In this (almost) weekly blog, I show a picture from the archives or recent travels, tell the story behind the picture, and describe the photographic details of the shot.
I had a day to spare in Hanoi after a trip to northern Vietnam visiting schools and villages with UNICEF. Keep an eye on the Finnair blogsite for my blog contribution from there which is up-and-coming. I came to Hanoi in the spring to write a feature for the Finnair inflight magazine Blue Wings, but this time I was under no pressure to deliver any material from the city. So it was great to spend almost three hours on the bridge, one of Hanoi’s iconic attractions, taking shots purely for fun.
There are no cars allowed on the bridge so the traffic consists only of motorbikes and bicycles, with a single rail track running down the middle. Mind you, that still constitutes an awful lot of traffic, especially in the early morning and late afternoon which is when I was there this time. Riders, many masked like outlaws or wearing the typical Vietnamese conical coolie hat, balance loads of boxes, caged animals, water containers and small trees on their laps. Mopeds, scooters and motorbikes cram Hanoi’s roads – it’s a faster way of getting around than taking a cab or driving.
The bridge spans the Red River and extends for about 2.5 kilometres. Barges drift under the bridge, while run-down house boats are moored near the reedy shoreline. Allotments of maize and vegetables line the band of land on the bank closest to the city centre, and palms wave in the breeze, a surprisingly verdant and extensive urban back garden.
A narrow and precarious pathway for pedestrians, comprised of startlingly loose and wobbly concrete panels, runs along each side of the bridge. Vendors selling fresh fish, herbs and vegetables spread their wares in lay-bys where cyclists can stop and make purchases.
The bridge is a good old fashioned iron girder affair, and was built under French rule in 1899-1902. The US air force did its best (or worst) to destroy it during the Vietnam War, although as is often the case with the USAF its best wasn’t quite good enough – fortunately. But only about a half of the original structure remains.
The photographic stuff
Regular readers (!) of this blog will know that I have been agonizing over whether or not to move completely to the mirrorless Fujifilm X-series of cameras and ditch – well, sell – the Canon stuff altogether. My mind is now made up. This trip was the final test. The Fujifilm system does everything I need it to do and more.
The Fujinon lenses, primes and zooms, are top notch, the equipment is half the weight of those big white Canon lenses and bodies, and the picture quality is generally excellent. And in poor villages and streets, people are less intimidated – and let’s be honest, perhaps even less likely to try to steal, although I don’t want to tempt fate – the more compact Fujifilm equipment.
I am not being paid by Fujifilm to say this, in case you were wondering! The Canon system is still an excellent one in terms of quality and performance, and is also very robust, one of the reasons for its weight. But since I am principally a travel photographer, weight is a major factor, as long as picture quality is not sacrificed.
The Fujifilm X-Pro1 needs to be cared for more and won’t take the bumps and knocks survived by my Canon EOS 5D mkII over the last five years, but since it is smaller in any case it won’t take so many of those knocks. Maximum megapixels only run to 16 compared with 21 for the Canon, but 16mp is big enough for double spreads in most magazines at 300 dpi and plenty big enough for any ‘artistic’ printing I’m likely to do.
Reviewers have highlighted the shortcomings in terms of narrow depth of field that result from the mirror-free set-up, but I don’t see a problem with that and still get nice narrow depths of field if I want them. Some have also mentioned a problem with processing RAW files in Lightroom, but again it seems to work all right for me.
So anyone reading this who wants to buy a used, slightly scratched, but still perfectly functioning Canon EOS5D mkII and attendant lens selection, get in touch straightaway!