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Collaboration with JnG Couture in Saigon, Vietnam

Working with passionate people is always good and you finish with your energy levels boosted and a wish to push things further and further. Meeting John will give you that experience, he brings fresh flavour to anyone he works with and it is always a pleasure to collaborate with him. Here are samples from two sessions that we did together, one location and one studio.

For the location, we turned his hotel room into make-up and changing room for the two models and then started the short walk down to Ben Thanh market By the time we had set up light and started shooting, we had already gathered quite a crowd that followed us throughout the whole session. Turning quite a few heads.

In front of Ben Thanh Market.

Inside by the meat section of Ben Thanh Market.

Showstopper.

Close up image.

John and Isabelle Du.

 

Second session took place in the studio, John styled the various outfits and we decided on doing jumps, to capture the energy flowing. The model was a good sport and had to do quite a few jumps before we were done. Easier to work inside with the air conditioner running and then montage the sunny outdoor scene in place in post production.

Our male model.

Getting the right jump and expression.

Different style.

Transferred to outdoor.

To see more of John’s work look here and to see an interview, click here.

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On the road to Moc Bai, Vietnam and the Cambodia border

The Road Traveler.

Thundering down the road at the speed of a turtle. Steamrolling through the landscape. It had to be captured. Man riding his big metal beast, flattening anything that may come in front of the rollers. Shortly after, we are thundering down the road too, on our metal horse, the motorbike.

Stopping again to have a look. Love is in the air. Strung up in plain sight. Mickey & Minnie next to each others with swaying love hearts in the lazy wind. Love is in the air for this store.

Love strung up in the air.

Pressing onwards, we come across a harvest. As the harvester cuts, the boys inspect the site and picks up whatever they can find. Dead rodents and snakes are separated into different containers. The fields holds many surprises, but man has the deadliest machine of the day as they circle around until they are done.

The Harvest.

As we travel along the road, something catches my eye. I slam the brakes, stop the bike and lock it and start running. All the way until I reach the shore. I just made it as my finger press the shutter. The boat is where I wanted it to be, not too far away and not too close as it is continuing the lines. Pre-visualisation in action. Stepping in mud during my short sprint was worth it.

The Lake.

Off the main road and alongside the canal in the middle of nowhere as they normally say. That is where we see them. The boys. Just finished school. On a Saturday. In uniforms. Playing as long as they can until they split up to their separate houses. The crossroad is to them the equivalent of the water cooler for the office staff. Their hangout place. Squeezing as much time out as they can before they really ought to leave.

The School Boys.

We leave them laughing behind and settle for a shot of a road sign once we reach the main road again.

Road Sign.

It’s peaceful along the border road. Not as much traffic as anticipated. Either goods are not shipped by articulated lorries across the border or trade has trickled down. You can judge the import/export economy by the number of lorries that ply the roads. We end up with a landscape shot in silence.

Landscape.

The busiest the road gets is when we do a flower close up. Note the vehicle in the distance. We have proof of traffic. It’s blurred as the famous UFO images, but dear reader, we did not put in a toy truck, nor did we photoshop one in. We did truly encounter a bit of traffic.

Flowers.

To end our journey to the countryside, what would be more fitting as an image of the “Sign of the horns”.

Sign of the horns.

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Big Mountain, Cloud Lake, Miss Vung Tau and the Alpine Coaster

It is a Sunday, my parents are still in town, however, my mother decided to relax at the hotel while my dad, my son and I took a day trip to Vung Tau. The roads have improved, it took us 2 1/2 hours by car, average speed of 48 km/hr to reach Vung Tau, 120 km away. Still slow compared to the speedboat with an average of 1 hour 15 minutes travel time.

Station No 1 at Buffalo Island.

We drive straight to Station No 1, Buffalo Island. Park the car and board the cable car service. We are going to Big Mountain, 249 meters above the sea to visit Cloud Lake and say hello to Miss Vung Tau before undertaking the highlight of the trip, the Alpine Coaster. Racing downhill on Big Mountains slopes before being pulled back up again is great. Each trip gets done faster than the previous one. 30,000 VND or $2 per ride, but the joy is priceless.

It is cooler up here, more wind and you don’t feel the heat as much as you do at the beach. As all good things come to an end, we ride down for a late lunch, thereby extending the good life by enjoying Italian food, before starting the journey back.

Truly a great day out, enjoy the images:

Rearview. Leaving Station No 1 behind by the sea.

Arriving at Station No 2, Cloud Lake.

Panorama view from Cloud Lake restaurant.

Detail view.

Arriving at Cloud Lake, viewing the footbridge with a waterfall behind.

Behind the veil of water. Walking on a slippery footpath behind the waterfall.

Over view from Cloud Lake, with a 30 meter tall Buddha in the distance.

Closer view of the tall Buddha, no shoes allowed on the ground in front.

One of the statues by the footpath leading up to the Buddha.

Time to meet Miss Vung Tau at her stable.

Wheelbarrows left out to dry in the sun by the stables.

The Alpine Coaster tracks on Big Mountains hillside.

Departure time.

Leaving Station No 2 and Cloud Lake.

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To the Skydeck we go

View from the Skydeck, Saigon Centre centred.

Family visit. Always a joy. This time I got to spend more time than last with them. It was good. We are all changing and getting older. I am a dad myself now. Almost halfway in life. How did that happen?

To the Skydeck we went. To get a view of the city. Going from the small to the big picture. The overview. Saigon can feel like a small town, especially within District 1, even though it keeps changing all the time. It’s in the culture. Even at the wedding party the bride will do four to five clothes changes in the evening. The groom will be getting hammered. The bride not, as she will do the tally afterwards, counting the monetary gifts.

Sunset from the Skydeck.

Change is constant. Change is a challenge. I have been up here before. I am seeing the same angles. I am looking for something that I have not seen before. Not counting the gift shop with the low quality garments and steep prices. Even the store across the street has a better garment for a third of the price. Not counting the wedding photography studio that has purchased a proper telescope and shows us the solar flares on a flat screen.

Sunset in black and white sepia tone.

Refusing to see the world for what it is I turn it upside down. My newfound angle.

The world upside down.

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A random day in Saigon – A walkabout downtown

Sometimes a wander can create wonders. Enjoy the result of less than 2 hours walking about on a random day.

Notre Dame.

Statue in front of Notre Dame.

Post office.

Mobile bike repair centre.

Entangled.

Captured.

Key store.

Banh Bao store.

Poster.

Park.

The collector.

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Akvariet i Bergen & Pepperkakebyen

Two unique attractions. One seasonal and one permanent. We did them both.

Pepperkakebyen. Viking ship.

Pepperkakebyen, or the Gingerbread Town, is a unique Christmas tradition and is growing in size year by year. I still remember the time it was held indoors at Galleriet, a shopping mall in the city centre. In 2009, somebody on his way home, utterly drunk, got the idea of conducting a rampage and destroyed the works of all the children and became the most hated person in town. After confessing his crime, he was forgiven and his name was not released in public as the police feared for his safety.

Pepperkakebyen. The harbour.

Pepperkakebyen.

Pepperkakebyen.

Pepperkakebyen. An overview.

 

The Aquarium in Bergen, considered one of the largest in Northern Europe, a great place to bring kids. Watching my son growing more and more confident feeding small fish by his own hand was incredible. Open all year around.

Enjoy!

At the Aquarium. Watching the large tanks.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium. Decomposing.

At the Aquarium. Pirate ship and skulls.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium. The newly opened shark tunnel.

At the Aquarium. At the shark tunnel.

At the Aquarium.

At the Aquarium. The penguins.

At the Aquarium. The penguins.

At the Aquarium. The penguins.

At the Aquarium. Close up.

At the Aquarium. Getting out of the water.

At the Aquarium. Reminder of Vietnam.

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Christmas in Norway

It is almost that time of year again. Only a few months away. Christmas. Snow. Norway. It is such a contrast celebrating Christmas in Norway versus Vietnam. As my son is growing older, I prefer to let him celebrate in Norway to both experience the culture and the climate. Seeing snow for the first time and having to wear a lot of clothes was strange the first year only. Now, it is with great anticipation he gets to travel, with three planes as he will proudly tell you, in order to visit his grandparents and play in the snow.

My hometown is surrounded by seven small mountains. The house of my parents reside on one of them. 300 meter above the sea. Five minutes away from the mountain hiking trail. Twenty minutes by car to downtown. Bliss as you can see for yourself below:

The view from my parents balcony.

Bergen city, Norway.

Clearing ice from the car window.

Ice graffiti.

Ice graffiti.

Tree and sky.

Tree and sky.

Salt silo.

The pier.

Inside the cable car to Ulriken mountain.

Inside view from the cable car.

View from Ulriken.

TV signal tower at Ulriken. Paraglider setting off in the distance.

Mountain cabin.

Cairn.

Detail.

Detail.

Sun setting for the day.

Heading home at dusk.

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Nothing endures but change – Heraclitus

The machines.

A year ago I went passed houses and green fields where I now find dirt, water and machines. More images from the changing landscape of Thu Thiem, District 2.

Clearing for the new city district.

The machines are ready.

All that remains, the gate.

Man versus progress. Catching the last catch.

Road sign for one of the local pagodas. Soon they will be gone too.

The road to the pagoda.

Old houses knocked down. Recent high rises in the background.

The mobile petrol station will be on the move soon.

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“Burning down the house” & the reimbursements

Remains from the house.

 

Hold tight wait till the party’s over

Hold tight We’re in for nasty weather

There has got to be a way

Burning down the house

Talking Heads 

 

Thu Thiem area in District 2 is undergoing a massive change and over 12000 households have been relocated according to this source.

“A new urban, financial services and commercial hub connecting the city” according to this one.

“Thu Thiem compensation bogged down” reports another.

For every action there is a re-action. The effects of the transformation are growing more evident. Houses that were selling goods and offering services are no longer there. Even minor pagodas are knocked down. Making way for progress. Locations that I photographed in less than a year ago are no longer existing except as a digital memory of something that once was.

All that's left...

Only the house alter was not completely destroyed.

The gate remains as well as the alter.

Empty shell.

Marking up the area for development with Saigon's skyline in the background.

As an oasis waiting to be conquered.

As an oasis waiting to be conquered. Version II

 

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Pure bliss (Part IV)

The buffalo boy in the field with red flag.

Just turned off the main road and heading towards Da Lat. Small country road, sun is shining, breeze is flowing as we ride along and are enjoying the road to ourselves. Pure bliss. Simply put. No more trucks and buses and exhaust fumes. Only the sound of our bike humming along the road. This would turn out to be the best part of the trip, and we made sure to enjoy it.

Needless to say, we never made it to Da Lat in time for a late lunch, we got there in time for a late dinner. After traveling on decent country roads, we hit the moon, literally. Several kilometers of craters, deep enough to topple vehicles made me train for a motocross license. The locals did indeed outrun us, but we gave them our best performance and hold our way for awhile. Until we spotted a photo opportunity and let our racing desires subside, as we rather start capturing that something we could keep instead of an imaginary motocross trophy. Never going get to splash with those champagne bottles anyway.

Driving to Da Lat equals scaling mountains. No matter how many times we thought that this would be it, we faced another upward heading curve. Zig zagging our way to the top and just behind a rain shower. Newly wet asphalt on narrow roads that we thought could only hold motorbikes until proven wrong by a car. How they do it is beyond our understanding of driving principles and physics. What we would consider reasonable road space for a car is not what the locals need to have. For instance, when a car takes the motorbike lane on Saigon bridge due to traffic jam, I thought I had seen it all. I was wrong. Never stop learning. In Vietnam, you get surprised everyday.

We caught up with the rain close to Da Lat. It was a very cool encounter. By the time we reached Da Lat, it was already dark. Found a cafe and ordered hot coffee and food. We were a bit worried. Our plan was to ride down from Da Lat after lunch time and still have daylight. Now it was raining outside and dark. I still had to be back for my dental follow up the next day.

Plan B, get some sleep before hitting the road again. First guesthouse we asked was already full. We only needed a room for a few hours we pleaded. A phone call was placed and we were told to follow. Short ride to another guesthouse and we could have a room. A hot shower and two hours sleep later we were again ready for the next stage. Donning the raincoat and heading out in the wet darkness. Cameras already put away. We took our last shot just before the rain hit us on the way up to Da Lat. The cameras stayed stowed away until we reached Saigon.

The ride at night was a once in a lifetime experience and we lived to tell the tale. The story I told in part I sums it up. We kept going from 10 pm until 4 am. We were still not down from the mountain. Instead, we had parked at a pagoda, next to a small waterfall. Somebody was up to serve us coffee and some snack. We drank and ate. Then, we both fell asleep, hugging our backpacks as we sat on the concrete benches facing each other. For the next hour we drifted back and forth from half asleep to asleep to semi awake. At 5 am, the crack of dawn, we mounted our bike again and continued our decent. Our vision vastly improved with the morning rays.

When we came down from the mountain, rows of repair shops on both sides of the road greeted us as well as a petrol station that was open. I forgot to mention that we had been running low on fuel twice and both times we had managed to find a station. This was the second time.

Pushing ahead and seeing the roadside coming alive. People opening their stalls, patrons having their breakfast, children on their way to school. It was strange to emerge from the darkness of the mountains and finding all the hustle and bustle in the sun light. Contrast. Our tiredness replaced with happiness for having survived the night.

The rest of the ride went smoothly and we arrived at 10 am in Saigon. Our faces covered in black grime from the road and I had a sunburned lip that had swollen to three times its normal size, causing laughter among all my friends. Small price to pay for a brilliant trip. Saigon-Hanoi trip is wish listed.

Enjoy the images from the coast until the hills of Da Lat:

View from the road.

Boy along the roadside.

One of many encounters with the herd along the road.

The herd and the herdsman.

Another herd coming up the hill.

The young boy was camera shy. He had been riding until we stopped and photographed.

Ordinary house by the roadside.

One of the few trucks we encountered on the road that day.

Steep hills ahead.

Yet another typical house by the roadside.

The white long ledge is actually a water reservoir.

Perfect riding conditions. Straight road ahead. Not to mention the tall and straight standing trees.

A coffee break is always welcome.

Not to mention a couple of rounds with Tra Da, iced tea.

The view from our table, the motorbike repair shop. A bucket full of tools and an air compressor next to.

A happy boy, his toy car and his herd to follow.

The herd.

The boy and the herd are leaving while a relative of the cafe owner is lounging in the hammock.

View from the road.

Back on the road. View from the bridge.

Collecting stones from the riverbank.

Closer view of the stone collector.

Loading up the cart with stones.

The next bridge we encountered. A walk bridge. Or so we thought.

Until we saw a tractor going across.

Being curious about the small road, we found the entrance, right next to the lush jungle.

Facing the bridge.

 

Detail from the bridge.

Next to the trail, behind a house that had a tree growing up from the inside, we spotted a small child's grave.

A lone tree.

Zig zag. All afternoon we ascended. Curve by curve.

Worker repairing the generator for the jack hammer.

Sitting on a rock, flip flops on, no googles and jack hammer in hand, the young boy is working.

Below the excavator is digging under the direction of the pink shirted supervisor.

The road at its narrowest. Buses still go through.

Reaching the roadside stalls at a popular viewing spot. The bus has just past the narrow road stretch.

Another bus heading downwards. Further up we encountered guarded barrier. The road closes at night as it has no road lights.

The stalls, awaiting customers.

Sign indicating bathroom. Climb over the ledge and do your bidding. Mind your foothold.

Tools of the trade.

Tradition still prevails.

 

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A new dawn in Nha Trang (Part III)

We had made it to Nha Trang. 14 hours on the road. Found a nice hotel to treat ourselves to a good night sleep before heading off the next day. Been informed that a potential client wanted to meet up in the morning since they have heard we would be up there. 8 am meeting at Diamond Bay Resort. The very place that hosted Miss Universe in 2008.

On the road and camera ready.

We had breakfast first. Then checked out. Collected the bike. Put our helmets on. Looked at each other and thought: “Are we really going to this again today?” Mind over body contest. Mind voted yes, buttocks screamed no. Mind won. First thing that got changed on the bike upon return was the suspension system.

Nha Trang signage.

We were on the road again. Passed the Nha Trang sign, Hollywood style inspired, but not when it came to size. We abstained from climbing and headed on for our meeting. Arrived on time. Got a tour of the vast premises. Size did indeed matter here. When you have a banquet hall capacity of 1200 people, you have sized up. Super-size.

Vintage car at Diamond Bay Resort.

Would love to have said we got a tour around in the vintage car, however, it is only for decoration. We took one of the battery powered carts, or rather mini buses, as they were super sized too.

View from the golf practice range.

If I played golf, this would be a place for me to practice my swing. Where else can you enjoy a beautiful view and try to get your ball into the different nets floating in the water, each with their own distance marker. Don’t feel guilty if you miss, they have the whole area covered and sweep up today’s catch of golfballs when you are back at the club house for an afternoon refreshment, before taking the super sized buggy back to your apartment or villa.

Continuing the road trip.

We got back on the road. Thought we could make it to Da Lat for lunch. But first we wanted to enjoy the seaside view from the road as we headed down the peninsula to find our road that would take us Da Lat.

Beautiful day, blue sky, sunshine and not a rain cloud in sight. We were happy and our buttocks so too by the smooth road conditions.

View from the road.

Riding uphill along the coastline.

We were riding uphill until we found a tourist viewing spot. Pulled over and parked. Getting off the bike took longer and longer for each stop as well as the stretching exercises. Here we were. Overlooking the sea.

At the view point.

Unfortunately, spending money on new road, proper parking area and an advertising billboard, somebody had decided that litter bins were not necessary. We were walking on litter. Shaking our heads. Spoiling a beautiful experience with bad habits. It is a nation wide problem. The more popular the road, the more litter you find next to it.

Stepping on litter.

Even the duster gave up...

Turning day into night helps ignoring the foreground.

Sitting behind, camera ready, I started photographing the road experience. Tried to record some video, only to find out that even when you set your camera to overflow when you have dual cards, only still shots are overflowing, not video. Good to know on a private trip and not on a paid assignment.

Watering the roadside.

Roadblock with an advertising message to call for road side assistance written on the tires.

Old style truck, still going strong.

We stopped again when we spotted a couple of fishing boats. Ventured down to the beach. Same issue. Litter.

Fishing boats.

A closer look.

Beach with litter.

Got our shots and kept going until we found a cemetery. By the roadside. Life and death. Side by side.

Graveyard.

Closer view.

Different view.

Graveyard by the roadside.

Our last stop before embarking on the road to Da Lat, too late for lunch, however, we still were thinking late lunch would be possible. How wrong we would be. More to come in Part IV, the final post from the trip.

Saltlake.

Saltlake.

On the road to Da Lat.

 

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Ride, drink and shoot (Part II)

That’s what we did. Like a British fox hunting party we set out and chased something. That something cannot be easily explained. We had no dogs to help us. They were all at home, barking at any creature that entered the grounds. No use to us. Not that we were fox hunting anyway.

We were hunting for photographic opportunities. For that something peculiar that makes you stop and think “Hey, this is worthy of an exposure.”

While we were hunting, not only our bike drank its fill, often more than one tank a day, we also needed our coffee stops too. Our buttocks thanked us after spending hours in the saddle on our motorised horse.

Coffee break. Drip style.

All fuelled up, we hit the road again. The hunt was on.

Billboards are good targets. If they do not contain own work, then an old hand painted billboard will do very well. Especially detail shots. Ride, drink and shoot. Rinse and repeat.

Hand painted billboard.

Detail from billboard.

Next up, when we were crossing a bridge, we spotted a couple of boys riding a cart in the river below. The buffalo boys got captured by our cameras and we waved them goodbye and continued our journey.

The Buffalo Boys, montage.

It didn’t take us long to find ourselves another buffalo. Tied up, roadside to graze on the nearby grass and leaves. We pulled over and got camera ready. Couple of frames and a few poses later, the minder came over and untied the buffalo. Photo session over. We got on our bike again and watched in our extended side view mirrors that the buffalo was allowed out to graze again. Time for us to find new pastures.

Buffalo by the road.

Windmills. Rotating blades. Farm land. We pulled over. Locked the bike and ventured down the hill. Locking the steering makes it trickier for someone to push the bike away. On a previous road trip we had parked the bike and ventured around 100 meters away on foot when we spotted somebody riding past, then stopping and back tracking to our bike. Our photo session was immediately cut short and we started walking back. Upon seeing us returning, the man started walking back to his own bike and left. “What was his purpose?”, you may ask. Most likely to take any part that was easily removable so he could sell it.

It is normal to see cars missing windscreen wipers, side view mirrors, even ornaments as they can fetch a price. I had once somebody trying to unscrew the front disc brake on my motorbike. Others have had valuable belongings stolen from their trunks. The list goes on and on.

Windmill farm.

Landscape.

Flower, detail.

Bus going passed.

Our proud work horse, resting by the roadside.

Dinner time. Just as with lunch time, we found another pagoda. This time we had beautiful afternoon light and off we went again, camera in hand, to capture that something again. Pure bliss.

Text on wall by the entrance.

At the entrance.

Greeted by the first arrangement.

Close up.

The old bell.

The second arrangement.

 

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Break of dawn and barking dogs (Part I)

Road trip. Those are the magic words. Bringing a smile to my face as I splash water in my face. Been up since 4 am. SMS’ed James to see if he really would make it at 5 am. “Yes”, he texted back. That’s what a road trip will do for you. Even more so when bundled together with photography. Just ask my clients, they know the drill. If they want to be there for all the shots, they have to get up early. That’s the great thing of most of my clients, they do share the same passion of getting the best out of every situation.

Typical travel assignment for a resort involves getting there the day before, then waking up at 4 am to make sure we will capture the sunrise before heading for breakfast. Then more work until lunch. Then more until late dinner. Then some night shots if the conditions are good. Sometimes it means waiting until 11.30 pm for the moon to move into the right spot before hitting the sack only to repeat the the procedure the next day. Throw in some time to transfer files and back up to multiple drives and you soon find yourself on 3-4 hours sleep a day. Still would do it again.

5 am and the dogs are barking. Right. Time to get the bike on the road. James and I are sharing one bike. A Yamaha Nouvo, 125 cc and with two equally tall foreigners with over 160 kg combined weight. Off we go. Decide to get as much milage as possible before a breakfast stop. We have been on this road before. We are hungry for new locations and speed past previous stopping spots.

The bike has just been serviced. New gear oil, new motor oil. New, extended side mirrors to provide better view than the original ones. New tires, tubeless, so not to worry too much about getting flat tires. A rain cover for the seat, works brilliant when you park the bike in the hot sun as it prevents you from frying your behind when you get on after a rest. Yamaha ought to sponsor us for all our praise of their bike as it took us safely from Saigon to Nha Trang, then Nha Trang to Da Lat before back to Saigon. A true work horse.

First stop for breakfast. A petrol station with an adjacent restaurant. We ordered some coffee and food. Once we started photographing their bonsai tree, we were approached by the man of the house, proudly explaining details of the tree and that it was a certain breed. My Vietnamese skills could not keep up with all the details, however, that the tree received his love and attention, there was no doubt about it.

Bonsai tree at restaurant.

We pushed fast ahead, well, fast for us, but not for the trucks and cars speeding past us. The law of the road. Smaller vehicles, if they want to survive, give way for bigger ones. The purchase of extended side mirrors was a direct consequence to this. Having side view mirrors were not common a few years back, nor were helmets, until they enforced the law late 2007. When buying my first motorbike I had to insist that they put on the side view mirrors.

Having side view mirrors is one thing, making use of them is another. Hence the constant use of horns to warn people in front. As the honking intensifies your chances of survival are getting slimmer unless immediate evasive action is taken. Consider yourself lucky if they do warn you. At night they don’t think anybody will be crazy enough to drive on the roads and no horns are used at all. Something we discovered on our way down from Da Lat at night. Quite an experience.

We were traveling on a section without street lights. I was on lookout behind. James was riding and looking out for potholes in the front. If we hit one of the deeper potholes we would go down for sure. Slow speed necessary. Add rain to the weather conditions. On a positive note, we had a bit of moonlight in between the rain showers.

Roughly every five seconds I would glance over my shoulder and look for incoming lights. Once spotted, I yelled incoming and James started the evasive manoeuvre. Slowing down the bike to almost walking speed, riding along the road shoulder as far as the asphalt reached.

This we did throughout the night from around 11 pm when we left Da Lat until 4 am in the morning, when we were too exhausted to go on and had a nap at a road side pagoda.

That’s how we made it through without any scratches, because when you are seeing incoming lights just after you have passed a long curve, that means they will catch up with you soon. Three buses, at full speed, two buses overtaking the slowest one, filled the entire road, going at 80 km+, leaving us very little space and out from the darkness in front of us was a massive pile of gravel, intended for road work and blocking our way forward. We came to a holt. The slowest bus drove past around 15 cm from my elbow. They did not notice us at all, nor did their sleeping passengers. We continued our journey after acknowledging that our defensive driving system actually worked.

All that came later in our trip. Now, we did not know what would be in store for us, only hoping for better weather as we had encountered quite a few rain showers. Taking the coastal route to Nha Trang, first stop would be Phan Thiet where we planned to lunch. Getting closer, we had to do a U-turn and back track as I spotted it too late. A billboard advertising a resort. Not any billboard and any resort. This was Sea Links Beach Hotel, a client of mine and they used the panorama image I took. Always a joy to see your own work printed big. Definitely worth a stop.

Billboard for Sea Links Beach Hotel.

Lunch time. We had reached Phan Thiet and ordered some lunch. “No warm liquid or food. Also, remember not to chew with your front dentures.” The dentist’s instructions. Great. Ice drinks and waiting for the food to cool down. Suddenly I realised I could qualify as a member of the slow food movement.

Lunch consumed and we headed out of town. We had set our sights on a pagoda that we wanted to photograph. James and I have a tendency to stop at pagodas on our road trips. They are fascinating worlds on their own. Always butterflies flying around. A touch of nature within the city. We parked the bike and started our stroll, heading in different directions for only to compare our captures later over a cup of coffee. Here are some of the images that made my edit, enjoy!

From the outside looking in.

Entering the first arrangement.

Detail image.

A closer look.

The entrance to the pagoda.

Second arrangement.

Detail.

Walking to the back of the pagoda.

Discovering a cemetery.

Walking to the front gate with the lotus pond.

Decide that the world can sometimes be better viewed in black and white.

Detail from the pond.

Detail from the pond with a water drop.

Detail from the pond.

Detail from the pond.

 

Detail from the pond.

 

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Yes, the day I pulled it off. Twice.

Tooth. Still life on magenta background.

failing health

chewing dried seaweed

my teeth grate on sand

 

Matsuo Basho’s Haiku sums up my feeling of July. What was supposed to be a month where the long planned road trip would take place, became a month full of surprises. As any photographer knows, clients can suddenly change their minds and shooting dates are never really set until the day you actually get to shoot. My shooting days got moved around and suddenly the time set aside for the road trip became working days to the disappointment for my friend James, who had travelled from China and set aside ten days in Vietnam in order to secure at least three to four days on the road.

As goddess Tyche would have it, good fortune came through. First one day was made available and plans were made. We could box the motorbike and take the overnight train to Nha Trang and ride back to Saigon. At least it would be better than nothing and a new route for us. Then more good tidings came our way. Two days. Train idea cancelled. We will ride to Nha Trang the following day and then back.

However, the day before departure was also my day at the dentist. Twenty years ago, back in Norway, I had a bicycle accident. I broke three teeth and got them replaced with crowns. What my dentist did not tell me then, maybe he did not see what my dentist now had seen, that my teeth actually had been damaged at root level by the accident. Similar to building a mansion without proper foundation. Doesn’t matter how good it looks, it will still break sooner or later. Later it was for me, twenty years later and I had to pay the price. The foundation was infected. Of the group of three, two had to leave.

So there I was. At the dentist office. Afternoon. Two teeth to extract and a road trip to undertake the following morning at 5am. The dentist came recommended by a Norwegian friend of mine. He had done a similar procedure and was very pleased with the result. They have a wonderful slogan. On the wall it says: “Nha Khoa Khong Dau” that can loosely be translated into “Dentist office, No pain.”

I have to hand it to them, it was the least painful dentist experience I have had in my entire life. The dentist that did the surgery was hired for the occasion. His day time job is at one of the government run hospitals, dental department and had a lifetime of experience. To him it was routine, he does it everyday, not like the practices back home that has a fraction of the number of patients with similar needs and hence less experience.

I felt at ease. It was all done quickly and I was handed a bag with painkillers and antibiotics. A removable, partial denture was provided so I could at least look normal. Eyebrows were raised when I asked to keep the teeth. Why on earth would I want to, they must have asked themselves. Photographers are seeing the world through a different lens with a different view is all I can say, or rather, I should have told them, as I kept the thought to myself as I left for home and to start packing for the road trip.

“If you have any troubles, please come back immediately”, I was told just before leaving. Great, I thought. This is going to be one very interesting road trip indeed.

Tales from the road are up next. Until then, an exploration of teeth. (Can’t really get myself to say enjoy the view.)

Tooth. Still life on black.

Tooth. Still life on metallic gold.

Tooth. Still life on black velvet.

Tooth. Still life on metallic gold.

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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!

Justin

Celina

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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Review

Celebrating Norway’s national day, 17 Mai, in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

17 mai celebration in Saigon.

Every year the Norwegian community get together and celebrate 17 Mai. The meet up place is the Norwegian consul’s house, and everybody participate to bring Norwegian food for the event, either by import, returning from a recent visit to Norway or receiving visitors or to source the ingredients locally and make it yourself. True community spirit.

The official speech by the consul.

Watching the speakers.

The celebration starts in the afternoon, a few speeches are held, the national anthem sung and then the parade around the neighborhood. Norwegian marching tunes from an iphone streamed by cables to an old school ghetto blaster sets the tune.

The 17 of Mai parade.

Once the parade is done, a group photo session is done before the buffet is served. Games for both children and adults take place in the evening, and then the day is over. Until next year.

Group image.

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The outtakes, on location in Saigon, Vietnam

The urbanised jungle, the hunt is on.

On location, the urbanised jungle, hunting, or rather seeking out items that catches the eye. An exercise of vision in between clothes changes. On location shoots there will always be a bit of downtime between clothes changes and I rather keep the pulse going, trying not to break the concentration and rhythm. It’s more fun. I get to post the outtakes as they do not relate to my main story. It’s my side story. Like a diary. The main story will be told later, in the meantime, enjoy the outtakes:

Spotting the neck of a giraffe or...

...is it only a door handle...

...attached to a door. Different angles to the same story.

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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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