Without an H

Photography from south-east Asia by Jon Sanwell

Just below the clouds (day 2 in Ha Giang)

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Day 2 in Ha Giang, and the weather improved markedly. The clouds lifted a little, and the rain was more drizzle than deluge. Just as importantly, I was able to keep my feet warm and dry through the expedient of wearing plastic bags inside my trainers (a technique I first employed at the Reading festival in 1992). It’s not a great look, but I’m perfectly happy to sacrifice a little dignity in exchange for warm feet.

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On the first day, it felt for most of the time as if we were driving through the cloud, but as we drove from Quan Ba to Dong Van on day 2, we were just below it. This made all the difference. I could actually see the beautiful rocky landscape around me. I think the combination of the dark green of the wet vegetation and the grey/white of the sky makes for some quite dramatic pictures.

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The conditions weren’t ideal for landscape photography, I suppose, but I’m not really an expert in this genre. I’m not very technical when it comes to this kind of shooting – I didn’t use a tripod or an ND filter, and don’t have a clue about hyperfocal distances and so on. I’m very much of the “f/11 and shoot” school. But I think it’s hard to take a bad photograph in Ha Giang, as the surroundings are so spectacular. One of the things I remember most about this trip is the sensation of the landscape unfolding in front of me as I drove through the mountain roads, revealing one glorious scene after another.

 

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The long and winding road

Late in the afternoon, we reached the village of Sa Phin, and visited the palace of the Hmong kings. This was the home of the Hmong rulers of the province in the early 20th century.

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Public transport, Ha Giang style

This last picture, taken just outside Dong Van towards the end of the day, is probably my favourite from the entire trip. I think it has a kind of “end of the Earth” look, with the last few rice terraces clinging to the hillside, before the gentle slopes give way to the jagged limestone peaks beyond.

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