Wednesday, August 31, 2011


1) Guy selling knock-off glasses.
2) Two guys on a bike after a rainstorm.
3) Random guy enjoying his dinner at a ...diner?...

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


A couple more zoom-blurs. Slightly different technique though. You can compare them to some of the other recent ones in previous posts. Here's one of those posts.


Monday, August 29, 2011

1 Week Left

One week left till I'm back in Minnesota if all goes as planned. I can't say I'm excited to leave Vietnam. I certainly wouldn't want to live here long term -- mostly health-related reasons. But 6 weeks hasn't been enough time and I doubt this last week will change that. Because I've traveled all over Vietnam this last month and a half the tourist facade is only now starting to dissipate; the moment with the camera sees beyond the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Notre Dame.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Happy Birthfay Dad!

It's Dad's Birthday! 5 and a half weeks into a 7 week father-son vacation in Vietnam. A week and a half left to go. (And then a week to readjust to the 12 hour timezone difference, then back to Carleton).


Just got back to Saigon -- homebase. Got in a 15 person van where they shoved 24 people with luggage last night at 2am. (It's a transportation service. I'd never been, didn't know what to expect). I was sitting heels to butt, knees to chest. It was an estimated 4 hour drive. Cousin got car sick 15 mins in and vomited all over my backpack. Got off, waited 3 hours for a bigger bus to come after a lot of phone calls. Ordered a hot milk (made from condensed milk and hot water) which came with an extra helping of dead floating ants. But 7 hours after it all started (not including the 1 hour late van pick-up for departure), I'm now back in Saigon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Monday, August 22, 2011

Bảo Lộc

Just left the highlands for Bảo Lộc today. I left with a bag full of wet clothes, 2 kilos of fresh artichoke, two bottles of fermented strawberry juice, and a new-found love for artichoke green tea. Yesterday we got caught in a downpour of rain during our 40min motorcycle ride back to the motel. The two kilos is for my "older sister" (whose my younger cousin) who asked for the artichoke in a very passive way:

How much is fresh artichoke up there? (*You can't easily buy artichoke in Saigon. It's too hot there).
I'm not sure, I'll let you know tonight. How much do you want?
Oh, I was just wondering about the price.

Like artichokes, freshly picked strawberries do not exist in Saigon. We intended to buy some for the extended family but it's not in season. The store clerks sold me on a wine-like strawberry juice via a small private sampling of their different products. And lastly, I discovered two new flavors of tea that I like. I forgot to get the name of the better one ... but the runner up was artichoke!

Sunday, August 21, 2011


Here's a couple portraits from the  Da Lat. The first are a couple monks who were visiting a local waterfall. The second was taken along a daily open street market. 

Da Lat is a pretty nice temperature compared to Saigon and Qui Nhon. The noon heat is bearable and, if one really wants, one can spend the noon hours traveling the streets. It's obviously not the best lighting for travel photography purposes.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ship + Sky

First few hours in Đà Lạt have been fairly successful. People seem to be a little less camera shy here, although I still get plenty of No's on direct portraits. I'm staying at a hotel, renting a motorcycle, and the weather here is wonderful (so far)! 

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Tonight I'm hoping on a super cramped bus for an 8 hour bus ride to the highlands -- Đà Lạt. I'm bringing my laptop with, but I have no idea if there will be any internet access. I'm also packing light. Probably just the Nikon D300. (Sadly, the large and medium format cameras are too heavy and bulky for this trip.) The goal is to get some nice environmental portraits up there.

1) Guy that works for the government.
2) Lady crossing the street
3) Saigon traffic

Bến Tre

Over 150 miles latter with a large format camera on my back, Carleton's D300 in my hands, a tripod in my lap, and my butt on the cushion of a Honda motorcycle (with my dad driving), I'm back in Saigon with few pictures to share the adventure. I had set up the large format camera -- what my dad's begun to call the old French camera -- once and took 0 shots with it. Large format developing is just too expensive to shoot recreationally. I shot the D300 until the battery went died. Mostly snapshots from the backseat of the Honda and a few long exposures that just didn't quite work.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tình Cảm

Literally translated, this is the Bridge of Stars (as in twinkle, twinkle, little star). Its not particularly stunning by Western standards, but its very futuristic relative to the rest of Vietnam.

Yesterday I learned that argument in Vietnamese culture is not based on logic, rather it is based on something called tình cảm. I'm not really sure what's a good translation for this word. I would call it compassion. Dad says it's sympathy. Google translate says its emotional. According to, I think sympathy is most semantically similar. But long story short, tình cảm takes priority over logic. And so in an argument, even if one party is completely logical, that person is not necessarily ... "correct". As a philosophy major whose grown up in a dominantly Western-influenced culture, this is a difficult lesson for me to holistically absorb.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Less than 3 weeks to go here in Vietnam. Still searching for The Shot..

I went to a sort of Photographer's Cafe today. It felt super pretentious and egotistic. Don't think I'm coming back there... One of my younger brothers* (whose over 5 years older than me) told me photography is quickly gaining popularity in Vietnam. Not just digital, but film too. But back to the Cafe. I flipped through a few photography books they had lying around there. It was quite reassuring. There was probably one good photo out of every ten. One observation is that because photography is just starting to gain popularity here, gimmicks are quite successful. Namely a motion blur in the post processing applied to the entire background and simply masking out the subjects -- no panning involved.

And as a quick aside, 4x5 slide negatives are soooo gorgeous. I can only imagine shooting slide film on an 8x10...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

To the Film-Nostalgic Alumni

These two fisherman shots aren't on film. (As I've mentioned before, no film scanner here.) But after dropping a little more than $100 to develop four 4x5 slide frames and two 4x5 color negative frames and 15 rolls of 120mm color negative, the owner of the store (whose pretty mean to his workers verbally) showed me his back room. There was easily millions of dollars (USD!!) worth of cameras and lenses in the room. Sure, he had the digital lenses that look like mortars, but he also had a giant 8x10 (and 4x5 compatible) Linhof, cases (i.e. multiples shelves) stuffed with hasselblads, and just ... everything that is film photography.

So after spending soo much money of just developing my film, I remembered the alumni who've commented on past film-posts. And also Davey Bendicksen who has essentially tutored me through Film 101 via email and Lois Babatz for her encouraging comments from time to time. It's not a great photo or anything, but I took this one for you guys:

Friday, August 12, 2011


So in traditional (Eastern) medicine here, there's something that roughly translates to being wind-struck. It entails neausia, aches, and flu/cold-like symptoms. The cure involves taking medicated oil (a sort of icy-hot in oil form) and a spoon or coin. Apply the oil to 'important' parts of the body -- the entire back along the spine, the chest, the vains of the elbow, tip of the ears, bridge of the nose, inner arms, and probably a few other places I'm forgetting. As its being applied, you take the spoon/coin and scrape specific lines onto the body which causes that part of the body to become red. If a particular red appears then one is wind-struck (and in the process of being cured).

I find it hard not to analyze this tradition from a westerners perspective. Fact is, there's simply no studying of eastern medicine in high school (nor Carleton).

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back in Saigon

Back in Saigon. This time without any fevers, muffler burns, or infections :) However, I do have a thick stack of film I need to get developed -- 15 rolls of medium format, and 10 frames of 4x5 large format.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Qui Nhon

This is my last morning in Qui Nhon -- probably my favorite place I've been to yet. Its not too crowded, there's ocean* beaches and mountains, and it's not raining everyday. And although its all become second nature, this is also the last of drawing up well water to wash the dishes, of sleeping 6 people in a 1-bed bedroom, of having my cousins mess with all my social network accounts, and of wishing there was more ice in the freezer.

*So it's technically (according to the maps I'm use to seeing anyways) the South China Sea (or the Gulf of Tonkin), except people here hate calling it that; they simply call it the (Pacific) Ocean.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Been lying in bed for the past five hours. My dad's snore is louder than the Northfield train...

Surprisingly, the above two images were taken about 10 mins apart. They are also color balanced slightly different (and the contrast and whatnot is different too). I want to like the bottom one more, but I think maybe the top one is the winner. What do you think?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Zoom Blur

I've been playing with in-camera zoom-blurs (i.e. done on camera and not in the post production). After much trial and error, I've found that the background should be lit and boring (e.g. water that is bouncing light off its surface without islands or large rocks in the way). I always end up thinking, lets get this on film! But then I remember I don't have a zoom lens for my film cameras (except my 35mm, which I only occasionally carry along now.)