Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Tim Gerard Barker is an award-winning photographer and filmmaker who has lived in Vietnam since 2012. The colorful, graphic images he creates are a reflection of his innate desire to explore and learn about other cultures.
In his more than 10 years in Asia, Tim has photographed some of the world’s most breath-taking destinations around the region. On a recent assignment for Aman Resorts Vietnam, Tim showcased this remote paradise overlooking Vinh Hy Bay on the spectacular stretch of Vietnam’s coastline. The resort offers limitless opportunities for outdoor exploration, cultural immersion, and solitude with its clifftop restaurants and pool, lakeside Aman Spa, and golden sand beach.
The resort architecture is designed to work with, complement, and reveal its surrounding environments, and I was requested to use the flattering natural light at dawn and dusk to enhance the scene and add a sense of mystique and wonder to the images.
Tim was initially contacted through email by the marketing and communications manager at Aman Resorts Vietnam who had found his work online a year earlier. The creative brief for the project entailed a few phone calls with both the brand and creative director in London and the marketing and communications manager in Vietnam. Tim was sent photos of all the locations on the shot list to ensure he had a solid understanding of what to expect when he arrived at the location.
The project spanned 10 days at the resort over the course of three visits. A scouting day was held prior to every shoot to determine the best angles and locations for shooting. During his breaks, Tim would upload images to Dropbox Paper to enable the marketing and communications manager to see and comment on what he had done. In addition to his assistant, the resort provided a few members of the maintenance staff to help Tim move equipment between shooting locations around the resort.
When I visit each location I use a sun tracking application to understand the best time to shoot each image and I take reference images for the best angles and discuss them with the team at the resort. From there I create a schedule for the following day shoot and this is shared with the resort so that they can work with their maintenance and front of house teams to make sure that each location that we are shooting at is ready to go before we arrive.
When the good light did come it was important to make the most of it and in some cases I set up two cameras in two places at the same time. I’ll often do this at dawn and dusk as these shots usually work really well even on cloudy days. After setting up and shooting a wider angle overlooking the decking from above, I came down to the decking to shoot a closer version at dusk. I continued to capture images remotely from the first location throughout dusk, so that I could give the client multiple options for the dusk image.
The resort is somewhat remote with the nearest airport being an hour and a half away by car, so it’s a wonderful place where guests can escape to. Many of the villas photographed had just been completed and some hadn’t been handed over to management yet, so turning lights on and off wasn’t as simple as flicking a switch. In these cases, Tim had to have maintenance staff access the main electricity board to turn the lights on and off as needed.
Situated within the natural surroundings of Nui Chua National Park and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tim’s images encapsulate the beauty and tranquillity of the magnificent oasis where guests can experience true freedom, personal space, and uncomplicated serenity. Aman means peace — a notion that is the core element of the brand’s identity.
During the first trip to the resort, I used my 24mm tilt-shift lens as much as possible. And when it wasn’t wide enough, I used my 16-35mm lens. I found that the 16-35 was a bit limiting though as it’s not quite as sharp as the tilt-shift and I also missed the ability to shift my frame up and down to fine tune my composition (a tilt-shift lens works like a view camera, where you can keep the camera back parallel to the room (which keeps all the vertical lines straight) and then you can shift the lens up or down to get the best composition). During the first shoot, I was also using a 3-way tripod head and it was time consuming getting the camera balanced. Prior to the second shoot, to make things easier for myself, I purchased a 17mm tilt-shift lens and a geared architectural tripod head that allowed me to make fine adjustments so I could quickly balance the camera.
My favorite moments are always when I’m in the right spot at the right time as the light starts to do something magical. It’s such a great feeling when I have scouted out a location in advance and chosen an angle based on the rising or falling sun, and then arriving in time to set everything up and be ready in time as the first and last rays of the day paint the sky pink.
Vietnam-based marketing and communications manager: Do Hanh Nguyen
London-based brand and creative director: Jonathan Gardiner
General manager’s personal assistant: Ly Hoai Chau (Chris)
General manager: Joy Arpornrat Kuekthong
Assistants: Bao Khanh & Tuan Anh Nguyen