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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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Photography

Moto Moto!

In Vietnam a moto is a motorbike. In Zambia, they have the Moto Moto Museum. To them, Moto Moto is Fire Fire. Moto is also a nickname for Motorola. You have Moto Boy from Sweden. The Urban Moto magazine, the Moto programming language, another Moto Museum and Mr. Moto, the secret agent.

China are famous for The Great Wall and lately, its Great Firewall, as well as its many bicycles and Vietnam is equally renowned for its motorbike population. Bicycles are endangered in Asia according to this research. Even the cyclo’s are deminishing in numbers and more tourists are seen using their services than locals. Motorbikes in Vietnam have been limited at 150 cc until 2007. Thanks to the WTO agreement, larger capacity bikes are now part of the traffic, for better or worse. One thing is certain, the traffic jams are increasing and traveling in District 1, the Central Business District (CBD), takes longer time. A motorbike can still get around faster than a car though.

In a city where you can see Bentley’s cruising the street, a dedicated Porsche showroom in Phu My Hung, it was only natural to get some big name motorbikes. Enter Ducati. We got the honor of capturing the images needed for their launch.

Ducati Vietnam's brand ambassador Johnny Tri Nguyen.

Ducati Vietnam's brand ambassador Johnny Tri Nguyen

Helmets are finally mandatory and have been so for some time. Gone are the days you could jump on your bike and let the hair flow in the wind and regret not having a helmet when a drunk driver came the opposite way and knocked you down. At least, today when the drunk driver comes, you and your head have a much better chance of survival.

I am strong advocate of helmets. I use a helmet every time I ride a bike. I had in the past an ugly bicycle accident that I survived solely by wearing a helmet. In Vietnam it is not a question of “if you have had an accident” but “how many have you had”. People disrespect the traffic laws and yesterday evening, on the way home, I travelled in the motorbike lane on Saigon bridge. It is a one way lane. Suddenly motorbikes in front of me started to swerve to the side and I saw the headlights of another motorbike coming towards me at high speed. Somebody had taken a short cut and went the wrong way. It happens everyday.

There is an organisation, Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, that manufactures safe helmets. I buy my helmets from them. Another client of mine, Sophie Paris Vietnam, have their own branded helmets for sale, as seen below.

We photographed the bike and the models in studio and superimposed the background in Photoshop. Safest way to work while it is official rain season.

One of our latest assignments, for Castrol motorbike oil, was recently put on display on a billboard.

Castrol billboard in Ho Chi Minh City.

The artwork for Castrol.

From motorbike to motorbike helmets to motorbike oil it is only suitable to end it with motorbike parts. Saigon Scooter Centre is everything you need about vintage scooters and we are photographing their products. Item by item. Part by part. Full circle.

Product photography for Saigon Scooter Centre.

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Photography, Recommended

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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Photography

“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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