Family, Photography

The family visit


Photography is rewarding. You get to meet great people, sometimes even travel to exotic locations or take part of an important stage of someone else’s life.It was such as day for Kate and Collin as they wanted images of their first born daughter, Marie.

It also comes with great responsibility. You are in charge of creating visual mementos for the future. Preserving a slice of time for others to enjoy.


Photographing Marie at their home made the session easier. She could feel more comfortable in her own environment and we could make use of all her toys as decoration objects. Later on, we moved to the studio after a refreshing nap for more traditional family portraits as seen below.


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The art of walking in high heels and the images to prove it


It all started with an email. That’s why I was standing outside Hotel Continental, opposite the Opera House and waiting. A few minutes earlier I had parked my bike at the Park Hyatt. I was early. Unlike Vietnamese weddings, where it’s normal to arrive at least one hour after the official starting time, assignments tend to start on time. On time we started.

Kate had given a clear and simple brief, great shots around town. Simple. On foot we set off. I had my comfortable, flat Helly Hansen shoes and Kate marched on wearing high heels. For those who know the pavements in Ho Chi Minh City, you can all agree that the pavements are not meant to be used for walking.

It is cumbersome enough to walk in comfortable shoes and high heels are rated mission impossible once you add a bit of distance. Kate was impressive. We did a fair amount of walking and she did so in great style as you can see from the images below.







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Meeting Mr Carlos – The portrait session

Mr Carlos

Mr Carlos

Carlos is an inspiration. That had to be said. I am fortunate to be able to come across many people through my work and I have now crossed paths with Carlos. Carlos sent me an email. He needed a photographer. A few exchanges later we have agreed on what we wanted to do and he showed up at the studio. As the session progressed and our conversation continued, a remarkable story came out.

Carlos had made up his mind, set goals and started educating himself on fitness and nutrition. 115kg to less than 75kg. 4 years of dedication. An investment that now he could reap the benefits from. Feeling healthy and looking good. He wanted to document his change, and that we did. Here are a few samples from the session we did. Enjoy!

02_SM26697 03_SM26754 04_SM26733 05_SM26850 06_SM27036_HDR

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A portrait is not a portrait – the tale of two portrait sessions


Shan arrived at the studio with her mother and Ian arrived with his business partner. They both arrived at different days.

Shan lives in Singapore and wanted to have more images for her model portfolio and we had decided via email to do simple portrait/beauty style shots. Ian, on the other hand, lives in Vietnam and needed a business portrait of himself for his newly founded business.

“A portrait is not a portrait” the same way they say “This is not a pipe” or, as often heard in the region,  “Same same but different” .

Two very different outcomes indeed, both in photographic style, composition, as well as mood and tone. Enjoy!





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The portrait of Ostrich

I met Ostrich at Big Mountain, Vung Tau. On a Sunday family outing. It’s roughly seven months since I last took a trip and blogged about it. The roadworks between Saigon and Vung Tau are still in progress, however, traveling time is now less than 2 hours by car. The ticket price has now increased as it is an all inclusive fee. The Alpine Coaster was thus enjoyed numerous times until the afternoon rain hit.

This time we walked a different route and discovered another area and thus meet Ostrich. I walked inside the small farming area and stood face to face. We exchanged glances and decided that Ostrich was indeed worthy of a portrait. The session was brief, but not as brief as a corporate portrait where the subject deemed his time too important to only grant two frames of his time. Ostrich was more willing to pose. I got more frames. More frames equals more options, so, lo and behold, here are Ostrich’s portraits.

Ostrich I

Ostrich II

Ostrich III

Ostrich IV

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Styling with JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Parallel with the fashion shoot for JnG Couture, we did another shoot that JnG Couture styled, enjoy:

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

Styling by JnG Couture

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Why the best camera you ever have is the camera you have available right now

Ivar at home.

March 2nd, 2012 I received a sms telling me that a relative of mine, Ivar, just passed away. Ivar & Brita. Two names together, now only one left behind, Brita. Last Xmas, December 2011, we could not see them when Tian and I went back to Norway. They were too exhausted to receive visitors so we could not meet them, not even briefly. The Xmas before that, December 2010, we were fortunate enough to see them.

That year, 2010, I only brought one camera body and a wide angle zoom lens with a slow f stop, f.4. Last year, 2011, I brought a new, fast zoom lens, f.2.8 and a flashgun, sb-800, so I would be better prepared. It did not help. My last images are taken by the camera with the slow lens. It was the best I had at that time and even though I got a better one now, it cannot me help to create memories when the time has passed, when the moment has slipped away.

The best camera will always be the one that you have available there and then.

I am glad that a slow lens did not stop me from capturing these moments, my last memories of Ivar, the gentleman in every word, may you rest in peace.

Ivar and Brita insisting on serving family guests.

Ivar playing with the children.

Brita and Ivar.

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The “100 Faces” photography project and the Vietnamese contribution

“The project is a book in which sale proceeds will be donated to The Global Hunger Project.
We are collecting an array of portraits from different photographers around the world.

The Goal of this Project: Gain exposure for photographers and the art of photography,
raise money for global affairs addressing children poverty, expose the world to the different
perspectives of Beauty amongst different cultures.

We are asking each contributing photographer to submit 1-10 portraits of women
between ages 18-32 which are considered to be beautiful in their local culture.

The brief in short. Received by email. Sounded interesting. Profits to be donated to charity. We can support that. The following Facebook status update went out: “Participating in a world wide charity project about women’s beauty. Need to submit images of ten Vietnamese women. Anyone interested? “

Who would heed the call? 6 women did and here’s the result:






An Tran

Then came the follow up email:

“Dear Photographers,

I am very sad to be writing this email today and I have developed relationships with many of you
over the past months. I am writing to you because the 100 Faces photography project has been
indefinitely suspended due to lack of funds. “

Sad news indeed, but that should not stop us from ever trying. We tried and got the results above and we would not have had them if we never got the brief.

Yes, disappointed that the project didn’t proceed further and grateful for the opportunity to create the work above.

It was a fun experience as we had to use natural light and James’ helping hands with the reflector to follow the photography guidelines.

Overall, a good experience.

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“What does your online image say about you?”

Self. Myself. My self image. My image. Image. Click. One click, that was it. One exposure. He checked to see if I blinked or not. Five minutes he said. Five minutes passed, money passed, images passed. I had four, scissor cut, standard passport size, identical images of myself. It was quick, it was cheap and it’s analogue. Printouts in a digital era. I need to make them digital again to upload.

What am I doing? I wanted to see what added value I bring to my customers who come for portraits. Conducting research. I cannot offer the same price, it is unbeatable at 20,000 VND, more or less one US dollar. However, I offer choice and the selected image(s) will be retouched and delivered as a digital file, not as an analogue printout that has to be either scanned or photographed again.

This is it. This is what I got. I had to put on my macro lens and photograph the printout. I would more or less get similar quality if I had it scanned.

Passport portrait done at the local photo studio

Ansel Adams zone system consists of ten zones. From pure black to pure white. Analogue film cannot capture all the levels, hence the expression “Expose for the shadows, develop for the highlights.” Let’s be generous and say that film can capture a tonal range of seven zones. Taking the negative and print it would reduce the tonal range to around five zones. Each reproductive step would reduce the quality. Enter digital photography. Every year, the camera sensors improve in quality. Having access to the RAW digital file gives you the best starting point, and after converting and retouching, you have a far more superior image, technically speaking.

If I had access to the digital image file, I could probably adjust the image a bit, but for 20,000 VND you don’t get access to that. You get your four, scissor cut images. That’s it.

Looking at the result, I feel I am looking at a “Wanted” poster. Would I change my current image on my various social networking sites or is the new image not really new and improved?

How about this one?

Portrait done at my own studio

This was taken the same day, a few hours later. For comparison, a similar head shot. Technically superior. It took a bit longer to set up as the studio is never “pre-set” for anything. Studio rule, once your session is done, everything goes back in place. Prevents you from being “lazy” and develop habits. Always think how you can work with your light. Always easier when you have an empty studio.

In my apprentice days, I heard stories from other apprentices working in the portrait business that you could encounter studios where the equipment did not move. Marks on the floor for where you should stand. Marks for where the tripod should be. Flash units already dialled in. Some even said that the aperture and focus ring were taped!

In my case, the studio I went to in my neighbourhood had the flash units already set up and dialled in. Chair in place. All I had to do was to sit down and not move. A very efficient workflow. Only five minutes. Also a very predictable outcome.

Sometimes, predictable can be good, other times not.

How about this headshot?

Portrait sample, No 1

I don’t think it would be achievable on a 20,000 VND budget. It marks a difference. It also says something about the person. About how he wants to be perceived. You can only make a first impression once.

Another sample, still with suit, but a different mood. A different light setup as well.

Portrait sample, No 2

Last sample and again a different light setup, creating another mood.

Portrait sample, No 3

Studio cleared. Ready for next. Will never follow Henry Ford and make a production line and standardise light setups. Otherwise, I will have to charge 18,000 VND and deliver in four minutes in order to compete.

Last, but not least, here’s an online guide on what NOT to do.

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