 +10 +30/110 does so many things exactly right, from 28mm to 300mm…. Not perfect yet, but so promising!

    Your pics on the other hand are just superb!

    PS I also use the V1 with a 50mm summilux, a 35mm ‘cron (and a 90mm elmarit): mind blowing quality, great bokeh, perfect size. Fantastic when the light is low as well. But cumbersome to operate (no metering, no magnifier).

  2. Hi Colin,
    Very aestethically pleasing shots you show us here (as well as in part I)… been looking forward seeing this rather modest tool used by a skilled hand as yours. Puts the whole GAS-hysteria in perspective as i see it. Theres so much to enjoy from these images in terms of composition, story and the vibe emanating there.

  3. Hi Steve,

    Can I just say these images are fantastic!! I stumbled across your sight after looking at Nikon V1 reviews. In the end I bought one to go with my DSLR and as you do use Snapseed on my iPad or Mac to process. Vietnam is next on my travel destination list thanks to your great images.

    My opinion is the camera is better than my old Nikon D40X and a hell of a lot lighter and more fun!! 🙂

    • Hi Steve

      While your website and photgraphy are great…. I would be grateful if you could pass on my thoughts to Colin on his great work too.


  4. Colin,

    I just got back from Vietnam yesterday and I stumbled on your post. Seems like we took interest on the same person to shoot 🙂

  5. Great stuff. I’m just sorry you didn’t fire up the world’s cutest flash machine to fill in some of the shadows, such as on the fishing boat. Maybe I’ve been looking at too much Martin Parr…. 🙂

    • Hi Jon,

      You are right but I kanda got caught out and these boats come up quicker that you think. The flash would have been perfect, I think Martin Parr has the sense to have one on all of the time if I remember his style. I saw a lovely little piece about him on the BBC documentary Genius of photography or something, he is a very interesting guy as well as a fine photographer with a very uniques style.

      Thanks again for the comment,



  6. wonderful set Colin.
    when looking at these images, one is not interested in the camera used and quality produced…even though very good…your images tell a story and the eye delves into the image.

  7. Colin, another super enjoyable write up and set of photos!! Love the photos and the story behind the photos. I will continue to look forward to all your write up and photos. Thanks for sharing!!

  8. great shots and really enjoyed the series. each picture tells me a story and is fascinating. the Nikon has done well, man, to be honest i cant tell the difference between these shots and those taken with the Leica M9 fashion shots recently! Great cam! Great photographer!

  9. Very nice photographs of a fascinating country, and you certainly have a good eye for using colour in your compositions and the ability to haul yourself out of bed to catch the early morning light and the human activity – well done!

    The Nikon V1 is obviously a very capable camera, but I can see the Sony Nex7 beckoning to you from the distance.

  10. Nice Shots, the one without the Snapseed post processing (the grandfather and children) looks the nicest to me. The smoothness of the light and colors are fantastic. Maybe you could eliminate most of the PP and see how it works.

  11. Hi Kelvin,
    I’m planning my 1st apac 2-3week trip for November and want to take pictures of working people in the backlands and some very local partying/cultural events, but because we’ll be hiking and travelling on motorcycles (no hotel base),
    – I have to pack very mobile, compact and light
    – still want best possible picture quality
    – occasional good quality stabelized 720p/1080p video
    I wonder what to take with me…
    a) kompakt P&S Traveller (Pana LX5, F770EXR, Nik J1 10-30)
    b) a mini-system like you have Nik J/V1 10, 10-30, 30-100, flash, micro-tripod
    c) just a X100
    I don’t take a PC/Pad with me, and I hate to do post-processing.
    A bunch of SD-cards will have to do it.
    Right now I had the Fuji F770EXR or the Panasonic LX5 on my List. Have not tested it yet.
    My Nik D200/7000 set is just as anti-mobile as it can be.
    thank you.

    • By the way, a nice travel report with well shot pictures. The dark area noise in your pictures is ok to me, too. I like grainish pictures, but dislike multi-color effects up to iso400, than don’t even out in harmonic grain.
      thank you for the report – a nice inspiration for me.

    • Hi Carlos, thanks for your comments. On the camera for travel thing I have tried many from full blown D3 kits to the tiny Canon S90 and they all give reults in different ways. The deciding factor for me on your trip would be ; what do you wwant to shoot?

      Let me explain my thinking. The X100 will kill all of the cameras you mention on quality in just about every respect from colour through ISO and even the in camera flash is very usable and natural. It is of course a fixed 35 so for me it would be superb for close in people shots and general landscape. I have never used an LX 5 but am a great admirer of Limix M43 cameras and imagine that it would behave much like my Canon S90 which can produce great results with care but is pretty slow in operation and wont come near the IQ or ISO capability of the X100. I have used a Fuji F600 P&S and its a lovely little versatile camera with fantastic zoom capability. Ultimately I would expect the Fuji to need more work on the IQ end of things although that the trade off for its enormous zoom range and at the end of the day Fuji are pretty smart with the EXR sensor.

      I suspect that you can see my view forming, and I will stress that it is my view, which is that the X100 would be my choice for a motorcycle/hiking trip where you would expect to get close in and want to take some landscape. Against that there is no doubting the versatility of all of the other camers you mention. As I said at the start, my advice would be to focus on what kind of shots you want to take an dthe then forget about the rest.

      Either way, enjoy your trip and safe shooting.



      • Colin, sorry for wrongly naming you Kelvin.
        I hope I get thoughts and action better synchronized next time, while shooting ;-).

        Thank you for your comments / view, that I share. I liked to avoid a system and was afraid of the IQ of the P&S cameras. And of course, I’m not comparing x100 with them at all.

        What I take from your comments is, as I expected, that the most current P&S do quiet well just about reaching the minimum quality level expected, but not overall satisfying, asking for a better silbling to take over for the “important” shots. I am a happy all week standard/wide angle shooter with my DSLR, using my zooms only for specific occasions, i.e. red bull air race, moto gp, … So living with a 24/35mm is no big issue to me.


    • Hi Jeffrey, this was shot towards the shore so I think its more likely to be the net winching structure that you can see in some of the other pics. If I get a chance to go back I would spend the whole day there, its a fascinating process and I didn’t get a chance to see the landed catches.



  12. This is great photography that speaks tons about the photographer irrespective of what camera is being used. Congratulations Colin. Really lovely pictures!

  13. Second to the last photo was simply sublime. It reminds me of a Mucha painting.
    Forget the technical stuff, noise, DOF, etc. I think your photos have SOUL.
    That is the most important and beautiful thing.

    • Hey Kelvin, thank you so much for this view, it was really nice of you to say that.

      I am not familiar with Mucha but am now going to have a look, I am a huge believer in the influence of good art on photography, thanks again,



    • Hey Kelvin, got it and I see what you mean now. It was not intentional on my part but I think that’s a great theme to do a project on with the circular framing backdrop and pale yellowish colours, very nice and it was really cool of you to mention that.

      Thanks again for this piece of inspiration,


  14. I’m new to the technical aspects of IQ and still mostly interested in the image subject matter and composition. So, I find your images beautiful and fascinating. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Your photographs are excellent. But, not sure that the Nikon added anything to your good eye. Photos could have been taken with many, many cameras. Instead of the article being name Nikon V1, you could have named it “My Trip to Viet Nam”. Give yourself the credit, not the camera. Unless, of course, if you work for or are being paid by Nikon.

    • I think it is nice that the V1 is mentioned, because it confirms once more that very expensive gear is never needed for getting fantastic shoots, unless of course you are a pixel peeper that likes to look at small details rather than entire image.

        • That was not my point. Choose whatever you like, it could be a film camera a Nex or whatever. It does not have to be an M9, D800, Hasselblad to get great and interesting pictures.

      • Angers,
        A “pixel peeker” I am not. In fact, I put away or sold all of my digital cameras a long time ago. Got tired of chasing technology. I shoot only film again. Sometimes with 40 year old cameras. The point that I was trying to make is that I’m not particularly interested in the digital camera used to make any given photo. There are dozens of good digital cameras around. I’m more interested in how the shot was made. Then, maybe I can learn something. The fact that these shots were made with a Nikon V1, teaches me nothing. Technique, lighting, composition, etc. is info that one can learn from. If you want a good Nikon camera, get your hands on a used Nikon FM3A film camera. Great camera, great lenses. I sold mine a few years ago when i got caught up in the digital hysteria!. Another mistake! These days, I use my computer for email, news, etc. I use my film cameras for creating images. And, enjoying photography again. I haven’t used Photoshop for years. I suggest picking up a used Leica M6 or M6 TTL film. You might start to have fun doing photography again.

  16. Superb set of photos again. The image quality and the richness of the colours from the V1 (the man with his grandchildren fo example) are amazing.

  17. Another great set of images Colin, the 1st one is my favourite! I too recently bought the V1 (mainly on Steve’s experiences and recommendation and find it the perfect compact system travel camera.

    • Hi Gary, at the moment it takes a bit of beating if lightness and mobility are a priority, the three lenses, flash and camera body wiegh nothing and fit in a very small bag.

      Thanks for your comment as well, greatly appreciatted,


  18. Just lovely shots! My wife just bought a V1 after having seen your first shots! Can’t blame her! Doing real-world tests, we (the wife and I) see no difference in resolution, and colour-balance, between our NEX-5N, and the Nikon V1. In low light, high ISO, both struggle!

    • Yep, wont win any high iso awards Tord but somehow its not that offensive either. It does smooth away not too badly in Lightroom but of course the detail smears a bit as a result. Glad you are having fun with the smaller cams, I haven’t tried any of the Sony’s but did spend a few minutes fiddling with an Nex-7 with a manual lens on it and I have to say I liked what I saw. I believe that the Nex-5 is even better with manual lenses because of the sensor difference, have you tried any??

      Thanks again for your comment,


      • Hey Colin,

        I am using a Nex-5n with Leica glass (35mm Summicron mostly) and works great. Had some severe problems with the Nex-7 and 35mm and wider (see here. Also, I got myself a V1 (essentially I got only store credit back for the Nex-7) and your shots were one of the reasons for getting this camera. I am just about to write a post about my own experiences with the V1 and actually came here for linking to your posts on Steve’s blog ;-).


        • Hi Terence, yeah, you are not the first that I have seen commenting that the 5n is supeior for manual lens use, thanks for that. Good luck with the V1, it ticks a lot of boxes for me in the usability and robustness areas.



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