ESCapology on Digital Photography School. Improve your Travel Photography

Tips for taking portraits and travel photography

Check out my article on digital-photography-school.com and get some tips on taking portraits

As I started out my trip, my biggest struggle in terms of photography was taking good portraits. It seemed like every time I was taking photographs of people, the outcome was never what I was aiming and hoping for. It was frustrating sometimes as I came across the most unique situations, beautiful and photogenic, and just didn’t seem to be able to get that one shot. At one point I realized that I had to deliberately put time and effort in order to improve my portraits. It took a lot of practice, trial and error and it was hard. It was hard to overcome that awkward feeling when approaching complete strangers, not knowing their language and the natural reservation we have when it comes to other people’s privacy. But by constant trial and error and the help by some amazing photographers I met on the way, things slowly improved.
I still have a very long way to go, I still have a lot to learn and I am not sure if I will ever get where I want to be but I wanted to share the things I realized during this journey of becoming a better photographer. The guys over at digitital-photography-school.com gave me the opportunity to cover this topic – you can check out the article here. I hope it can be of help for some of you guys and of course, if you have other tips on how to take better portraits while on the road or have further questions, let me know and drop a comment below.

Cheers,
Philipp

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Discovering Hue – Crashing a wedding and raiding the Royal Tombs

The tombs of Hue, VietnamA typhoon had hit the coast of Vietnam and our night train ride from Hanoi to Hue turned out to be a full fledged odyssey. Trailing the storm and the massive amounts of rain it brought with it, it took us more then 24 hours instead of 12 to arrive country’s former capital. It was night time and despite having made the best of the ride, meeting new people, locals and tourists alike, we were tired and only looking forward to get some well deserved rest. The good thing about all of it was that the typhoon had just passed, the rain was gone and the next day looked promising, perfect to go exploring. Continue reading

Categories: Culture, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Pic of the Week 24: Impressions from a Vietnamese wedding

At a wedding in Hue, Vietnam

At a wedding in Hue, Vietnam. Caught the bride in a moment lost in thought.

After a more than 24 hour train ride from Hanoi to Hue thanks to a huge delay caused by a typhoon which had just passed the coastal region, we finally arrived in the former capital of Hue. On our first day we were headed for the Citadel and the old forbidden City as we passes by what seemed like a wedding. Loud music and laughter was sounding from the nicely decorated venue across the road. Curious as ever we wanted to have a closer look. As we were snooping around the entrance we were all of a sudden approached by a man who belonged to the wedding party. As we later found out, it was the bride’s father. Apparently he wanted us to come in and after a bit of hesitation, he insisted and pulled us in. We first had to sign the guestbook and put a little bit of money in what seemed like a donation box. Once inside, we realized that this was actually a big event with probably more than 200 people there, live music going on and the pretty couple giving a little speech on stage. We were a bit overwhelmed but our host took care of everything. We were placed at a table with about 6 other people, all men and all of them a little bit tipsy already it seemed. I instantly had to drink glasses of beer with all of them – a custom which then continued throughout the entire party.  Shortly after, the waitresses started bringing out the food. It was traditional Vietnamese with a touch of Chinese with more than 5 dishes being served one after another. And every single one was so good. After cutting the cake and pouring champagne into the glass pyramid, the couple went to every single table to thank the guests for their attendance. It was a great time, a lot of laughter, singing and lots of drinking. It was great to get such an authentic insight into the Vietnamese culture.
As I roamed around the venue, taking pictures and drinking glasses of beer with other guests, I saw the bride caught in a moment of contemplation. For a split second she seemed detached from everything else around her. With the most important part of the ceremony behind her, she was perhaps imagining what her new life will be like. What do you think? What was on her mind in this moment?

Categories: Culture, Pic of the Week, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Exploring Vietnam’s final frontier. A roadtrip through Ha Giang Province

Sunset Ha Giang District, Dong VanHanoi was great to get a first taste of Vietnam. But after a few days in the city and touring its highlights, it was time for serious adventure again. Aris, a fellow traveler and photographer whom I met in Myanmar, recommended traveling all the way up North to tour the province of Ha Giang by motorbike. By many this remote and mysterious area is regarded as Vietnam’s final frontier. Bordering China’s Yunnan Province, the region boasts nature as you have probably never seen it. Massive limestone walls, granite outcrops everywhere, hanging valleys, rice terraces climbing to the clouds and winding roads carved into the mountains. This alone sounded like a great adventure but combined with the ubiquitous presence of the local hill tribes, mostly the proud Black Hmong, this tour quickly became a must do on our Vietnam itinerary. Continue reading

Categories: Motorbike, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Pic of the Week 23

Invited for lunch with a local family -  somewhere in the Northern Vietnamese province of Ha Giang

Invited for lunch by a local family – somewhere in the Northern Vietnamese province of Ha Giang

How come the people that have the least are the most generous and hospitable? This phenomenon has been accompanying  me during my entire trip and once again in Vietnam. We had set off for a three day motorbike excursion into the far Northeast of Vietnam. A remote and mystical region named Ha Giang, a region characterized by sheer limestone walls, granite outcrops, hanging valleys and often referred to as Vietnam’s final frontier. It was on the way from Ha Giang town to Dong Van when we took a hidden side road which led us across a rusty bridge into a traditional village. After exploring for a bit and playing with the village kids we noticed a house at the end of the little main road. Smoke was rising out of the chimney and loud laughter filled the inside of the house. Driven by my usual curiosity I wanted to see what was going inside and had a peek through the door. As soon as the family inside spotted me all hell broke lose. Everyone was talking to me and dragging me inside instantly. It was a big family with kids, their parents, grandparents and what seemed like aunts and uncles, all gathered in one big room. To officially welcome us, we were offered some homemade rice wine. Strong stuff, especially at midday. We didn’t want to be impolite and had one, then two and then a few more. The grandmother was pretty assertive about it so refusing was no option here. Already a bit tipsy, we tried to have a basic conversation which wasn’t even too bad thanks to my phrasebook and a loose tongue due to the rice wine. Meanwhile the mother of the kids was cooking food for the whole family on an open fireplace. The house was filled with smoke but it smelt nice. After a bit we thought it would be best to leave since we didn’t want to impose ourselves on the family as they were about to eat. But no way, everybody was shouting, pointing at the floor and insisting that we would stay, sit down and join them for lunch. It was incredible. These people were living in a simple wooden house, cooking their food on open fire and did not even have running water. But they still invited two foreigners inside their house to share their meal with them. It was a really humbling experience and I couldn’t help myself but asking if something like this would ever happen in our developed societies back home….

Categories: Pic of the Week, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

7 things to do in Hanoi

Hanoi - escapology.eu-11After my Myanmar adventure, I flew into Hanoi for about a month of traveling Vietnam. My plan was to cross the country all the way from the North down to the South and into the Mekong Delta. I have to admit that I had mixed feelings about Vietnam. On the one hand I was excited to explore a new country, sample the famous Vietnamese cuisine and embark on a promising motorbike adventure along the Chinese border. On the other hand I was a little skeptical after hearing stories about crime, people constantly being overcharged and certain places already spoilt by mass tourism.  But I wanted to see for myself and tried to keep a positive attitude. After a day in Hanoi, I met up with Angel from Canada who I had met in Bagan, Myanmar.  We arranged to team up and travel together for a bit with Hanoi being our starting point. Hanoi may not have the tropical charm of Saigon but makes up for it with some of the best street food in Asia, a lot of culture and history and a likable type of gruffness and authenticity. Here are my personal highlights which you should definitely check out: Continue reading

Categories: Culture, Travel Tips, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Pic of the Week 22

Sunset in the mountains of far Nortern Vietnam, close to China.

A local bus crawling up the hill in the mountains of far Northern Vietnam, close to China.

After my amazing trip through Myanmar, my next destination was Vietnam. My plan was to travel from the far North all the way down to the South into the Mekong Delta. Big parts of this journey would be done by motorbike, supposedly the best way to explore this beautiful country. This picture was taken during one of these bike trips. It was a three day tour along the Chinese border through Vietnam’s far North. Still very rugged and untouristy, the region around Ha Giang and Dong Van offers a scenery which is hard to match in South East Asia. The loop took me along narrow and windy roads, carved into the gigantic mountains, past vast rice paddies and through villages which are seldomly visited by tourists. We were running late on the first leg of the tour but couldn’t help but stop to enjoy the sunset dipping the surrounding mountains in warm pastel colors. One of the few local buses plowing the route Ha Giang – Dong Van was just crawling up the windy road which, for a moment, almost looked like a snake making its way up from the valley below.

Categories: Motorbike, Pic of the Week, Vietnam | Tags: , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Roundup Myanmar: A magical country in transformation

Bagan at SunsetI had actually planned to travel Myanmar right at the beginning of my trip. Uncertainties about the needed budget and the accomodation situation (it was high season back then) eventually kept me from going. But I could never really get it out of my mind. The things I had read and the stories I heard from fellow travelers who had been there just made me more and more curious. At one point I thought that I had to go and from then on it all went pretty quickly. I booked my tickets, arranged my visa in Kuala Lumpur and got a big stash of clean and crisp dollar bills. I was excited and was expecting a country very different from all the other places I have visited and with hopefully less tourism. At that point I didn’t know that my expectation would be more than exceeded. Continue reading

Categories: Myanmar / Burma, Roundups | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 38 Comments

Inle Lake – Color Explosion and Land of traditional Trades

Inle Lake - escapology.eu-1Inle Lake was my last stop in Myanmar before returning to Yangon and then heading back to Bangkok. It’s on Myanmar’s main tourist trail and probably every Myanmar tourist stops here at one point. Hence my expectations were a little ambivalent – for no reason as I would find out later. I arrived via yet another night bus from Mandalay. And for some reason the night buses in Myanmar always arrive at the most ridiculous times. In this case it wasn’t much different and I was dropped off at a junction a few kilometers away from Inle Lake at about 4.30 in the morning. Transport into the town of Nyaungshwe, where most of the accommodation is located, wasn’t a problem however and I arrived safely at my guesthouse. Since I had only two full days, My plan was to get a few hours of sleep and then go explore the lake and its surroundings. Continue reading

Categories: Culture, Myanmar / Burma | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pic of the Week 21

A Burmese Beauty.

A Burmese Beauty.

After almost a week in and around Hsipaw in the North East of Myanmar, I was headed for Inle Lake in the heart of the Shan State. Myanmar’s second largest lake is home to a great variety of ethnicities who mostly live in simple houses on stilts made of wood and bamboo. The majority of them are self sufficient farmers. In order to trade and exchange goods, Inle Lake features a traditional market which is held daily but the locations rotates through five different sites. I took a boat to one of the bigger markets, a little bit further South than most of the other ones. It was incredible. The locals, dressed in their traditional garments, gathered from all around to offer their goods and produce or to shop for what they needed. It was a pleasant hustle and bustle without too many tourists present. At one point I was just silently standing in the middle, observing what was going around me when I spotted this beautiful lady. She was sitting on the ground, having her produce, I think it was peanuts and herbs, spread out on a blanket in front of her. With my few words of Burmese I asked if I could take a picture of her and luckily she didn’t refuse. She seemed to be far away for a moment – far away from the market and its hectic bustle. I wonder where she was …

Categories: Myanmar / Burma, Pic of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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