Da Lat, located 1500 m (4,920 ft) above sea level on the Langbiang Plateau in the southern parts of the Central Highlands, is a seven-and-a-half-hour bus ride north from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). In contrast to HCMC’s oppressive heat, the cool mountain air is a surprising retreat from the southern capital, blessing us without the need for air conditioning.
I’m immediately taken by the french colonial architecture in pastel greens, yellows and blues. It is also reminiscent of Swiss-style chalets with quaint boulevards and flower-draped balconies.
Since we only have a week, Da Lat is an ideal place to base ourselves for a few days. Shopping in Thailand and Viet Nam’s night markets is a highlight of every new town on the road. My EP-2 camera was held aloft on an extended tripod with art filter 2 – ‘soft focus’ – on a 2-second self-timer, to get closer to the bargaining shoppers (above).
Seen from the surrounding high roads, the town shares its colourful building walls with splashes of hydrangea and golden everlasting flowers that grow so well here. I also had the rare treat of the smell of pine forests which proliferate in the area.
Weather-wise, we welcomed bright, sunny beginnings to the day only to be wary of afternoon storms. Since we had hired a small motor scooter to zip around on, we didn’t want to get caught short in a ‘hail of bullets’ type of downpour.
I carried my complement of E-System lenses, E-3 body and EP-2 kit tucked in front of me on the bike so I could see it at all times. I find it essential to set the camera ready for the quick shots on this sort of excursion. Typically, on shutter priority and aperture open, say f5.6. This would at least ensure sharpness at short notice. As blogged earlier, the EP-2 has impressed with it’s range of art filters which can be exploited in all light conditions. Da Lat’s colour will tempt you to push one more step by applying the ‘pop art’ filter.
The town is well endowed with stunning catholic cathedrals in peach and blue, in contrast to Bao Dai’s summer palace or pagoda, in rustic reds, 7km out of town, that is luxuriously located above the artificial Tuyem Lam Lake amidst the pine forests. A calm, meditative place (not surprisingly).
Looking out over the lake, getting close to the pine forests, I noticed seedlings high up in the canopy. Out came the E-3 and Zuiko 90-250mm f2.8 Telephoto Zoom for the job. This lens is simply mesmerising in its sharpness, colour and clarity, even more so when images are viewed on my iMac with its 1920 by 1080 pixel screen resolution.
The lens rendered the seedlings crisp and clear, even with the EC-20 2 x tele-converter (2-stop adjustment). The size and quality of this lens often attracts attention and I take the opportunity to explain the E-system and shot to my fellow enthusiasts.
Three days of exploration on two wheels is my kind of photo excursion. In only seven days, the kindness of the Vietnamese people and variety of terrain spoilt me. When time allows, travelling further north along the coast via Ha Noi to Halong Bay … now that is one trip to keep in mind.
© Warren Field 2010