Photo tours demand expertise, flexibility, understanding and patience only a fellow enthusiast like Nguyen Huy Son can offer
It can be, and is, called many things - photo travel, photo fieldtrips, guided photography tour, specialized travel and photo workshops. But it is basically a journey of discovering a nation through your own lens - figuratively and literally.
And whatever the discoverer's interest is - landscapes, people's portraits, historical landmarks or sites, or a combination of many things - Nguyen Huy Son can be a friend and guide on the journey. This is his livelihood.
The forty-year-old Son started out as tour guide in 1996, but the idea for tours focused on photography flashed through his mind when he started to learn the skills from his uncle, a senior photographer.
The cost could be at least US$1,000 for a week-long tour all inclusive - accommodation, ground transportation, food, on-vehicle snacks and bottled water; and airport transfers.
More details about Son's photo tours can be found at www.vnphotoguide.com
After three years, in 1999, his new tour was first presented. Immediately it drew lots of attention, especially from foreign guests, such as travel photographers, photo journalists and television production crews.
Since then, many other noted Vietnamese photographers like Huynh Ngoc Dan or Thai Phien have designed their own photo tours, but Son is still holding his own.
That he has "survived" several years of competition shows his photo tours meet clients' expectations. The fact that Son is a professional tour guide fluent in English gives him an edge over other photographers, and he does not find it difficult to make the tour an attractive one.
"Backpack, camera and heart - these are three indispensable parts of my photo tour. I want to give my customers the best native Vietnamese images possible," said Son.
In Son's photo tour, there are no limitations or strict schedules or set routines. Your moods and needs are priority. Son keeps in touch, understands your wishes through daily emails, and gets you to the right locale at the right time with the right lighting for the best photo opportunities. He works along, but Son's connections with well-known firms offering transportation and accommodation serve him, and his customers well.
"No matter what level of experience the tourist has, the trip is always fun and useful, with life's tiny lessons captured on your way through the lens."
Son provides detailed consultancy about the best months to travel, best time to shoot and specific local events that will bring you home with unique photos and memories lasting a lifetime.
"My tour is open to every walk of life, any person who has real passion in photography and travel. Usually, for each tour, I guide groups of ten or under, the less the better."
"Most of my clients have basic knowledge of photography, some of them are extremely professional. Good discipline, respect for each other and sharing the journey's fruits always make for a happy ending."
Son also works in association with a government-owned tour company, Ho Chi Minh City's Ecotour. This ensures safe financial arrangements. The length and location of each photo tour depend on the client's wishes, including the subjects covered and the region visited.
Time to settle
Son ruefully admits the constant journeying over the last decade has taken him away from a family life.
At 40, he feels the need for it. "It's time for me to turn into a man with a cozy home to return to."
Besides being a noted photo tour operator, Son is a proficient photographer in his own right, having exhibited abroad in California, with numerous national photography awards under his belt including: third prize for Vietnam Tourism Photography Contest in 2005, first and third prize for Vietnam Tourism Photography contest in 2004.
At present, Son is working on a "top secret" plan and intends to broaden his photo tour by linking it with bird-watching and bike tours.