Posts Tagged ‘Saigon’

Here’s a photo that I don’t think I’ve ever published before.

Click to enlarge the image

Click to enlarge the image

I forget (it’s been 47 years — that’s scary) the exact circumstances but I think it must have been one of the gates into the civilian side of the airport. We often paired with the Canh Sat (Vietnamese National Police) at different gates around the perimeter.

Looks like the shot was taken during the monsoon season. You don’t know real rain until you’ve been through a monsoon rain storm. I wish I had photos of the day I was posted in an observation tower during one of the worst thunder and lightning storms I’ve ever seen. I needed an extra roll of toilet paper after that storm.

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When I first published this week’s image 2 1/2 years ago as The Look II, that image retained the typical 2 x 3 ratio of a 35mm negative. I like square images when it makes good aesthetic sense so I played. Here’s a square cropped version of The Look II.


Please click on the image to enlarge.

I don’t think the girl was happy to see me. Whatever gave me that idea. Hah.

I’m having so much fun digging out the best of my photos from my year in the Nam. I hope everyone else is enjoying the revisiting as much as me.

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I couldn’t resist. Yes I’ve shown this photo a few times but since I’m revisiting Saigon 1966, and this is one of my favorites from that era, I’m doing it again.


This image was a labor of love. I still have a print that was made way back. I never realized how good this image was until I scanned the negative and looked closer. The lab did a terrible job making prints and handling my negatives. The negs looked like someone had dropped them on the floor and walked on them all day.

I spent days cleaning all the dirt and scratches. There was a scratch across the woman’s face that I got rid of. I also dodged and burned both boys faces.

Interesting fact. I used Picture Window Pro to tweak the curves before converting to 8 bit and doing all the rest with the Gimp. I used the Gimp because I could use layers when I dodged and burned. It worked.

I liked this photo enough that a framed 5×7 print hangs on my office wall. Hope you enjoy this image as much as I do. It captures some interesting emotions (not to mention light and shadow).

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Since folks have expressed their interest in seeing more reruns of my Saigon photos, here are three shots of young kids I encountered while I roamed the streets of Saigon.


Kids are great the world over. They are friendly when you are. These guys were great subjects. Wish I could remember the circumstances.


What do we have here? Looks like two very young schoolboys. I don’t think they saw me.


Whoops! What happened? Did one of them drop their homework in the puddle or did they find a treasure floating in the puddle?

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Here’s a series of never before published photos from my time in Vietnam way back in 1966 (and a few weeks into 1967). These images aren’t examples of my best work (the negatives were horribly dirty, etc). But the series does tell a story of ordinary people commuting, snapshots of a day in their lives.






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Here’s a photo 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. This is one of those posts.


I know I never published this particular image before. Here’s the link to another shot featuring Canh Sat (and me too) that I published a couple of years ago.

I’ll keep digging for unpublished photos from my time in Vietnam but I don’t think there are too many of those. I’ll also run encores for awhile because I enjoy revisiting some of these images and hope that you do as well.

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Seems that folks enjoy revisiting my Vietnam photos from 1966. Me too. Not only do I have the opportunity to have another look, I get to apply image editing techniques that I’ve learned over the past few years. Let’s get to it.


The juxtaposition of a whitewall tire equipped 1958 Chevy with a pedicab in front of a fancy downtown Saigon storefront makes for an interesting image. I published an earlier version of the photo (scroll down to the fourth image) more than three years ago in April of 2010.

There’s a big difference between the two versions. Take note of the three GIs walking into the building lobby. They are all but lost in heavy shadow in the earlier version. Now compare. The shadows in the newer version are open and inviting. The image is sharper with nice contrast and a wee bit of tone. I think the photo is much improved the second time around.

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I posted a version of this image a few years back on April 1, 2011. I picked this photo from my archives because I like it and I wanted to try a different editing process.


I applied a very subtle platinum tone to the image that warms it up just enough. I also used a different program and sequence for local contrast enhancement and sharpening. I like the results.

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47 years is a long time. No wonder I can’t remember the situations and how they unfolded as I photographed people and things that interested me, and attracted my eye while wandering around Saigon back in 1966.


How I managed to take this photo with a normal lens (50 mm lens on a 35 mm SLR) without disturbing these two men puzzles me. I had to be close and from the evidence of the image, they had no idea I took their picture.

What were they doing at the time? Who were they? A vendor and a customer? Two vendors taking a break? A good story leaves much unsaid and a richness of meaning between the lines for the reader to discover for themselves. This image tells stories. Which story is up to you, the viewer, to imagine and discover for yourself.

This image is from a group of negatives that I believe were from the last roll of B&W film that I used before leaving Vietnam during January 1967. I suspect I took this picture in December 1966. I had several cameras during my stay in Vietnam. I would have used my then new Yashica SLR that came with a 50 mm lens (why didn’t I buy a Nikon?) [shakes head after banging head on desk].

Did I publish this image before? I can’t remember. I dug through my archives and found a few more photos from my time in Vietnam that I’ll post over the next few weeks. I’m enjoying revisiting the surviving photos I took during that year.

We had a strange work schedule. Our normal duty (meaning no bad things happening) schedule was either 4:00 AM to Noon or Noon to 8:00 PM. This is time on post which means that guard-mount (checking out weapons, loading them, falling in for inspection) and the ride to and from our posts tacked on extra time on both ends of our shift.

We shifted from one schedule to the other on a regular basis but I cannot remember how long on each shift. The guys who worked all night 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM never changed shifts. They also had a lot more manpower because they worked the dangerous night shift, but they didn’t have to deal with big red, the tropical sun that baked our buns for us every day during the dry season.

Then along comes the monsoon season when it’s a bit cooler and orders of magnitude wetter. You have never seen real rain until you’ve been out in a monsoon rain. I’d rather face the heat of the sun than the monsoon. You could find ways to keep a bit cooler but there is no way to escape getting soaked when you are outside during a monsoon rain.

The reason I mentioned our duty schedule is because we could go into Saigon after work and kick around for a few hours. We also had one day off each week (again when nothing bad was happening). It was nice to be able to walk the streets with a camera in the afternoon. Remember that the war hadn’t come to Saigon yet in 1966. Tet was in early 1968 and as I said in an earlier post, I was so glad to be safe in the US when Tet happened because the VC attacked in force where I had been a year earlier.

Speaking of heat and brutal sun, I haven’t gotten out to take any pictures because it’s way too hot and humid here. The temps have been in the high 90s for days, the humidity is oppressive and the heat index has been over one hundred. I could take that kind of heat back in 1966 when I was a young man but not any more.

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One of the commenters on my June 26th post marking the 50th anniversary of my induction into the Air Force wondered if I might return to the subject of my time in VietNam. Thanks for the nudge dimple. I went through my photos and found a few that were never published.


Not only did I publish this photo on the blog, I included it in my Saigon 1966 Black and White photo book because I liked it so much.


Another in a sequence of street shots that I probably took on the same day.


And another from the sequence


And the final image in the sequence

With the exception of the first image, I used several programs to clean up the scans. The original negatives are nasty dirty. Cleaning them by hand would take too long so I let the computer do all the heavy lifting. Images 2, 3 and 4 aren’t the best finished quality as a consequence. But they still tell a story.

The year was 1966 and the war hadn’t reached into the city yet, that would come a little over a year later with the Tet offensive on January 30, 1968. I’m so glad I was safe at home in the USA (I left VietNam in January 1967) when the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong launched the coordinated Tet offensive that brought the war into Saigon in a big way.

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