Street cobbler setting up shop, Hue

Breakfast, Hue

Night moves

The watcher

Impromptu nocturne

Ephemeral café, Ho Chi Minh City 
Repairs while you wait

Digital technology update and musings.

The Olympus EPL-1 camera is working brilliantly. I have not had to use my backup camera yet. I am thankful that I decided to bring the little Micro Four Thirds mirrorless marvel instead of my Nikon DSLRs which, though supremely capable and well-made, are heavier and bulkier. Carrying the light Olympus around with its versatile kit zoom lens was so easy that it was hardly noticeable: not a pain in the neck, if you know what I mean! The quality of the Olympus's output compares favourably with that of the Nikons. 

Many photographic experts and digital futurists are now openly saying that mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras like the Olympus and Panasonic Four Thirds systems and cameras like the Sony NEX range, the Fuji X100 and other similar models with APS-C sensors, will make the digital SLR models redundant - at least for most people. I have read about professional photographers who are experimenting with these models and praising the results. For me at least, the choice of the small and light Olympus EPL-1 (which was already superseded as a model by the time I bought it) turned out to be spot-on. 

The iPad 1 is also a brilliant performer. I have been writing and editing notes and diary entries in hotel rooms and lobbies, while travelling in buses and trains, or while having coffee or dinner, and then posting them while logged in to wi-fi, which is available almost everywhere in Vietnam except planes, trains and automobiles. 

The blogging software (Blogsy) had been working well until an upgrade mucked it up (see earlier post: "Blogging Hell"). That has been resolved, but now a new problem has appeared, causing frequent crashes as I am trying to upload photographs from my iPad photo library into Blogsy's own photo library. The problem does not occur if I upload photos from my Picasa or Flickr photo libraries. But uploading photos from the iPad to Picasa and Flickr is a laborious process that involves more steps than uploading from the iPad into Blogsy, especially if I first need to edit the photo in Photogene, a great photo editor for the iPad. The navigation back to the specific folder with the photographs I need to upload is painfully slow, because it reverts to the top of the file hierarchy after each photo edit, and I have to manually navigate the whole structure all over again. Imagine having to do that for tens of folders that in total contain seven thousand photographs so far! After numerous crashes, during which the photographs in the uploading "envelope" were lost in the ether, Blogsy automatically created a crash report and I emailed it to the app's developers. They responded that they will investigate the problem and take any necessary remedial action.

So it's back to a slower and laborious process for uploading photographs. The problems so far have been software issues, not hardware ones. The only other niggling issue is storage space on the iPad (mine is the 64 gigabyte model). I still think that next time I'll bring my MacBook Pro (or perhaps a MacBook Air with an external hard drive) for photo storage. A MacBook Air would be almost as light as an iPad to carry about and use for blog posts and uploads and, with a larger SSD drive - say, a 128 or 256 gigabyte one - it would likely have space for my crop of photographs internally with the external hard drive doing duty as the all important backup.

I have used my iPhone only for a few video clips and a few photographs when I was packed and ready to travel to another part of Vietnam, and my main camera was in the bag. The iPhone can be quite good for stills, but it will never replace my Olympus or Nikon dedicated cameras. It is rather good for video clips on the fly. The Olympus EPL-1 also does very good 720p video. But the iPhone came in useful at certain moments, especially when my Olympus cards were full! I'll post up a couple of iPhone pictures soon.
Mobile kitchen: ready to make lunch.
Shoe repairs while you wait: Ben Thanh Market precinct, Ho Chi Minh City

The living room connected to the street.

More shoe repairs while you wait.

No demarcation lines.

Objets d'Art sales: low overheads

Hotel Lobby, Ho Chi Minh City


A very public life.

The Vietnamese live a large part of their lives outside the walls of their houses. The streets in every city, town and village are overflowing with people playing games, socializing or just watching the world go by as they eat, drink or just sit. They do a lot of work out on the street, too: they sell food in ephemeral little street food stands, they run tiny "corner stores" out of a few little cabinets, selling water, chewing gum, cigarettes and soft drinks or do shoe, bicycle and motorcycle repairs while you wait. There are tailoring stands complete with sewing machines dotting sections of footpaths on busy roads, and hairdressers with mirrors up on sidewalk walls, reclining barber's chairs and boom boxes playing jazz music while you are getting groomed.
Camera repairs on the sidewalk: Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnamese houses do not have the sharply defined social demarcation that we have in the West. Life flows seamlessly from the front room – which is a family sitting room that might also double up as a bedroom or workshop and garaging for the family's prized motorcycles – through the courtyard, if there is one, and out into the street. People walking by have full view into the houses they pass.
Sidewalk fruit vendor, Hoi An
Three generations, Hoi An

Security comes down when the family retires for the night. Only then do you see physical barriers: shutters, gates, and high, impenetrable iron bars. Only then does life go off view.
Corner convenience store, Hoi An
Even though so much of this living is in full view, I could not, in the name of all that is proper and ethical, intrude into it with my camera lens. There are always photographs that should not be taken. One just has to remember the images.
Chill out time, outdoor cafè, Ho Chi Minh City
Learning the ropes, Ho Chi Minh City