Photography, Recommended

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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Design, Photography

Duyên Dáng Việt Nam – Charming Vietnam, the new magazine

It started with a phone call. Most of the time it just does that. A ring. Some vibrations. Then a “hello”, as a command line interpreter, spelling out “Hello World”

It was an old colleague of mine. In need of some help. Design help. They had a new project, a magazine, and they wanted a different direction and thought of me.

I was humbled and flattered, it would be my third magazine to art direct and my first since I started my own studio. In the three years since I left my art director position to focus on photography, the studio has moved on from providing initially editorial services to a full service production house for advertising campaigns.

Want us to photograph only, yes, we still can do that. Want us to provide talent/wardrobe/props et al, yes, we can also do that. High end retouch services, yes, that too. Need a video, yes, we have a collaboration team to help us out on that, just like we did here for Mindshare Vietnam

Life seems to go in circles. I started out as an art history student, getting lured into the student newspaper as a photographer. Securing an apprenticeship with a commercial photography studio before setting up my own studio collective. Moving to London and studied graphic design at St.Martin’s. Working both as a designer and a photographer before moving to Vietnam. Art directing magazines and running an in-house photo studio for almost six years. Setting up my own studio again and now back into editorial design, expanding again, we just hired an in-house designer and are designing “Charming Vietnam” on a monthly basis.

Like Yin and Yang, my career is interlinked with design and photography. For the first issue I was commissioned to do the fashion article. I became my own art director. One of the things in life that you will only realize the hard way, is that besides from trying to make darkroom prints at night when you are exhausted after a full day work is 99% a waste of time, is that multi tasking is overrated. Focus matters.

So on the day of the fashion shoot we arrived at the showroom of the designer. That was our venue. I had been given “The Quiet American”, 1950’s as reference. That translates into vintage feel.

The showroom on ground floor was long and narrow. Not many angles to work and fortunately not the place where we were going to shoot. We headed up the stairs. More space and more people. On a set it can easily build up to be quite a crowd, however, this was clearly the wrong kind. Construction workers. Cutting metal bars and welding the bits together made any rave party look and sound like a quiet church teatime session.

I had two areas with daylight access and approaching rain clouds on the horizon. About an hour, an hour and a half tops, to cover eight outfits. Initially ten, however, we only had six pages at disposal, so eight leaves enough room. As a layout designer, the more options, the better. As a photographer, limited time plus limited suitable working angles to make a coherent look and feel equals less outfits to shoot.

Sometimes it is good to be your own boss.

We managed to finish off the session as the rain started hitting the building and swallowing the ambient light and it was time to wrap it up as a photographer and start making selections as an art director.

Once I had narrowed down to 2-3 images per outfit, I could start working on the page design. It is a puzzle without a visual reference to follow. The bits are put in place and moved around until they feel right. Sometimes it is easy, other times it takes a lot of time. I finished the first option, not completely happy and having learned my lessons the hard way in the darkroom, I left it at that. At the point of creative fatigue.

Continued the next day. Reworked the flow and order again and again until I this time, felt confident that this was how it was going to be presented. Left it again for the next day. Still the same feeling. Did not change it more.

Here is the session; six pages spread.

Spread 1 of the fashion story

Spread 2 of the fashion story

Spread 3 of the fashion story


Here is the poster for the cover, taken from the fashion session.

Charming Vietnam cover poster

Here are sample spreads of the layout.

Inside spread 1

Spread 2


The best part, our client is happy and took us out on celebration lunch today, yay!

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“Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” ~John Dewey

While I was setting up and photographing interiors at FV Hospital, I got approached by a man coming out from the maternity ward. He asked me for contact details, told me he just became a dad again, then, that he ran a school and I would hear from him later. Less than a minute. Fast forward a few months and I am sitting at his office and discussing the assignment.

The school needs images. That is what we know. That’s all we know. We agree on scouting all the locations. We do that. We make a plan. A shoot list. Modify and finalise the shoot list. Then put together a time table and assign the days we will actually come and shoot the whole production.

The pre-planning is an immense timesaver. We know what to do, what angles that we want to get and we have had time to think about how we are setting our lights for each setup. Yes, all the images below have been lit with external flash units.

Is it overcast outside, no problem, portable sun at hand. Photography to me is working with light. Shaping it the way I want it to be. To get what I want to get. That’s the technical side, the controllable side. Then comes the creative side. The eye that sees and frames. Yin and Yang. Balance of skills. Photography is a life long journey. Enjoy!

Horizon International Bi-Lingual School (HIBS) school yard on an overcast day.

Learning to write. First grade classroom at HIBS.

Interactive electronic teaching board. Blackboard got upgraded.

Computer lab. Design class.

At the chemistry lab.

Study time at library.



For more inspiration, come and visit our inspirational morning events. You can sign up below. Always free to attend.

Online Ticketing for aSaigon/CreativeMorning welcomes The Propeller Group – 15 April, 2011 powered by Eventbrite






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Learning. Stay curious. Evolve.

I have always enjoyed reading. During my students days in London I could easily add 70 plus books a year. It did help to work as a part-time barista for one of the larger bookstores. A perfect fit. Decent coffee and good books. These days, most of my reading is done online, something my Twitter stream reflects.

When asked about what I love about my job I normally say it is that I get to learn something new all the time. Meeting new people. Seeing new places. Doing something different. No assignment is never really the same. That’s what I tell myself. To start fresh. Each time.

Standing outside the gates at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases I didn’t know what I was going to learn, however, I knew I would be walking away with more knowledge than I arrived with. I was there to document the research programme funded by the Wellcome Trust.  It was a different place. Past and present, life and death, young and old. Contrasts.

Mural of red-headed cranes in the courtyard

Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Shrine at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Playing volleyball in the grounds of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases.

Entrance to the Viet Anh Ward.

Interior Viet-Anh Ward.

Patient visit.

Lead by example. One of my favorites from the assignment.

Health check.

OUCRU stairway.

Work in progress.


Serotyping shigella in the microbiology lab.

Working on biochemical identification of bacteria.

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