I’m in Fiji now on my way back to Brisbane after spending a little over a week in The Kingdom of Tonga – three days in Vavau, two in Hapai and the same in Nukulofa. The assignment – which was principally for the SPTO’s regional photo library project – turned out to be a precursor to a dedicated shoot being planned by Tourism Tonga in May when I’ll return with talent and shoot several of the locations we visited this trip. While we came up with some appealing images (click the e-card below), there’s no doubt having a handsome couple on hand would have made the assignment far more productive – particularly in terms of capturing travellers engaging with the local culture. Next time, rather than producing largely postcard pictures of the scenery, people and landmarks, we plan to concentrate more on people having a good time and the unique experiences the destination has to offer. Sailing the islands of Vavau, for example, is rated as one of the top six sailing trips in the world (understandably from what I have seen), so we’ll capture our talent enjoying the experience. We’ll shoot them pulling in 15 kilo tuna with the local fishermen in Hapai and wandering its pristine beaches with some village children, we’ll drop into the fresh food markets and share a laugh with a few Tongan women as cumbersome western hands seek to master a delicate style of ornamental flower weaving; we’ll share a Kava with some men before church. And, if we’re really lucky, we might even get inside the royal palace and gain what is likely to be a fascinating insight into Tongan royalty and one of the few remaining kingdoms in the world.
While I have been here before, Tonga has proved to be a particularly pleasant surprise this visit in terms of photography. I look forward to coming back.