Mr. Van Es was in the offices of United Press International on April 29, 1975, when he saw about 30 Americans on the rooftop of an apartment building several blocks away climbing a long ladder to board a Central Intelligence Agency helicopter.
Mr. Van Es, known as Hugh, took the photo using a long lens and sent it out over the U.P.I. wire service. The building in the picture housed C.I.A. officials and families, but in reprintings it has often been described incorrectly as the American Embassy in Saigon. Thousands of people were evacuated by helicopter during the fall of South Vietnam.
“He was obviously a very good photographer, but what he did was to capture the end,” said Ernst Herb, the president of the correspondents’ club.
When he took the Saigon picture, Mr. Van Es was in the process of leaving U.P.I. to become a freelancer again. Based in Hong Kong after the war, he also covered the Moro rebellion in the Philippines and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr. Van Es was dismayed that he did not receive royalties from the use of the Saigon photo, which belonged to U.P.I. The rights have since been sold twice, along with many other photos taken by the wire service’s photographers. Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, now owns the rights to the photo through Corbis, a company he created.
Besides his wife of 39 years, Mr. Van Es is survived by an older sister in the Netherlands, said Kees Metselaar, another photojournalist based in Hong Kong.