Saigon Diary #7: Trip to Hanoi, Now in Seoul

Hanoi, 2014

This is the last installment of my “Saigon Diary” series. I plan to continue this “Diary” series moving forward in my travels.

I’m currently in Seoul. Just left Vietnam a week or so ago, so I wanted to share some reflections towards the end of the trip.

After a great time in Saigon, I headed up to Hanoi with Cindy. We didn’t have a real reason to go– we just wanted to check the place out (because it was so close in Vietnam).

Hanoi was a beautiful place. Much smaller than Saigon, a lot less hectic, and more peaceful. It felt almost like Paris in the sense that the streets were narrow, windy, and a bit random. But there was great beauty in the randomness of the city.

The pace of life was a lot slower. I have to admit, at the end of the day– I prefer the hustle and bustle of Saigon. However, I much appreciated the peace and quiet from Hanoi.

While in Hanoi, Cindy and I were able to relax, check out some good restaurants, and do some sightseeing. I also agreed to do a free talk for Fujifilm in Hanoi (similar to the one I did in Saigon). It was great fun– with over 100 participants, it was a great pleasure and honor to connect with the local Vietnamese photography scene.

Some notes a student took during my free Hanoi street photography seminar
Some notes a student took during my free Hanoi street photography seminar

Being able to present in front of a big audience is always exciting for me. I gain energy from the crowd, and being able to meet other photographers “in real life” is much more uplifting than just communicating with people via Facebook or Twitter.

Another reason I was glad to do the free street photography workshop was to give people an opportunity to learn more about street photography (but might not be able afford my workshops). Of course I need to work and make a living, and my workshops aren’t cheap. But I don’t have any advertisements on my blog, and I make around 95% of my income from workshops. But still, I want to give people a chance to learn more about street photography in-person, and the free talk was a great platform for that.

I am currently in the middle of editing my best photographs from Vietnam. Of course the project is called “Saigon Diary” — but I think I will sneak in some shots from Hanoi (pssst, don’t tell anybody!).

Here are some of my favorite photos from Hanoi:

Hanoi Hotel: Glasses


This is probably one of my favorite photos from Hanoi, and possibly from Vietnam.

At the hotel we were staying at– I saw this guy with these cool hipster glasses. I commented on them, and told them how much I liked them. He was quite excited, and told me where I could pick up a pair. I started to chat with him more, and just started to randomly take photos of him (without permission).

He started to laugh, and act a bit embarrassed. Here is the contact sheet:


I took about 21 shots of him. You can see in the beginning, I just took more posed photos of him.

However as I continued to work the scene, I was interested in his spectacles (circles) and the circles of the clocks in the backgrounds. I thought the shapes were interesting.

Ultimately the last shot was the most interesting for me, because I like how he stopped smiling and posing for the camera.

I notice the longer you keep shooting a scene, your subject soon forgets your presence and ends up ignoring you. This is what happened with me, and my last shot ended up being the best:


I also ended up lowering the exposure of the shot in RAW, to give it more of that nostalgic feel.

Hanoi, Woman and Paper


This is another photo I took that I liked in Hanoi.

I first started off seeing this interesting background: a billboard of some trees and grass (and nice light):


I then waited for some “interesting” people to walk into the shot. Here is one series that I didn’t like:

DSCF2419 DSCF2420 DSCF2421

I then saw this girl walking, covering her face with a book. This is the series I took:

DSCF2425 DSCF2426 DSCF2427

And you can see the full contact sheet here:


The reason I like the shot is because I like the surrealism behind the shot. At first glance, it looks like she is going through a forest, covering her face from the light. The background looks oddly “fake” — and it is. I also like the sense of mystery behind the shot.

Final Edit Suggestion for “Saigon Diary” from Josh White

I am currently typing this in Seoul, Korea. My good friend and fellow photographer Josh White gave me a final edit suggestion of my “Saigon Diary” series which is as follows:




DSCF0488 DSCF8699 DSCF1447

I like Josh’s edit and sequencing. It is a small set: 6 images, and the flow is from a personal and mysterious standpoint. I like how it ends with a photo of Cindy and flowers.

I am still in the middle of trying out different edits– will share those later too.

Here are some snapshots from Hanoi:

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Seoul diary coming up soon, stay tuned :)


6 thoughts on “Saigon Diary #7: Trip to Hanoi, Now in Seoul”

  1. Eric,
    The quality of your photos and series work is improving nicely bro. Keep it up. I sent you something in the post. Hope you get it when you get back. Hit me up if you didnt. Safe travels

  2. Hanoi and Saigon are both about the same size, both with about 7 million people. I don’t know where you get the idea that Hanoi is much smaller. I suppose Saigon has more ‘suburbs’, other towns nearby that may confuse. I have been to both places maybe ten times over the past ten or so years. Both are developing rapidly but Saigon maybe more hecticly. Nice places and nice people.

  3. Please do daily photos of seoul.
    I spent sometime there, four years, and would love to see your perspective.

  4. Thank you ! … For sharing this Diary Series … I like it ! … And the Last Picture make my SMILE … “Kabelsalat” … Have a good Day

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