Vietnam

There is a very obvious path laid out for tourists in Vietnam, and the first thing you must do is get off this path, as you will find nothing but unfulfilling ways to part with your money. At every destination there are shops and traps disguised to look like museums, temples, monuments – even boats, beaches and caves. Avoid all of this. What Vietnam really is, is it’s culture and where it’s happening is out on the street in a space shared with millions of other people. Just step out and walk in any direction and you will find everyone going about their business. Even free time is a largely social activity and it’s assumed that if you’re outside then you’re outside with everyone else. Stand in any spot too long and someone will strike up a conversation with you. I love it.

Photos here are mainly from Hanoi, and I had decided to use film for the whole trip – mostly Portra but also some Ilford HP5. I’m a little uncomfortable using black & white but it has such a striking mood that I wonder whether I should use more of it.

And a bit of black & white.

Bangkok

It seems a pity that Bangkok’s reputation as a sex capital precedes itself, as it is otherwise a very modern and sophisticated city. Not what I expected at all. It’s certainly vibrant and a great fun place to party but it’s also safe and fairly easy to explore. The streets are clean, food is excellent, and there are fascinating places to visit everywhere. Plus it’s great for shopping. I will definitely be visiting again.

I was shooting with my Nikon D600 and mostly with the 50mm f/1.2 AIS lens – which is a little heavy and fiddly to focus but it produces some very beautiful shots. It’s actually at it’s best fairly wide open and surprisingly sharp even at f/1.4. At it’s largest aperture it takes some patience to use as there’s very little in focus and all the most extreme character of lens is visible – strong contrast, heavy vignetting, and plenty of bokeh. Shooting street photography with such a lens and with manual focus is very hit and miss, but it’s a fun change from shooting with a 28mm lens at f/8 where you rarely miss anything provided you can chase the action.

These are some of my favourite shots from the holiday, including quite a few from a day trip to Damnoen Saduak Floating Market.

“Autofocus motherfucker!”, Luke shouts as he flies past. Yeah yeah… I was managing OK but it’s best to have at least one hand holding a tuk-tuk (and not both hands on the camera).

Back To London

In amongst the reunions and gatherings I took some time to wander the streets of London and catch up with a few friends who I first started shooting street photography with. I was very glad and impressed to see that were all striving with their work even through the miserable and cold winter – and it really was very cold.

I still have mixed feelings about London – it’s an endlessly fascinating place I love to explore, filled with millions of interesting people, but I can’t help but empathise with the bitter reactions a camera often provokes. I’ve spent most of my life here and I understand it’s a city with much to offer but it can take a lot from you too. People are stressed, but with confidence it is possible to make taking a photograph a fun and less selfish act. For me it’s very important to resolve this discomfort and I hope to do this place justice one day.