Hustle and Bustle of Saigon, Vietnam.

This year hasn’t been filled with travels yet, so we decided to change that and booked tickets to go to Vietnam for a week. There was no plan and no list of things to do, for the first time we decided to take it as it goes and just hopped on a plane with the whole country in mind but nothing in particular.

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Firstly, our plane was delayed 4 hours, which made our arrival pretty much “arrive to the hotel and go to sleep” but there definitely are worse things in life.

We decided to pack light and take only backpacks, therefore I decided to take only my Fuji X100T and a film camera PentaxK1000. I took a tripod as well just in case, but the opportunity to use it didn’t really present itself. I knew, that we are not going there to do my favourite type of photography – landscapes and city scapes, but rather to do a bit of streets and perhaps a few portraits.

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One good advise that you can easily find on the Internet but still we managed to fall into the trap – count your money always! The exchange office of the airport managed to forget to give us a few thousand dongs, which is really easy and confusing because there are a lot of thousands and millions that fall into your hands and it feels very overwhelming. Then, don’t take the taxi unless it is the official Vinasun or Mailinh, install Grab application and always use that one. We were naive white people to take a taxi suggested by the guy at the taxi stand of the airport and paid 6 times more than we should have.

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It is somewhat annoying that in the South the Vietnamese people will try to rip you off with every chance they have, but for them we are white people with cash… as soon as they hear you speaking English, they will do anything to get your money out of you. It’s not much money most of the time, but still kinda spoils your mood.

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So after arriving and taking a good bunch of sleep, we went to explore the streets of Saigon//Ho Chi Minh City. It’s a pretty loud and always buzzing place with tons of people everywhere all the time. When we got out of the hotel, the weather was somewhat nice and sunny.

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Instead of breakfast, we decided to plug into the culture right away, and a had a big tasty Pho for a meal… when it started raining. It was raining, and rainng lots.

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We found a refuge in the botanical garden and spent 3 hours looking at streams of water pouring down, running around rats and soaking Vietnamese people on their bikes.

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Eventually we got tired of waiting for the rain to stop and decided to go spend the next hour in the War Museum. The museum should rather be called “Shame On You Americans” museum, as it is portraying everything in that way. A lot of interesting and horrible photographs and war pieces to see… a lot of lives lost in vain like in every war.

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I saw this passport photo of someone outside of the war museum on the grass… wearing a pajama with “I love you” writings on it… really wonder what is the story of this photo.

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On the famous bar street of District one, you will find a lot of dirty places full of questionable entertainments that we didn’t partake. Decided to just walk around and choose somewhere to rest our restless bums, we chose a restaurant poorly. The waiters kept telling us that what we want on the menu is not available, but then we kept seeing other people having it… the question remains – if they didn’t want us there, why did they let us in in the first place?

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It is curious to see that Vietnamese people for real wearing the famous hats, and tourists buy them in bulk as well (probably to be never worn again). But they seem quite useful against the rain and the sun, and look very nice as well. Definitely add a lot to the snaps for all the tireless street photographers.

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Crossing the streets in Vietnam is an interesting sport. Nobody ever stops, even when the light is red so you have to manoeuvre around the traffic, trying to get to the other side of the road. It feels very intimidating at first, but you kind of get a hang of it in a few days. The busses and trucks seem to never stop at the intersections and instead of even checking the surroundings, they beep. Everybody actually beeps. All the time. And you get used to this after a while. The rule of crossing the road in Vietnam seems to be – do not try to cross in front of cars and bigger vehicles, and just confidently walk when the bikes are there, they will go around you.

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That seemed to have worked just all right for us.

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Saigon can get pretty tiring after a few days of being there, so we booked two tickets on the sleeping bus to take us to the beach side of the country. The next stop is Mui Ne.

But that is a story for another day.

Much love,

Anna_DSF8301

Are You Going on Adventure or Ticking off the Checklist?

Hello friend,

I was wondering what kind of travel photographer are you? Are you visiting a country with a checklist of places to photograph or are you going with the flow and shooting what happens to appear in front of your lens?

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Patrick and Alexandra discussing the importance of cracks for composition.

I suppose there is no right or wrong answer, but I noticed that there are two trends:

1. If you go and photograph places that are famous and well-known, you have to fight for your right to place your fat ass tripod to be able to take that shot because apparently you are not the most ingenuous person in the world, and a the check shot is on the list of many people. But if you get it right and in the interesting light/way/composition, you will definitely be rewarded with social media love.

2. If you go into the wild, you might as well find something absolutely amazing, or be left with nothing, but at least you won’t be frustrated with the fact that there were 459 people from the Eastern Parts of the Eurasian Continent with multiple selfie sticks trying to get the shot for themselves. If you are travelling more for the peace of mind, then maybe you should stay away from the well-flattened down by multiple hiking boots paths of your travel destination.

So in my case, this was a completely random stop in a completely unknown to me place (and those who have been to Iceland will know that there are many places that look like that), but somehow it was one of the most memorable and cool spots we did in our trip. Just the texture of that ice is amazing.

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Nature created ice chips. Fujifilm XT2 and Fujinon 10-24.

But as the weather wasn’t amazing, and the place was random, these pictures don’t stand out from the total never-ending flow of “northern lights”, “fiery sunrises in glacier lagoons” and “massive super-silky waterfalls” in Iceland and the goal for likes collected in treasure hunt wasn’t completed.

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Fujifilm X100T.

However, these hold a special place in my heart. This is Iceland, beautiful and special from any angle you look at it.

Have a great Easter Holidays, and stay safe!

Much love,
Anna

My favourite 2017 images (a year shot with Fuji)

Everyone is tempted to draw a certain line at the end of the year, which I guess provides a certain psychological closure on a pathway to a better newer you… at least in theory.

Last year was quite an amazing year for me professionally and in terms of my personal photography as well. I met so many great people, some of who turned into good friends.

I went to Berlin, Sri Lanka, Iceland, California, Italy, Norway, New York, Moscow, Mauritius… maybe not so-o-o many places but definitely good memories.

Went to a few rooftops in Dubai that I didn’t think I’d ever make my way to, thank you amazing friends again.

I am going to add a bunch of my favourite pictures I took this year to this post, so maybe one day I can look back and see how I improved (or not :))

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Though a fantastic view and a terrific company, the day was just so hazy that it wasn’t so pleasant to shoot. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F4 // 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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A shot from short weekend trip to Sri Lanka. That place has fantastic sunsets… and is always so fun and so relaxing to be there. A random couple was just at the right spot at the right time. Fujifilm XT100T // F8// 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Iceland, my beautiful small Reykjavik sunrise that nobody else came out to shoot but me. I might have been shaking for an hour after I got inside, that cold I was,  but it was all worth it. Fujifilm XT2 // 16mm // F16 // 1/30 second  // ISO 200 //

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Iceland, near Budir Church. This dog just walked into my shot and stayed there for a moment. Other photographers were quite annoyed that the dog is ruining it, but I thought it actually makes the picture rather more interesting, so thank you Dog! Fujifilm XT100T // F8// 1/60 of a second  // ISO 500 //

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There are many, many pictures of Iceland I’d include here, but I chose just a few. Jokursarlon, another of my most favourite places in the world for it’s uniqueness and everchanging beauty. Not the most easy place to photograph, but always so captivating. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 48 // F4 // 1/200 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Currently my phone background picture. Such a beautiful sunset, such a wild place… a piece of my heart is still there. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 20 // F8 // 1/15 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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For the love of silky water, this is a shot of the stream that goes down from a fantastically looking waterfall… but i chose to look in the opposite direction, and again, no regrets there. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F10 // 6 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Perhaps not the most impressive picture of bears ever, but we saw bears! Real furry fluffs in Sequoia National Forest. Fujifilm XT2 // 100-400 at 400 // F5,6 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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So many beautiful spots in California, and so hard to photograph them because of their scale. Death Valley is such a gem. Another paradise for photographers. The sunset was behind the mountains, but it was still quite epic.  Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F4 // 0,5 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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We’ve got enough desert of our own in UAE, but these dunes are impacably photogenic. Woke up at 5 am because of jet lag and because we were too hot, and went to explore and get sanded. Fujifilm XT2 // Samyang 8mm  // F10 // 1/60s of a second  // ISO 100 //

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Moving on to Norwegian adventures… can you tell it’s end of June? Fantastic nature and lots of streams and waterfalls left and right, just as I like. Fujifilm XT2 // 16-55 at 17 // F11 // 30 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Another absolutely crazy waterfall spot we discovered by accident. So much power in that water that if you slip, there is no chance of getting out of there alive. As much as I love silky water, I felt like the power of this place is better shown in short exposure. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 24 // F11 // 1/100 of a second  // ISO 100 //

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Moody view of a fjord with the softest moss in the world. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F14 // 0,5 second  // ISO 200 //

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Ah the midnight sun, how pretty you are giving us no rest. Lyngenfjord, Finnmark. Fujifilm X100T // 23mm // F5,6 // 1/150 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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New York, New York! We stayed in a place with a bad-ass view and a rooftop to chill. Wasn’t very high, but we are spoilt in Dubai, I guess. Fujifilm X100T // 23mm // F16 // 8 seconds  // ISO 200 //

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Mauritius. A place with beautiful clouds. I was a lazy photographer there, didn’t photograph much, although these clouds call for experiments with long exposures. Fujifilm XT2 // 10-24 at 10 // F11 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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Another picture from Mauritius. I forgot to switch on shooting in Raw after making some time-lapses so what I thought in my mind I’d recover, turns out I can not. But somehow I still love this sunset shot as it is. XT2 // 35mm // F5.6 // 1/125 of a second  // ISO 200 //

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And last but not least is a gift from my lovely Dubai – a week of fogs, and a rare occasion of a sunset fog. Such a spectacular view. I am planning to write another post about our rooftopping weekend, so check in a bit to see more amazing images of December in Dubai. This one is a screenshot from a video shot on Canon EOS 6d with a Sigma 12-24 lens.

Happy New Year My Friends. Hope you enjoyed the images and wishing you all the best and tons of inspiration in the newly born 2018.

Love,
Anna

My Story of That Last Thing I need to get or You Already Have All You Need for Happiness.

When I started taking photos for work, I had Canon EOS 1100D, which is a very basic level cropped-frame DLSR camera, but still you can totally take decent photos with it if you have a good lens in your bag… but I remember how it bugged to go to the event, and I have this shitty DSLR and everyone has  5D and a lens with the red ring… And I felt like I really need a big heavy camera so that people take me seriously. So I got a second-hand Canon EOS 7D. It is a beautiful cam, but it is just a bit outdated now. And the one I had got in my hands from the hands of a wedding photographer, so it was quite well used. But it was heavy, big and respectable.

With that I had to upgrade my tripod as well, because this camera was too heavy for the one I had. The tripod served me well for around 3 years, and I wouldn’t have known something is wrong with it until the day my dear friends on my tour to Iceland kept making fun of me and my flimsy tripod…. well, I never dropped my camera with it. One guy in the Iceland tour with a more expensive tripod gave his Sony a swim in the salty waters of the Atlantic ocean, and it never worked again.

But my happiness with 7D didn’t last very long, because very soon I decided that now I need a full frame camera. This for real will take my photography on the very new level. And thankfully there was this Canon EOS 6D with WiFi and GPS that showed up on the market. It was just perfect for me at that point. It costed half of my salary, but I needed to have it. For the same reason that I needed 7D, now it was not enough for me.

I must admit that shooting with a full-frame DSLR is fun. I love it, and it makes your life easier to use 50 mm as 50 mm, not as 85 and you can fit more than one person in the frame.

The tricky part with buying full-frame cameras is that half of your lenses are good for nothing no more, because they are made for cropped sensor… and now you ‘obviously’ need to upgrade your lenses as well. That what I was doing for a while, got 24-105 as my first L lens, and didn’t love it. It works just fine, but it is a very unexciting lens. And heavy. Got 24-70 and it is bloody heavy… shoots nicely, but I had a tamron 28-75 which is much lighter and gives you kinda same-same effect. Plus this canon lens was constantly fogging from inside in Iceland… that was a bummer. And honestly working with it is like doing a workout, but the 70-200 is the real workout one. I was dreaming of buying one as my next investment, then Fujifilm happened to me.

_DSF0401_So I gave my 1100D as a gift to my sister along with 50 mm lens, and she didn’t really use it (I know, cause now they got some Sony cam), and I don’t even know what happened to my beloved Canon that I started my career with. As soon as I parted with it, I realized I need something light that I can travel with or just can take with me to a party (no, I can’t shoot with iPhone, right?) …. (of course I can, but…) Anyway, that’s how I got myself a Canon 100D with a touchscreen… and I had some fun with it, but sold it after some time cause I didn’t really use it. And also because I had bought a Fuji X100T as my put in the pocket camera. It is absolutely amazing with colours, size and performance… but the lens is fixed and the battery is shitty comparing to Canons.

Have played with Fuji in Dubai, and in Iceland, I loved it, so one day something happened to me and I just went to the store and bought Fuji XPro2 which was on promotion with 35mm lens. And I looooove how sharp it is, I love the details, I love that it is light and the design of it excites me as well. So I wanted to sell all my Canon stuff and become a Fuji convert, but as I have now landed at a photographer job, I would like to hold on to Canon just for now to see if I can actually do it with Fuji. I am sure I can, but it is just not as fast and reliable as Canon. What I love about Canon is the speed of the response, it is just a second and it is ready to go. It is very rarely giving me a brain freeze, but mirrorless cameras tend to do that from time to time. I can also connect it fast and easy to iPad and show the clients what’s going on, while Fuji with the WiFi card takes really a while to load the photos.

It doesn’t bug me anymore to go to the event with the non-pro DSLR camera, I know that I can manage to take nice photos even with the kit lens, because I know how it works, and I can make it work.

We often fall victims of the GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) and think that the new camera or lens will unleash our creativity, but in fact we already have all the tools. You can’t shoot with 3 cameras at the same time, so do you really need so many? And I can guarantee that some of those lenses are just gathering dust on the shelves…

I just need to repeat this last paragraph to myself whenever I feel like I neeeeeeed that just that one more lens or camera, or tool, or whatever.

Need to learn to be happy with what I have.

Peace and love,

AnnaIceland 2016-23