Partying with the locals in Da Nang, Viet Nam.

Before going to Vietnam, I didn’t know anything about Danang. In fact it is a coastal city in central Vietnam known for its sandy beaches and history as a French colonial port, but for us, it was the party side of it that swept us away. 

The area where we stayed was right next to the beach, which was long and deserted in a beautiful way.

There was also a lot of construction going on, seems like Danang is building up and modernising. It looks stunning at night, especially from a hotel with a pool on 40th floor :p.

Danang at night

Unfortunately the sunsets I have seen in Vietnam were not very inspiring, but the blue hour was beautiful nevertheless.

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With the sun down, it was time to go look for a place to have dinner at. We walked around a few streets, peeking into small restaurants with the tiniest chairs in history of chairs, when we heard music playing loudly out of one place sized a little bigger than a general garage in someone’s house. There was a sign above the table saying “happy wedding”, however we didn’t spot any wedding dressed people, nor for that sake any girls at all. It was a party of 20 lads, who were high up in their beer consumption and jolly for the fact that Vietnam apparently won a qualifying game against Bahrain in Asian Football Cup. It just took a moment for us to exchange smiles with the vietnamese guys, and we were immediately invited to join the celebrations and given a beer each…. Most of those people weren’t able to say a word in English, but it didn’t stop us from having a time of our life dancing to the old classics like “One Way Ticket” and “You My Heart, You My Soul”… 

The shirtless fellow apparently was a Vietnam war veteran (as actually most of the older people are)… and he challenged our friend Paul to a competition of push ups. The guy must be like 65, but look how ripped he is! Also, notice how in this part of Vietnam they have a tradition just throwing finished cans on the floor, along with the food that they don’t plan to eat any more.

Obviously, it was a friendly competition, and I laughed, and took pictures, and laughed some more.

It was hard to leave this party, but it was time for us to go and actually try to have some food… and now the song One Way Ticket will always remind me of that surreal experience. How incredibly friendly of these guys to invite us to their celebration, how much fun we all had?! 

Later on that night, we went to a local club that also played some songs that I was dancing to in 2005 rather than what you hear on the radio today, but we also got invited by some locals to their table and had a fantastic night. Danang was so much more open to receive us without asking anything in return than Saigon, it was like a different world. 

Bridges in Danang – Shot on Huawei P20 Pro.

It also has the most fantastic and beautiful bridges including the dragon bridge and the one with the hands, that I unfortunately couldn’t take photos of. So if you’re planning a trip to Vietnam I definitely recommend staying in this place for at least a couple of days. 

Thank you for reliving this day with me!

Much love,

Anna

Was it Worth a Sweat? Visiting the Marble Mountain and off to the Street Markets of Hoi An.

Having just arrived to Da Nang, the city of golden bridges and few people speaking proper English, we decided to do something cultural.  “Marble Mountain” – a some kind of a marble hill, overlooking the city, adjacent to the marble market where you can literally buy anything made out of marble.

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The place was fantastic, but the humidity was whipping hardcore that day. Just being outside we quickly turned into some kind of sad, wet and stinky creatures. And the +35 C temperature… so as you can guess, we very quickly stopped looking presentable in the photos.

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At least the advantage of black and white photography is in the fact that you don’t see how red your face is.

It is also quite remarkable how much more resistant the locals are to this weather – you will never see them drenched in sweat, they are somehow just glowing with their bad-teethed smiles, or maybe their hearts just beat in a different rhythm… who knows.

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Not without a little bit of suffering, we made it up and touched upon a few temples, went down to a cave with a massive Buddha, fought with some kinky and loud Americans for the scenic outlook… watched the sunset, which was not really memorable in comparison with the state of our shirts’  moistness.

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One thing worth mentioning about climbing this mountain was that I was very, very much happy that it wasn’t raining that day, because all the stairs are made out of marble stones and it was quite a miracle that nobody broke any limbs on their way. Those stairs were not steady, straight or safe. But if they were also wet, this whole adventure would have probably had a nasty turn.

Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA008ASadly, most of those temples were too dark for photography, but definitely worth the visit alluring the tourists with foreign burning incense sticks smells and candle lit figurines with the donations.

We didn’t invest in any marble goods, and came to a decision that the rooftop swimming pool was a necessary visit after the profound sweating in the mountains.

Danang seems like a new city full of construction, young people and shiny bars and restaurants. But in fact it dates back to 102 AD, so not so new in the end. There is more than a million people living in there, but it doesn’t feel as crowded as other big cities of Vietnam, though also can get quite loud.

 

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Danang has a beautiful coast which felt quite deserted where we were. It was heavily used by Americans during the Vietnam war times to unload the new-arriving soldiers…

In just 30 minutes drive from Danang, there is an absolutely stunning little city called Hoi An – meaning a peaceful meeting place. It looks and feels like and old-school Asian settlement with plenty of small temples, bridges and lanterns all over the place.

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Most places would want a small payment to enter, but it is usually only 1 dollar per person. What can you seriously buy in your home country for 1 dollar? Here, you can literally touch the history. We visited one home where the Chinese guy told us he is the 6th generation living in this place since 1690 (and he was like 85 or older) and his house was made out of beautiful dark wood with lots of intricate carvings… not comparable to the kind of places we live in of course.

Went to have a late breakfast in an awesome restaurant called Cafe des Amis.

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The owner is playing majong with his friend. This guy (on the right) was a chef in Paris and made friends with a few french celebrities from the 60s and 70s. Their music still plays in his restaurant every day. And I must say I never had such a tasty tofu meal as in this place. Ana Shtraus - Fujicolor 200 - AA031A

These are the street vendors taking a break just outside the restaurant. If eating inside is too fancy for you, you can always grab something from these guys, or from one of those mobile cafes where everything is on one scooter – the stove, the serving station, the seats, the umbrella… what else do you need?

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Gotta say, I loved this little city. It was a delight for photographer to be there, and I shot a whole roll of film just in this place.

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Ah what a good coffee they make in Vietnam, so dark and so flavourful. We bought a bag of the most expensive coffee in the world for the price of 3 dollars… but for some reason it just doesn’t taste the same at home.

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There’s plenty of tourists in Hoi An, but it never feels too crowded.

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You can also take a boat cruise, which I believe is a nice thing to do, but we didn’t have enough time for that. Hopefully, with our next visit we will plan it better.

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You can also cheaply make any kind of outfit in the clothing factories in Hoi An. The choice of materials is quite extensive and the prices are way below your expectations.

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Hope you enjoyed a little trip around the central Vietnam with me… and stay tuned for the continuation of this party as we go to explore the night life of Da Nang.

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If you missed the first part of the Vietnam adventures, you can find it here:

Hustle and Bustle of Saigon, Vietnam.

Vietnam part 2: Mui Ne, Train Adventure, Why do We Play Flip Cup?

Love,
Anna

Vietnam part 2: Mui Ne, Train Adventure, Why do We Play Flip Cup?

Hello everyone,

Part two of Vietnamese adventures follows. After we had enough of Saigon, it was time for us to go explore more of Vietnam goodness. As we had absolutely no plans or reservations, we decided to join a few guys that my husband met online. They were having a good time on the beach of Mui Ne, so this became our next destination. Living in a relatively small country, we were forgetting again that Vietnam can’t be crossed in one day and even going to this beach destination would take us a few hours. Precisely from 5 to 7 by bus, as the bus company announced. Nothing is too sure in terms of timing in this country.We decided to splash and buy the “comfortable” version of the bus, that had beds instead of seats.Ilford HP5_Vietnam (35).jpg

I can’t say that this was more comfortable option, but what is important that we made it in one piece to our destination.

Mui Ne is as it turns out quite a popular destination for backpackers.A few individuals of that type were getting quite hyped at the end of the bus, shouting at every sign of a new urban dwelling “Mui Ne?!” until the bus driver got mad and started shouting NO NO NO NO NO. I can’t say that he was a very well-tempered man before they started annoying him either. He had a habit of overtaking large chunks of traffic at the traffic light, and one time got overexcited and got the side mirror smashed by a truck. Whoa, bit scary.

So we are finally in Mui Ne, it is raining and the bus just left us somewhere sort of in the vicinity of the hostel we were staying. Thankfully, we had the sim card and could find the location easily. It was just up the hill. And when you think that it is already quite up the hill, there was some more up the hill. Checked in, read the rules and regulations, that mentioned absolutely no sea food in the room or you will be punished financially by paying 1 million dongs. As harsh as it sounds, 1 million dongs is not such a big amount of money. And there was no cooking appliances, so I am not sure how one can even cook sea food. Anyhow, we refrained from doing that.

Found our new friends at the bar, they have had consumed a few buckets of alcoholic beverages and were ready to take part in all the numerous entertainment opportunities provided by the establishment, namely playing flip cup (the motto of this game is “why do we play flip cup? to get fucked up”), the ever popular beer pong and a few others. We preferred to be on the observing part that night, and I clicked pretty of crazy photos of that night which should not be shown to any of the mentioned personas’ mothers.

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The next day we woke up kind of early. It is pretty hard to sleep in Vietnam anyway, because Vietnamese for some reason get up super early, and start actively build stuff and hammer stuff at 6 am, they also need to call everyone and talk loudly. By 9 am all these kind of activities slow down. Anyway, we took a pretty decent breakfast in the hostel for 2 dollars. The coffee in Vietnam is dope. It is very tasty and quite strong. Just the way I like.

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After breakfast we went to explore the beach which was quite much deserted and we enjoyed a fantastic beach by ourselves. Also at the same time the sun was enjoying roasting us, so we all got a premium sunburn in just a few hours despite applying the cream to our white skins.

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In the afternoon, the boys were somehow involved in pillow fight competition. Not just a pillow fight, but on a metal pipe over a swimming pool with wet pillows.That was a sight to behold. The guy who won the epic battle was doing detox that month so the beer tower he won, he decided to share with us. Good questionis why did he take part in this competition at all. His name is Nick and he is a 19 years old backpacker from Germany.

Ilford Delta 100_Vietnam (13)The guys that we made friends with were from Germany too, but they didn’t much like Nick. I had a good time talking to him. He was travelling at that time with Pete, who is a British guy changing jobs every couple of years and taking backpacking trips in between. They both had so many great stories to tell, we spent as much time talking as we could. One good thing about hostels is finding interesting people. When you stay at a fancy hotel,  everyone is on their own. Backpackers are much more open community, and usually it doesn’t take long to befriend somebody.

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So after spending two nights in Mui Ne, it was time to move somewhere else. We bought tickets on a night train to go to a place called Danang. 14 hours in a train.

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For an average Russian this doesn’t sound like a lot of time in a train, but ze germans and zi french were impressed. The train really reminds a lot a Russian train, but everything is made for smaller people and instead of 2 sleeping rows of shelves, there are 3.

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We were like the only people of European origins in this train and the Vietnamese were looking with suspicion at us. At 6 AM everyone got up, started calling other people on the phone… there was even a chicken in the train, I didn’t see it but I heard it. 14 hours were feeling quite long… but eventually we made it to Danang. The beautiful city of Danang with its Dragon Bridge and the Marble Mountain. That is however a story for the next time.

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Much love,
Anna

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

What Happens if You Develop Colour Film as Black and White?

Hello there,

I just came back from my holidays to the land of ice and fire (yes, again), yes, I know. In addition to shooting my traditional long exposures with the beloved Fujifilm XT-2, I brought a film camera with me, and shot a bunch of images on film. Just because I love how the memories look on film, and it is always fun to shoot with my friendly snappy Pentax.

Meanwhite, my husband got inspired by my film experiments and got himself a second-hand Olympus M-10. He seems to be particularly enjoying shooting in black and white, which we then carefully (or not so) develop at home. So, when we got to Iceland, he still had half a roll of Kodak TriX400 black and white film left in his camera. Snapping left and right, it didn’t take him long to finish it on his first day there. As we returned home, we decided to develop this roll to see some photos from our holidays to feed our holiday blues.

So we did the whole shabang of opening the canister of the film in the black bag, rolling it on a spool, putting it in the development tank and pouring a crapload of chemicals on it, washing it with water, unrolling and hanging it in the bathroom only to realize… hey, the emulsion colour is supposed to be gray, not orange… and hey, these are not the pictures that my husband took.

Turn out that I accidentally took the roll of Kodak Portra 160 from the shelf instead of Kodak Trix400… and now my beautifully (supposedly) coloured film turned into a black and white one, and oh, joy, we have to start from scratch, because the actual black and white roll was still undeveloped.

I didn’t think that you can actually develop colour film in the same chemicals as black and white, but I must say that the pictures turned out beautiful. Better than I ever had on any actual black and white films.

But I let you be my judge. Shot on PentaxK1000 with the expectations to be Kodak Portra 160… but well, better black and white than no photos at all.

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Exploring West Fjords.

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Fascinated by the Super Powerful Waves.

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Always Love a Good Rearview Mirror Reflection.

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What is Iceland without Ice?

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Tried to Do a Bit of Long Exposure (You Can See A Flying By Seagull on the Cliffs).

Thanks for having a look and feel free to ask any questions, if something crosses your mind.

Ciao,
Anna

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

Why Would Anyone Shoot Film Today?

Good day everyone roaming around,

On all things photography topic today is: is shooting film making a come back?

Being an avid pixel-peeper, I was always laughing at people who told me they are still shooting film. Why would you shoot film in the times of digital, and also you can make any of your digital photos look like film with one click of a filter? Then I met one girl who was my age and she never in her life shot with a digital camera… oh that’s proper hipster stuff, one would say, but there’s something about it, I thought, and decided to give it a try.

Today you can buy plenty of film cameras on ebay or amazon for pretty cheap, or you can buy a super expensive Leica and feel very exclusive on the streets of wherever you are. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to just take one out of your parents’ attic. In my case, my parents camera rewinding mechanism was not working, so after ruining two films, I gave up on that one and got a cheap-ish Pentax K1000 which is also easy to use for those who don’t know what they are doing in terms of film photography and settings as it has a pretty accurate exposure meter.

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Thankfully I don’t even have to bother about thinking where to get 35mm film because it is for sale in my office plus I also get staff discount on it. The variety of film nowadays is pretty impressive, and a lot of those companies who gave up on making film are coming back in business. So far I shot mostly Kodak film, but I also tried some of Fuji…. and Ilford black and white which still needs to be developed (which I am hoping to do one of these days in my bathroom when I have a few free of nonsense hours).

So I shot two rolls of film for fun to try it out before moving to anything serious and a few photos came out very nice, some other not so great cause I accidentally opened the back of the camera and there were some light leaks… but so be it.

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We have at least one studio that does film developing and scanning within 24 hours for a reasonable price. It’s hard to wait for us, digital shooters, we need everything right this moment, we need to post! But good things come to those who wait.

Recently I went on a roadtrip to South Africa, and although that place is full of fantastic photo opportunities for wide angle and long exposure shooters like me, but I didn’t have time to do any of that because I wasn’t alone on that trip… so instead, I decided to have fun and shoot film.

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What I loved about the process:

  1. It teaches you patience. Instead of clicking like a maniac, you tend to wait for that moment when everything aligns before the click.
  2. The photos though not perfect in terms of colours, sharpness or depth, do look like real memories. No one has memories with sharpest details, they are pretty hazy and dreamy and the colours tend to fade.
  3. Using manual focusing and choosing shutterspeed and aperture for each shot teaches you to be a better photographer. After a few messed up shots, you will learn how it works for sure. I swear, I used to be scared to use manual focus on my digital camera thinking I’d never get is as right as the camera itself, but now I am less stressed about it. And in the end if it is not perfectly sharp, it is still ok… nobody’s gonna die.
  4. There’s no need for choosing the filter or editing really, and that’s such a breather because I tend to not post anything straight out of camera and in this case I can.
  5. It’s just fun do it, go around with one camera, one lens and a certain film in mind and capture things that will be kept inside your camera until the day you release them into real life. It’s almost like doing magic. And it’s a great tool for ice breaking in a party, just show up with a film camera and guaranteed you’ll find someone bugging you about it.SAtrip-50.jpg

It honestly almost feels like a therapy to me, to get away from shooting 55 photos of one pair of shoes until the client is happy with it. It feels great to roam the streets, and just imagine how the photos will come out (because you never know, they might not come out at all)… and it is very much going back to basics.

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