5 unique souvenir gifts from Vietnam

Finding something different and unique is a challenge. Mass production, cheap materials and reused ideas you find everywhere. Living in Vietnam since 2000, I have seen the progress and changes to the country over the years. I still believe Vietnam can do a better job promoting its beauty and I wanted to contribute with what I know best. That is photography.

Photographers tend to publish books and postcards. My graphic design background has always made me think in different ways. I always liked lacquer as a craft. There is something about handmade process that adds a difference to a product. It is not just stamped out from a machine in the hundreds, it is actually crafted by hand.

I started experimenting with the ancient lacquer making technique and modern print technology. From that our photographic lacquer coaster sets were born.

1. Lacquer coaster sets

O&M Coaster Set

Photographed with an old vintage Kodak camera, the Kodak Duaflex II. From the 1950’s, this camera brings a distinct style to the images. Printed on hand plated silver base, then several rounds with lacquer coating, also done by hand.

Each coaster set is handmade and unique. From O&M.


From printing on hand plated silver to fabric. Pillows were the next step. Featuring motifs from around Vietnam, these pillows make the perfect present:

2. Decorative pillows with photographic print 

O&M Decorative Pillow

It has never been easier to ship a slice of Vietnamese heritage to your living room. As seen above, a set of Vietnamese water puppet dolls photographed in the ancient city of Hoi An. Each tote bag gets produced on demand and assembled by hand before shipping. From O&M Collection Store.


Then we applied the printing techniques to t-shirts. A full print t-shirt is wearable art. Truly different.

3. T-shirts with sublimation prints, full coverage

O&M T-shirt

Anyone walking the streets of Saigon have seen the cable and wire madness. Standing at most street corners, it is easy to spot the cable monsters above. Printed on both sides, these t-shirts take you straight into the cable jungle. Each pillow case gets produced on demand and assembled by hand before shipping. From O&M Collection Store.


Expanding our option with wearable art, we started a tote bag range. Simple, elegant and functional. Different photographs for different occasions. Below is one of our favourites.

4. Tote bags with French cement tiles patterns 

O&M Tote Bag

The French brought with them their cement tiles making techniques. You can walk on their heritage throughout Vietnam. These tile patterns I found deep in the Mekong, at one of the eldest Khmer pagodas. A variety of patterns cover the floor and I documented most of them. Any trip you take around Vietnam will reward you with photographic opportunities. Vietnam is indeed a hidden charm. You need to seek out in order to find. From O&M’s Collection Store.


We also offer the traditional photographic print. Wearable only for walls, they do add character to where ever they hang on display. For other size, please get in touch.

5. Framed poster prints shipped to your doorstep

O&M Square Poster Print

An affordable alternative to our silver plated lacquer prints and silver plated canvas prints. Each poster prints on Epson Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper. 

​A detail from one of the stunning rooftops seen in Hue city. The emblems are unique for the area and I have only spotted them outside of Hue at Hue restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. From O&M’s Collection Store.


Want to know about new releases? Sign up for our Newsletter at the O&M Collection Store website or follow our Business Page on Facebook. We release new products on a regular basis. 

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Souvenirs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and what to buy as a memento

SGN by SMM – Matrix Colour, coaster set in lacquer.

SGN by SMM – Matrix Colour, coaster set in lacquer.

Traveling to the Far East. The sentence has a magical sound to it. The magic spell can either come apart or be carried on. It all comes down to choices we make. Observing. Reflecting. Participating. When I travel I like to take breaks by the roadside and sit and watch the world go by. The size of that world is in a direct relationship to the size of the town I am visiting. Needless to say, a small road stall in the middle of an unpaved country lane brings a few people passing by within an hour or two. More people pass by your eyes in less than 30 seconds in downtown Ho Chi Minh City.

On my travels around Vietnam I made an observation regarding the markets, in particular the souvenirs stalls. They were all selling more or less the same products. It presented a challenge as I have a traveling habit. I like to purchase something that I believe to be unique to the place I am visiting, or something that represents that place. I collect mementos. I also capture what I see with my camera. I behave as an average tourist.

Then I had an idea. That was one and a half year ago. I set out to produce my own souvenirs, my own mementos, to share with fellow travellers that wish for something different. Last month that idea became a real product available to purchase at selected stores in Ho Chi Minh City. The product is photographic lacquerware. Vietnam is famous for its lacquerware and I combine the traditional Vietnamese craftsmanship of lacquer making with photography. A modern souvenir gift wrapped in the old traditions of lacquerware. Handmade in Vietnam.

I truly recommend you to take a look at it at a nearby store. The product images do not do them justice as the colours are richer than they appear on the images. Each item has a base layer of silver foil and we print the image on top of the silver base. Then the lacquer coatings are applied by hand. The whole process takes up to six weeks from start to finished product.

Currently, we have a dining set range and a small coaster set range available for purchase. Images of the products are available online at our webstore or you can see the products on display at our selected retail partners in Ho Chi Minh City. For international shipping we can handle that through the webstore. For direct purchases, please visit one of the retailers or inquire with us directly if the store is out of stock.

Our products are stocked by Ginkgo Concept Store, 254 De Tham Street, District 1, HCMC and Studio Co, 4 Le Van Mien, Thao Dien, District 2, HCMC. For a full list of authorized retailers, please visit our lacquerware website as it took less than a month after we launched for copycat products to surface in the local market.


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What a difference a slip of paper can make – A visit at the hospital ward, Nguyen Du Street, District 1

Receivers of food coupons

Receivers of food coupons. Iphonography.

A chain of events. A one year anniversary notification found its way to my inbox. An Expat blog meet-up, always at a new location, and almost always having new people participating. Thus, I met Dennis and his wife, Quynh, for the first time. A random encounter with a touching outcome. They do charity. Several stories later and we are at the hospital ward. They support a local group that helps the poorest amongst the patients.

Every week they print around 300 food tickets, all valid for one week only, to the meals at the canteen. The receivers are guaranteed to have adequate food for a week. It makes a difference when what you have is nothing as you spent everything you had on medicine. The smiles of joy and relief are seen as the group goes through the wards handing out their tickets as well as following up from last week. The group relies on donations to pay for the meals they sponsor every week.

They also run a website (in Vietnamese) that shows what they are doing and how they have spent the money donated.

Here are a few iPhone images from the Friday handout. It takes place every Friday afternoon at the hospital at Nguyen Du street, District 1.

Receivers of food coupons. Iphonography.

Receivers of food coupons. Iphonography.

Receivers of food coupons. Iphonography.

Receivers of food coupons. Iphonography.

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Making a difference – If only for a day

At the pagoda. iPhone photography processed with camera+

At the pagoda. iPhone photography processed with camera+

Walking through narrow alleyways where even the motorbikes would have their mirrors bent inwards by the walls. Retracing the steps afterwards, we would appreciated road markers left behind on the walls as we are getting lost. A maze within a small section of the town. We are in Phu Nhuan district, 5 minutes away from a large arterial road, in what seems a world apart. Do good. That’s the reason why we are here. To remind ourselves that in fact we have privileged lives that we often take for granted as there are many people in more dire situations than ourselves. To do what we often think and wish we should do. A first step. To give. Give to people less fortunate without expecting anything in return, except for the feeling of making someone happy. The smiles received are reward enough.

First stop is the 1st floor of a hairdresser. I have passed it many times. Even made a note to return with a camera and take a photograph of the mannequin heads that sometimes are on display. Impaled heads on a metal fence. All with various hair colours and lengths, used for practice by the staff. Today we enter the salon and venture upstairs. We meet the husband first, then his wife, lying on a mattress on the floor. In agony. She has incurable cancer. Dying from the inside, a bit more every day. Eventually she will leave behind her husband and two children. It is brutal. Time is limited and our small contribution will only help them subdue the pain for a short time, but can do nothing to stop the process. Even with means to help it will not be enough. It start to sink in how precious life is and how valuable every moment we have with loved ones really is.

Love and care is what we all crave and need. The infant inside the room, only a short walk away from the hairdresser, is being looked after by his mother. She happens to be an unmarried, single mother. The room is their home. It’s dark with hardly any light seeping in. Electricity cost money and thus saved by not being used. She needs all the help and support she can get.

Next stop is further inside. Between newly constructed houses and villas we arrive at metal gate. Through a small courtyard that doubles as motorbike parking space, we entered a small house, greeted by an elderly woman. The elderly woman has aged through hardship and not by time as she looks much older than her real age. She is looking after her son. He is in his twenties and stays at home with her. He’s standing by the window in a small room, shifting his weight back and forth. Only then do I notice the ankle chain. He is chained to the wall. To keep him safe. The woman says he is mad and dangerous to his surroundings. She has to keep him chained up. The motorbike parking is her only livelihood but her front yard cannot hold that many motorbikes.

Our journey continues, next stop, the local hospital. After spending time trying to figure out our given directions, we had to resort to a phone call as even the staff could not tell us the correct room. Once we received the additional information did we find our next person in need of some help. The old woman has respiratory troubles and is undertaking her treatment as we arrive. Through her face mask  I notice how her eyes light up when hearing of our purpose for the visit. It means a lot to her. To us, in monetary terms, it is not much. Forgoing a meal out, and donate instead the value, and you have touched a heart immensely. It is a small token that we all can do. To share with a stranger in need.

We spend more time walking. This time we walk passed the house as it is too tiny to notice, sandwiched between two villas. It’s made of wood. Small, but still someone’s house and home. An elderly woman, living by herself, working hard to make a living. She normally sells her homemade goods in the evenings, something we did not know and we feel ashamed to have taken up her valuable sales time as we wanted to help and not be a burden to her.

Our last stop this evening is the local pagoda. It is with their help we have located the people in need. The day has been filled with mixed emotions of all the experiences we have had, however, knowing that we have done something that made a difference, no matter how small, it still is a difference and that feels good. It is good to get out of our normal comfort zone and our own daily routines and be useful, if only for a day.

I do know that I want to undertake this again and I also hope that more people will do the same, if only for a day a year.

If you cannot make a personal visit, please consider to fund a Kiva loan. This year, I made a resolution to issue a new loan of US$25 every month on Kiva and you can do so too here: http://www.kiva.org/invitedby/mads6766

For each person that follows that link and donate, Kiva will issue a bonus that can be used to issue even more loans. You can read about it here: http://www.kiva.org/bonus/learnmore

Even if everyone else is not doing good, I alone will.
Even if everyone else is doing wrong, I alone will not.

– Buddha

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Meet the Ebretta and the V-Tronic, the electric vintage looking scooters

The Ebretta and the V-Tronic

Saigon Scooter Centre (SSC), have just launched two electric scooters, a Lambretta and a Vespa, perfect for inner-city travel. Speed of up to 60km per hour and a traveling distance of 40 kilometers on a full charge ought to be enough to whizz around town in green style.

Patrick, from SSC, brought the bikes over to the studio for a product shoot session. We have photographed everything from small nuts and bolts to petrol tanks and complete bikes previously. Over 1500 individual parts have been photographed up to now. Patrick also organise the annual Charity Scooter Run that we are proud to be one of the sponsors to.

We spent the afternoon photographing the two bikes, the results you can see here, and by the way, Patrick will have the first bikes available for delivery in August, that’s only a few more months, so if you are interested, head over to his site here.

Which one do I prefer? I must admit I’d go for the Lambretta.

The V-Tronic Vespa.

Old style voltmeter.

Frontview with seat open.

The battery controller.

The batteries, one on each side.

Charge outlet. Industry standard cord. 3 hours for full charge.

The full view.

Ebretta, full view.

Close up.

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The 24 hours trip to Singapore

Singapore skyline seen from my hotel room in the morning.

Singapore is a great shopping destination and I travel yearly to purchase additional gear for my studio, either from Cathay Photo or Shriro, sometimes both outlets, as the brands I am using are not available at my normal dealer LeDuc in Saigon.

I do not enjoy any sponsorship from any of them, but I do get excellent customer service and I would like to mention them in my blog post. I might add Thuan My as well. Testimonials below.

Normally, my trips to Singapore are done in 24 hours or less. I fly in, pick up my pre-ordered items and check in to a hotel, sleep, wake up and if I do have an hour to spare, I take a morning walk snapping away before boarding the flight back to Saigon. Expensive some would say. An investment I would counter, as we compete in the marketplace by providing quality, not low cost. Quality is never cheap and low cost can be twice as expensive when it does not fulfill its intended purpose.

I recently heard about a resort that cut cost on the kitchen machinery. They did what they thought was a bargain, until a year later they realised the equipment was not up to the wear and tear. Now they have to replace it again. Expensive lesson.

Break of dawn in Singapore.

Walkabout in Singapore along the canal.

Reflection from the canal.

The colourful bridge.

 Why I appreciate my suppliers and I am willing to endorse them free of charge:

Cathay Photo stock Elinchrom, the flash brand that lights up our studio. Swiss made and of superb quality. I once had a flashed that stopped working. Took it back and they repaired it free of charge as it was still covered by warranty. You get at least a full year warranty, that is much better than the normally 3 to 6 months you get in Saigon.

With Shriro, I bought my Hasselblad system. I did at one stage encounter the unthinkable. The camera jammed. I had to send it by DHL to Singapore for repair. They concluded it was too severe to fix and had to send it to Denmark. In the mean time they shipped back a similar model for me to use until the camera came back. Outstanding service. I don’t think I can ever thank them enough as I cannot rent a similar system in Vietnam. Had three assignments that I managed to complete with their help.

LeDuc has been supplying paper backgrounds and other studio gear and he is always available for a chat when you meet him in the store. Got the best deal in town on Lowepro bags. What he doesn’t stock is available as import in most cases, such as my background system.

Thuan My, our Mac supplier. Yes, I could probably get the hardware slightly cheaper elsewhere, but in terms of service, they are worth every single Dong. I had the system hard disk crashing, called them up and before lunchtime, they arrived. Took the culprit back for testing, concluded that it was beyond resurrection, came back with a new system disk (that we purchased) and installed it in the afternoon. Copied files from the Time machine back-up and we were up and running again.


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SGN Style, a new project sees the light, yay!

A new blog project to promote up and coming creatives in Saigon. The second project to see the light in 2011. The first one is Saigon Creative, the monthly inspirational breakfast talk. Due to internal restructuring, aSaigonCreativeMorning became Saigon Creative and has now a new website address: http://saigoncreative.blogspot.com/

If you signed up on the old site, please follow the link to the new and sign up again for the latest updates regarding the events. Yes, it is a bit inconvenient, however, we don’t have a way to port the existing subscribers to the new site, so please bear with us.

The second project is SGN Style, a blog featuring up and coming fashion designers styling themselves. We want newcomers to have an outlet to present themselves and gain attention from the press. Simple as that. Visit the website for more information and sign up for future blog posts: http://fashionista-saigon.blogspot.com/

Please meet Justin, Celina and Frankytars!




If you are a fashion designer/stylist/photographer, please get in touch if you want to be part of the project. Pro bono. Everybody involved donates their own time and services.

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To the top of the world, or at least to the 46th floor, the Skydeck at Bitexco Tower in Ho Chi Minh City

Visitor enjoying the view from the Skydeck.

Famous cities around the world like to have an observation deck for tourists to see the city in all its splendour. Paris has its Eiffel Tower, with an almost infinite queue, that I passed on the opportunity of seeing Paris from above. New York was different, the former World Trade Center had both an indoor and outdoor observation deck. Yes, they had an almost matching queue to Paris, handling on average 80,000 visitors a day. I spent a whole morning, queueing, before seeing New York from the roof top. It was worth it. Having rooftop access is simply the best for a photographer. No obstructions to the lens.

Saigon’s skyline has changed over the years, but it was not until Bitexco Financial Tower was built, that there was some size to it. I did not get roof top access, nor access to the helipad, that is something that I very much would like to get.

What I did get was the opportunity to purchase a ticket to the Skydeck. No queues, straight to the counter, paying 200,000 VND for the ticket and got escorted to the lift. Traveling 7 meters per second, the journey to the 46th floor was fast,. (It still got 22 more floors.) Only a few tourists had taken the opportunity to see Saigon from above. Walking around you have a 360 degrees view and binoculars positioned around, free to use.

The Skydeck, 360 degrees view of Saigon.

Enjoying the view of Saigon.

For the view itself is brilliant, for a photographer, the challenges are great. Curved, tinted glass, sometimes with graphics on. Backlit, since the windows are letting in light wherever you go. Bright coloured neon lights, as floor decoration, reflects in the glass. Finally, the windows themselves. I was told that due to the rain the day before, the windows had too much dirt on them, making it tricky to get a clean, clear view. Sensor dust is nothing compared with dust on the window.

Dust can be a photographer's enemy or a friend, depends on how you see it.

Embracing the dust and invoking a past feeling, a vintage look, faded postcards from the past, only they are representing the present, was my route to take for image treatment. Enjoy an afternoon from Saigon’s own Skydeck:

Vintage feel from present day Saigon.

Vintage feel from present day Saigon.

Vintage feel from present day Saigon.

Vintage feel from present day Saigon.

Enjoying the sunset over Ho Chi Minh City.

Worth a trip, enjoy the view.

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Saigon Creative’s event for April welcomed Tuan from the Propeller Group at Stella Cafe for: Culture exchange. Hip hop New York. Inspired Asian moves. Kung fu.

Tuan from Propeller Group in action.

Sunny Friday morning in Saigon and the Propeller Group represented by Tuan is ready to give a lecture to the early birds. Quite an exchange it was. A cultural exchange. The re-branding of Vietnam. Underground culture. Different from the underground in the past, the ones that everybody knows when you hear the word Vietnam. The tunnels, the fight, the struggle. The existing brand.

This is a very different underground. An underground that had seen graffiti but did not know what it was called until a backpacker visiting Hanoi in 2005 gave them the much needed information. A single word: Graffiti. Once the word was known, Google searches took place and more information was transferred.

Graffiti has blossomed since then. It is a reaction to advertising. Youth promoting their own voice. Is Vietnam becoming more Westernised? Do they only copy blindly? To that, we got a brief history about hip hop in New York. People often believe hip hop originated in New York, but when you ask the pioneers from the past, they would say that they got inspired by Asian moves. Balinese dance. Kung Fu. They saw something and adopted it. Fast forward and the best hip hop teams today originates in Asia.

The flow of exchange is made easier with the Internet. YouTube and Vimeo. Collaboration across the borders. The hip hop remix project.

Within in an hour we had jumped around subjects, seen videos and listened to music collaborations and had small debates. A member of the audience told us about a very special musical art form that is more or less unique to Vietnam. The blind man walking down alleys with blown out speakers, volume on max and playing 1920 raw blues tunes.

For those who missed out on yet another brilliant morning, please visit our new site and sign up for our newsletter. The events are always free of charge to attend.

Enjoy the images:

People finding seats at Stella and enjoying morning coffee.

Notebooks are a must to archive inspirational thoughts.

The more notebooks on display the better the lecture.

Discussion interchange.

Big thank you! to Tuan from Propeller Group for an interesting lecture.

My "Lucky Day" latte from Stella staff. It was a great day indeed!


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Saigon Creative Morning, a monthly serving of fresh ideas, inspiration, coffee & uncertain bakery items

Morning coffee for Creative souls.

Friday morning came, so did our attendees and our speaker, Dustin Nguyen. Coffee and pastry in hand, people started the small talk. Mingling around, then moved on to secure a good seat before kick off. After a short introduction, Dustin Nguyen pulled out a chair and started telling. An unplugged speech. An honest approach. Just as himself. Never over promise, never put yourself in a situation that you have promised something that you cannot deliver.

Hearing him tell about when he went into a meeting, sealed the deal, only to find out that most of what he wanted to do is not allowed in Vietnam. Going back and sorting it all out was humbling he said, but in my opinion shows guts and courage. Face the music upfront and you have less of a chance having your own party gatecrashed by unhappy investors or sponsors.

The whole event was filmed and will be released soon, please subscribe at Saigon Creative Morning’s website for further updates.

Below are some images from the event so you can get a feel of the venue and the setup. Enjoy!

Rockstar! David (Bowie) has just put on the music and his smile.

David giving a short introduction. Note the tie to pull down the garagedoor to divide the meeting room area.

The show is on!

Our first speaker, Dustin Nguyen.

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Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Godt Nyttår! Happy New Year! …and congratulations to the birth of Saigon Creative Mornings

Saigon Creative Mornings website

A new year and new opportunities. Back to Saigon after a Xmas break to Norway, images to come once the editing has been done. From wonderful Xmas food (extra kilos gained) and visits to friends and family it actually feels good to be back. After two weeks of enjoyment, boredom was setting in. Or, rather, restlessness to be busy again.

This year is off to a promising start and this month will see the birth of Saigon Creative Mornings.

Our first speaker is the actor Dustin Nguyen and the event sold out, or as it is free, got fully booked, in just a matter of days. Still not as crazy as in New York where these events are booked within minutes of going live on the web. Our waiting list is growing and unfortunately we don’t have more space available at the moment. It is exciting to see the response. Thank you everybody for making this happen.

Please join our LinkedIn group and participate with feedback and suggestions. Let us know who you want to see and hear. We also welcome sponsors. We have internationally renowned people that we can fly in if we have the funds available. There is no limit to where we can take it to with your help and support.

Let’s take our first step to a more creative year. Let’s make it worth it!

…and maybe change the cup of coffee to the Vietnamese Ca Phe Sua Da.

Coffee with ice and milk, Vietnamese style, aka Ca Phe Sua Da.

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Finding inspiration and the desire to create.

Inspirational poster series #001

Twitter and its “Tweets” can be addictive once you start following other interesting contributors. Inspirational quotes are just that, inspirational, and they are one of the bits I fished out of my Twitter stream.

I started enjoying reading positive statements infrequently. Then I started wanting to keep some of them for reference and I emailed the tweets to myself. Archived into my Personal folder, together with lots of other emails. Hidden, neatly out of sight.

Next step was do do a screen shot of the tweets and place the screenshots in an inspirational folder. More organized and still hidden.

Better, but not good.

I wanted to do something more out of them and after some pondering my calendar finally had an opening. I reserved it for myself. My time. Headphones on, Smashing Pumpkins blazing my ears and no interruptions allowed while I am opening Illustrator and start creating a series of posters.

Four posters created, more to come. They are all available, just click the image.

Now, the next step will be to get them printed and onto the walls.

Inspirational poster series #002

Inspirational poster series #003

Inspirational poster series #004

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Scandinavian design from the shores of Vietnam.

Fronterra furniture design photographed by Studio MadsMonsen in Vietnam.

Asia, the heart of manufacturing these days. Ideas can be created anywhere, however, when the ideas are about to be realized and manufactured, then Asia is the place to be. One of my clients, Fronterra, have their designers in Scandinavia, or more precisely, Denmark. The Norwegians and the Danes have a good relationship. Denmark is still a popular holiday destination for Norwegians.

I remember from my childhood days we would get up early in the morning, load the car with suitcases and snacks and hit the road. From Bergen to Oslo and then the ferry to Frederikshavn or the other route to Kristiansand and the ferry to Hirtshals. Either way, we got to see the countryside and pass over the mountain range, have a ferry ride and then entering the almost flat country with the famous red hot dogs. We would visit Fårup Sommerland and of course, being an avid lego builder, Legoland itself, in Billund. Even my firstname is Danish. According to the family history, relatives on my father side emigrated from Denmark to Norway roughly 200 years ago and kept the tradition of naming the firstborn son Mads.

The Norwegian language Bokmål, is based on the Danish language and is commonly used in the south and in particular the larger cities while NyNorsk, the second official language, is used elsewhere in the country. All official communication is printed in both Bokmål and NyNorsk. Total population of around 4,5 million people. Feels like there are more motorbikes on the streets of Saigon than there are Norwegians in this world.

Finally, some more samples of their products that we have photographed for them here in Vietnam.

Fronterra furniture design photographed by Studio MadsMonsen in Vietnam.

Fronterra furniture design photographed by Studio MadsMonsen in Vietnam.

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“Puppets that dance on water” – Múa rối nước

Showtime. Or so we hope. At the ticket counter they wouldn’t sell us tickets, instead they told us to take a seat and wait in hope. Hope that more than ten souls were willing to spend half an hour to watch an art form that dates all the way back to the 11th century. Welcome to the world of water puppetry in 2010.

We were lucky. More than ten arrived and we were asked to purchase tickets. Around 50.000 VND for an adult and a child ticket. Finally show time.

It is worth seeing. Period. If you have children and live in Vietnam it is worth seeing more than once. First time I went with Tian was on an outing arranged by the kindergarten and he loved it. We sat at the back as he was still a bit skeptical to the puppets. However, the second visit it was front row and the show is still as mesmerizing as the first time.

Water puppet show.

The quick summary: Water sprouting dragons turning on their fire and smoke, farmers protecting their ducks only to fail, children swimming and performing acrobatics and men and women catching fish the hard way.

Water puppet show.

Water puppet show.

Water puppet show.

Splashing water, the screams from children when hit by water droplets and the traditional music pouring over the loudspeaker system interspersed with laughter make the 30 minutes experience seem like only 5.

Afterwards you have the option of touring the museum, enjoy drinks or ice cream at Ozo or venture further into Saigon Zoo next door.

Water puppet show.


The Historical museum, 2 Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City (Next to Saigon Zoo)

They do morning and afternoon shows. We went in the afternoon. 2pm, 3pm or 4pm.

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“The ‘Net is a waste of time, and that’s exactly what’s right about it.” William Gibson

Spook Country by William Gibson

Spook Country by William Gibson

Spook country by William Gibson. Gibson has always been one of my favourite authors, mostly due to the way he incorporate technology into his novels. I cannot recall where I read it but someone once said that for immediate news read the papers but for future change, read contemporary  novels. They are picking up the undercurrent of change before it hits the main stream media. I always liked that thought. The main stream media has no longer got the luxury of time. Look at CNN for instance. They only report what they see. If an incident take place it takes a long time before you will get deeper facts but already by then they have had hundred plus of updates to their news bulletin. I rather watch national geographic than CNN. Contemporary novels over main stream media. Last, but not least, industry blogs and social networks.

With William Gibsons novels readers are expecting the latest in technology applied in an realistic manner. I read an interview with William Gibson where he said readers suggested the interaction between the book and the Internet. Hyperlinks embedded. To that he replied that he’s already doing that. Try googling some of the references and you get to another level of the book. Let your neurons fire, a thought leads to another and more. Before you know it, you have taken a mental road trip, discovering tidbits you didn’t know before. It’s a ride well worth taking similar to the long forgotten Sunday stroll.  Discoveries can be a good thing. Wired did so here in this interview.

However, the current obsession about new technology advances and the rumours of new gadgets before they are launched can take it’s toll and distract focus no matter how much anti shake you put on.

Before the digital revolution, you bought a camera body and stocked up with prime lenses. Glass has always been an investment. The camera body would almost last a lifetime. If the shutter played up, you replaced it and it was good as new. The capture media was the film itself, and you always had access to the latest in film technology.

With digital, your camera body starts to become obsolete the moment you buy it. Every new camera upgrade creates something better, but unlike buying a new roll of film, you have to buy a whole new camera. Suddenly having access to the latest technology became very expensive. In that context, suggestions of camera systems with upgradable sensors make sense from a consumer point of view. For medium format systems you can upgrade the back, but then you also get tempted to upgrade the body too when they have a new and improved model available.

Unless you have unlimited funds available, there is a point where you use what you got in the best way you can. Want that panorama image, try stitching. Only got one flash, start bouncing light with reflectors and mirrors. Don’t let the equipment you want to have put you off shooting in the first place.

Do we need the 60 million pixels? Someone said that with so many pixels you have a lot of lee way when you crop the image. To me it sounds a bit sloppy. I’m old fashioned in that sense that I prefer to crop in camera than after. Why? One example, when I was working as an art director and the editor brought me the images from a beauty session I could only see the full face shots and not the detail shots of the eye and lips. I asked for the missing images only to be told that we could crop from the full headshot. Yes, we can do a crop but it’s a lazy option and not a creative one. You will not get the same quality and feel from a crop that you get with a close up macro shot. With the macro shot you get to play with depth of field and you can create different angles. Why would I use the same image three times when I can have three different and more compelling images. Of course I ordered a re-shoot of the session and made sure that every consequent session had individual shots and not just one headshot.

Quality always matter.

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52 weeks = 52 books = New Year resolution

This is the first blog post for Studio MadsMonsen and I thought it would be good to end the old year with a new year resolution. I got the inspiration from http://52on52.blogspot.com/ and the first book that I finished is well fitting for any photographer:

Book cover of Annie Leibovitz's book "At Work"

It was an interesting read, but you get more anecdotes from it than technical knowledge. This is not a book of Annie Leibovitz’s techniques, however, I found her thoughts on the switch from colour transparencies to colour negatives and then to digital interesting. Digital technology has come a long way, but a lot of the old, analogue techniques are getting lost.

I smiled when I read about the Polaroid pre-tests and when the pre-test was finally there, it was difficult to re-create that on film, especially when working with people. I agree, these days you do your pre-tests on your digital system and you still have a usable file to work with as opposed to a Polaroid that needs to be scanned. Don’t get me wrong, I do love polaroids, I am very happy for the revival project of Polaroid film (http://www.the-impossible-project.com/) but when you have a 31 million pixels RAW file or more versus a 6×7 Polaroid print, the RAW file will give you a better quality. Digressing. I found the book worthwhile reading and I admire Annie Leibovitz’s work. Full disclosure. So with that, Happy New Year and 51 more books awaiting, yay!

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