One of the most photogenic corners of this beautiful world, Halong Bay boasts picture perfect scenery at every turn. We spoke to a couple of accomplished photographers who visited Halong Bay recently to learn about their experiences and find out their top tips for anyone hoping to do a bit of their own photography in Halong Bay.
Vladislav Borimsky (Photographer, US)
In March of 2016, while traveling through Vietnam, I made a point to visit Halong Bay. After seeing multitude of photos of jungle covered limestone rock formations rise through the tranquil blue waters reminiscing something out of Avatar movie, I knew this was something I had to see. I booked one of numerous overnight cruises that takes you around the bay in a Junk ship and packed an overnight bag and a camera, ready to capture National Geographic worthy photos of this majestic region.
On the day of the tour it was chilly and drizzly. The bay was covered in fog. It was gray and hazy – not even remotely close to what I saw in color popping travel photos. My initial reaction was disappointment. The weather didn’t look like it was going to improve. Sun was nowhere in sight. The whole atmosphere was ghostly eerie, somewhat creepy and mysterious. And yet, it was astonishingly beautiful and serene. Quietly passing by the haze covered rocky pillars, islets and occasional fishing boats and floating fishing villages gave you sense that you were discovering something new – something that no one has previously seen.
Nature is unpredictable and can often impact your traveling or photographic experience. Being flexible and able to adapt to your surrounding is key to making the best out of any situation. I took out my camera, trying my best to protect it from the mist and started snapping. I wanted to capture the eeriness and solitude of the area and its inhabitants on that day. I wanted to capture the side of Halong Bay most people didn’t see.
The best advice I can give to any traveler or photographer visiting Halong Bay, is let go of your expectations and embrace what you are given. You are privileged to be part of a small percentage of people who have or will ever see this magnificent part of the world. Your experience will be unique. Embrace it and tell your story.
Halong Bay is beautiful at every point of the year, but if you are planning a trip with certain expectations in mind, it’s important to read up on the weather in Halong Bay throughout the year. If it’s clear skies and colour popping pictures you’re after, it’s best to visit during the winter or early spring months when rainfall and cloud cover are at their lowest. If it’s moody and misty images you want, you’ll be more likely to achieve them in the summer months, which tend to bring stormy skies and misty days.
It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast again before you head off, and if you think it looks like a spell of bad weather is on the way, you can always check in with your tour operator who can confirm the departure of the cruise (it’ll only be called off if there’s a big storm on the way).
Helen Suk (Photographer, Canada)
Halong Bay is a photographer’s dream! This surreal archipelago is rich with geological beauty. It was difficult to take my eyes away from the 1,600 limestone karsts that jut out from the emerald waters, even for 15 minutes. I was camera-ready at all times. The region is that breathtaking. Whether it was bright and sunny or cloudy and gloomy, the scenery offered incredible photographic opportunities throughout the day.
- Consider a cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay within the Halong Bay UNESCO World Heritage Site instead of the main route. The waters are cleaner and significantly less crowded with boats (“junks”). I often felt like the vessel I was on was the only one in the whole bay.
- To maximize your time and experience the many transformations of Halong Bay, spend the night on the junk instead of just one day. The weather can change by the hour. This will also give you the opportunity to relax and soak it all in.
- Bring a wide angle lens! You’ll often want to capture as many of the rock formations as possible within the frame.
- Try to include a person or boat in your image to give a sense of scale to the many formations in the bay.
If you want your images to be clear of other boats and maintain an ‘isolated’ feel, indeed touring through the quieter areas of Bai Tu Long Bay and Lan Ha Bay will be a good choice for you. The further away you go from the main tourist wharf, the quieter and less populous the waters of the bay will be.
Taking a 2-day-1-night or 3-day-2-night cruise will also mean you will sail deeper into the bay and further away from the crowds, and the scenery really does only get better the further you go.
Choose your cruise wisely depending on what sort of outcome you want for your images. If you want your pictures to be free of other boats, pick a cruise that sails in quieter regions like Lan Ha Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay. If your images are dependent on the weather, pick an appropriate time of year for your visit and always check the weather again before you go. Happy snapping!
Have you got some Halong pictures you’d like to share? Send them to us at Halong Hub for and we’ll be happy to feature them (with full credits to you) in a future post.