I held off publishing this image because of the quality, actually the lack of quality of the fingernail size, Minox negative. The small size is handicap enough, but the terrible processing must be seen to be believed. I like the photo enough to pull as much as I could from what I had to work with. Hope you like it.
Posts Tagged ‘Saigon’
Two good things about my Christmas spent in Vietnam in 1966: When any of us received a care package from home we shared and I didn’t have to shovel snow. Phila., my home town, had a massive snowstorm on Christmas Eve that year. We, on the other hand worried about sunburn (among other things).
Here’s a shot of three of the guys in our outfit digging into a Christmas care package someone received from home. Did I mention that we always shared? I converted this scan from an old color slide because I prefer the B&W version.
Merry Christmas to all and please share. Speaking of sharing, I added a new tab to the Aware Writer this evening – Photo Books – where you can download a free copy of Saigon 1966: Volume One – Black & White, the ebook version (pdf).
Several weeks ago I created a photo book featuring my 14 best B&W images from the year I spent in Vietnam back in 1966-1967. Chosing some of the photos was easy, others required more thought. This week’s photograph was one of the easy choices.
There’s something about this composition that has always resonated with me. I think I published an earlier version. This version of the image is better because I reworked the tones for inclusion in my photo book. The soft light of early morning or late afternoon (I don’t remember which after all these years) seems just right for this snapshot of daily life.
Yesterday, while waiting for the plumber to show up, I went through all my Saigon scans looking for the best 28 images — 14 B&W and 14 color. Why 14? Because AdoramaPix is having a sale on 8×8, 14 page photo books. One of the images that I selected for the B&W book has never been published on my blog. I offer it for your viewing pleasure today.
I’ve always liked this photo. It’s the open friendly grin of the boy in the forground and the shy smile of the boy behind. I cleaned this especially dirty scan and cropped it square to get rid of the distractions some time back. The crop also makes a much stronger composition. I finally got the tones the way I wanted yesterday. Now the photo is worthy of publishing.
Why use AdoramaPix for a couple of photo books? They do excellent work. I made an 8×8, 14 page photo book for my mother that I described in a post several weeks ago. Much as I like electronic displays, it’s nice to hold a ‘real’ photo in your hands (or frame and hang on your wall).
I got the inspiration and the idea for my format from a wonderful little book: “On Reading,” by Andre Kertesz that I ordered from Amazon and received last week. The pages are 6 x 8 portrait orientation. Each B&W image gets it’s own page without captions. The keys to the images are in the back of the book.
So I’ve taken what I consider the best 14 B&W photos and am in the process of formatting the book. And I’m doing the same with 14 color photos. I won’t mix B&W and color in the same volume. Square is nice because both portrait and landscape oriented photos work well.
Today’s photo might be the last previously unpublished B&W from my year in Vietnam. I may have had more images but I only have about 72 surviving B&W negatives. Preserving the best of these images is another good reason for publishing a hard copy book. I’ve been telling myself to get busy and I finally am.
I’d like to make more of these books, each one featuring a different aspect of my photography.
This is an informal portrait of my friend Phi, taken 45 years ago in Saigon, sometime during my one year tour of duty as an Air Policeman (security) at the Tan Son Nhut airbase.
Phi didn’t always approve of the pictures I took of her. Maybe this was one of those times? I always liked this shot but struggled with an ill processed negative until now. I was finally able to pull a decent image out of that negative by using some of the digital restoration techniques I’ve learned from Ctein’s book: “Digital Restoration from Start to Finish (second edition)“.
My grandmother used to say: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” I had to have one. I just had to have a little Minox spy camera. It was a neat little camera that slipped into my pocket. But the negatives are tiny with a mere 8mm x 11mm image area. I had one roll of processed film and a handful of prints from that roll to work with. Wishes? Instead of wishing for bigger, higher quality negatives, I worked with what I had and picked my four favorite images.
I wonder if this young woman even knew I was right in front of her taking her picture? She was deep in her own world completely unaware that I had captured a particularly expressive moment in her life.
Hands can be so expressive. The posture of mother (I’m assuming here) and child says it all.
Another decisive moment. I love the woman’s smile, her posture and the atmosphere of this shot. A genuine human moment.
Another human touch. Another smile. Another moment in the life of a Saigon street vendor. This is kind of a fun image. The shy smile, the woman’s hand and her friend with the neat hat squatting across from her. The baskets help pull this image together.
Getting these images into a presentable format was a challenge. I used scans of the prints for the middle two and tricked my Minolta scanner into scanning the tiny negatives for the first and last images.
The Minox lab (I had these developed in the States right after I came home) did a real number on my film. They managed to fog the edges of some frames, scratched others and all of them are filthy.
I got rid of that camera after one roll of film. Fortunately, I salvaged a few good shots from that roll. Enjoy.
I found another reflection image taken during my stint in Vietnam 45 years ago. Maybe I’ve been saving this one (unconsciously) for Earth Day? You can’t get more basic than an oxcart.
The young driver looked my way as he passed in his oxcart. I wonder if he knew I was taking his photograph? He was looking into a dark bunker. Glad I had my camera that day.
Subtle reflections once again. More fun this way. Here are a couple of photos featuring Canh Sat aka Vietnamese National Police. We (US Air Police) paired up with Canh Sat at some of their checkpoints on the civilian side of Tan Son Nhut Airport, Saigon, Vietnam.
These four guys were happy to pose for me. I think the guy with the bush hat was their boss, hence the plainclothes. I simply can’t remember the circumstances after all these years.
I didn’t take this photo because that’s me, yours truly, 44 years ago when I was a lad of 22. Someone else (can’t remember who) used my camera for this shot.
Both images are from the same roll of B&W negatives. I was able to get decent images after all this time. Do you ever wonder what will become of your digital files over time? Score one for the archival quality of silver B&W negatives.
This week’s reflection (subtle) is a fun snapshot of five kids who were sitting (waiting?) in a jeep in Saigon. All but but the oldest kid hammed it up for me that day. Obviously they thought having their picture taken was great fun.
This image is from the last roll of film I shot before leaving Vietnam in January 1967. I wish I could find all the negatives from that roll of film because of the dozen frames I did find, I’ve already published four and two of those are framed and hanging on my wall.
The film was Kodak Plus-X, the camera a Yashica SLR with 50mm lens. I don’t remember the circumstances. Maybe I took all the photos on the same day and was in a good groove. Who knows? Enjoy.
I published an early version of this photo two months ago for Weekend Reflections. After many hours working on additional cleaning and subtle tonality improvements, I made a print that hangs on the wall of my newly painted room. I invite you to view the improved digital version.
This image speaks to me, pulls me in and won’t let me go. And I almost gave up because of the poor condition of the negative. I wanted to title this “Fascination” because of the young boy in the foreground. His expression, the way he leans forward… What was he seeing? What fascinated him? I can’t remember.
His older brother (I’m assuming here) seems fearful. He leans back holding on to the roll (for reassurance?).
And the mother (another assumption) sits quietly in the background eating her meal.
The relationships among the three people hold together with visible emotions and are reinforced by the strong diagonal and the play of light and shadows.
I worked the dark tones in the background so they held just enough detail. The light tones of the young boy also hold detail without blowing the highlights. I spent some time burning and dodging the two boy’s faces to smooth out some ugly tones in the first version.
Ansel Adams knew what he was talking about when he said: “The negative is comparable to the composer’s score and the print to its performance. Each performance differs in subtle ways.” The score for this performance is a poorly processed, scratched, 44 year old negative. But that score contained everything I needed to pull off what I consider to be my best image from my year in Vietnam and certainly one of the best images I’ve ever made. I’m satisfied now.