Trip Report: Vietnam

Vietnam is an incredibly vibrant country; the people are among the nicest and most welcoming you could meet anywhere. We had been planning our trip since 2019, but COVID happened, and our trip was delayed to 2023. The experience was well worth the long wait! We covered remote, mountainous terrain, and much of the driving was slow and windy. But so much to see!

Our trip focused solely on Northern Vietnam, with its stunning topography of terraced rice fields and limestone formations called karsts in the Dong Van Plateau. We photographed several different tribes: the Flower Hmong, Black Hmong, Red Dao, and Táy in their homes, in the terraced rice fields, and in the markets.


We started our trip in the Old French Quarter. You learn quickly that crossing the street isn’t a matter of looking left or right—you must always look in all directions! Everyone seems to understand how to drive together while they ignore traffic signals or which side of the road to drive on.

Beware the traffic!

Tu Le

Here, we began to experience the rural lifestyle that so many in Northern Vietnam share; regardless of their tribe, the living conditions seem to be much the same. Even though they do without the modern conveniences, they are all so happy. We were welcomed into their home to capture their daily lives. Here, in Tu Le, we used natural light. These are all snapshots captured with my phone.

Mu Can Chai

The scenery in Mu Can Chai is simply stunning. So many beautiful terraced rice paddies! The local Flower Hmong ladies were very happy to pose for us and had a great time making each other laugh all the while! At the end of our time together, they gave each of us a decorative cloth bracelet for luck and shook our hands with much kindness.

The harvest is a fascinating time. The bright green of the rice starts to melt into yellow, and the farmers harvest the crop all by hand. It was so stunning, and there were no tractors, just communal manpower.

Motorbikes are ubiquitous and are the only way to get to some of the best destinations. I had a junior driver-in-training ride along on one of my rides!

Sa Pa

Sa Pa was unlike any other town or city we visited in Northern Vietnam. It is very busy with tourism and has a bit more polish than the dirty bustle of Hanoi or the quaint and seemingly less affluent towns.

This scene was shot with two Godox soft boxes. Each of us had a remote trigger, making it easy for everyone in the group to shoot together with controlled lighting.

Bac Ha

Home to a beautiful and vibrant market, Bac Ha was a street photographer’s paradise. We got plenty of shopping in, too! Food, fabric, clothing, knives, and more!

Dong Van

The Dong Van plateau is a UNESCO Global Geopark. The stunning mountains are part of a limestone karst formation. It’s really beautiful, and much like the Yellow Mountains in China.

…and back to Hanoi

Our final stop was at the incense factory near Hanoi. It was fascinating to watch them work.

An amazing creative and cultural immersion with both like-minded colleagues and seasoned pros who helped stretch my thinking and improve my work.

Jeff Stern, Vietnam ’23

Like what you see? Join us for our Northern Vietnam workshop in 2024!

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Cyber Monday Sale!

$750 Off Any Workshop


Sign up for any workshop before midnight, November 28, 2023, and we’ll apply your $750 discount to your final balance payment.