My Tail, in Two Cities

It’s been a great two years but my time in Saigon has come to an end. Vietnam is a lovely country and I recommend travel there to anyone, but for the last few months I’ve grown weary of the traffic, pollution and general chaos of the city. Vietnamese people are wonderful and I already miss my friends there, but Saigon isn’t a particularly livable city, and recently I sometimes asked myself if I wanted to be living there when I’m 60. When I kept answering “Hell no!” I realized it was time for a change. Just last week I moved back to Bangkok, where I was based before I moved to Saigon. 

Bangkok, Saigon, what’s the difference? If you haven’t traveled in this part of the world it’s easy to imagine that I’ve moved from one crowded and chaotic Southeast Asian city to another. I completely understand that – before I traveled and lived in this part of the world these and other developing Asian cities blended together in my imagination.

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31,562 Practice Sessions

31,562. According to my primary photo editing software (Apple’s Photos for Mac) that’s how many photos I took in 2017. That’s an average of 86 photos every single day but that mean masks a huge range and there are very few “average” days. When I’m traveling I take closer to 300 photos in a typical day. On a regular day here in Saigon I might take just 5-10.

During the roughly 12 years that I’ve had an advanced camera and consciously tried to improve my photography, I’ve spent some time thinking about how we get good at things in life. Photography, cooking, making music, our jobs etc. – with any practical skill, how do we steadily improve from absolutely no ability to the peak level of competence we are able to achieve?

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On the Trail of Phantoms – Photos of Saigon at Night

Has anyone noticed that the characters walking city streets at 2 am are usually not people you would bring home to meet your mother? After law-abiding and tax-paying citizens have gone to bed, cities take on a darker mood and the boundaries of rectitude are relaxed, sometimes by alcohol and other times by just an intoxicated yearning in the human soul. Gone are the fresh faced office workers and smiling shopkeepers who ply the streets by day. Yoga studios, organic grocery stores and other family friendly shops shuttered long ago. The young couples who picnicked in the park that day or drove their children to private school have long ago put their happy but tired tikes to bed.

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