lee starnes photography

Central Vietnam Workshop and Tour Roundup by Lee starnes

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We just wrapped our most recent central Vietnam photo workshop and tour for Pics of Asia and we couldn’t have been happier with the students, locations, and the endless supply of coffee we had this year. Starting off in Hoi An, we ventured a bit south to one my personal favorite fishing villages before heading back up north to Hue to explore the old capital and the surrounding countryside. Striving to keep things interesting, we discussed travel, portraiture, street and landscape photography. Whether we were photographing frenetic wet markets or peaceful sunset vistas, we always came back to the importance of slowing down, enjoying the moment, being prepared for when the shot presents itself, and forming relationships with the people we came across on our journey. What we lacked in sleep, we certainly made up in spades in the form of unforgettable experiences. In case you haven’t checked out my article on the importance of slowing down and breaking bread, click here!

Here are a few images from the tour and then a gallery of some behind the scenes of all the locations we shoot. If you’d like to come along, it just so happens we have another 3 day tour in August that we still have a few spots left - hint hint hint. We’d love to have you along and shoot in these stunning locations.

Behind the Scenes

click on each photo for a full size pop up!

Seeing Things with New Eyes by Lee starnes

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I’ve lived in Saigon for over 5 years now, and unfortunately, I find myself shooting Saigon less and less these days. What was novel is now the norm, shoots go on autopilot, the penny is less shiny. blah blah blah you know how it goes…in a nut shell, I got bored. And boredom is the biggest disease in the world, darling.

So, over the past 6 months, I’ve started working with my friend Quinn, on Saigon Photo Tours. As most of you know, I teach workshops with Pics of Asia in Central Vietnam and in Sri Lanka (hint hint), but I haven’t done more than a few here in Saigon due to a myriad of reasons - too busy with commercial work, watching the back of my eyelids, or countless other excuses. And that’s exactly what they are - excuses. The wonder and excitement of exploration isn’t limited to visiting strange lands. Finding beauty in the mundane and falling in love with photography all over again is something that doesn’t take much - at least for me. Getting off my ass and shooting something in my own backyard while teaching and being an ambassador to the city I live in has given me such a renewed lease on my creativity and photography. These locations aren’t new for me. Most of them I’ve visited over a dozen times. But, there’s always something interesting or unseen - another angle, a different personality, a new texture.

I had one such tour this week and it forced me to look at things with new eyes. I looked at familiar locations with a different perspective. As I suggested to Lukas to slow down and take it all in before shooting, I realized I do the exact same thing when I go back to places I’ve been before. That moment that gave a bit of pause and I chose to follow my own advice. What a difference it made! It allowed me to search out details, textures and let it all sink in before I rushed off clicking happily away.

Teaching photography has forced me to look inward at my own work with blunt, and often brutal, honesty. It has not only improved the quality of my work, but also enabled me to be a better teacher and offer students better insight on telling more compelling stories.

For me, the act of shooting is every bit as amazing as putting the final image out into the world. It’s my ticket to see the world, to interact with amazing people, and to create and share amazing stories. It’s my sense of self therapy, it’s my outlet and is my act of being present. When I get stuck in a rut, sometimes I have to remind myself of these simple things and slow down and let it all sink in.

I’d love to hear back from you about how you get out of those ruts. Drop a comment below and let me know!

Saigon Punk Chronicles : Year End Fest - The E Killer, District 105, 7Uppercuts, Razor Leaf, Stupiz Kiz, Tariot by Lee starnes

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With the lunar new year approaching, First and Last Records held their year-end fest showcasing nearly their entire roster as well as the Singaporean melodic hardcore outfit, Tariot. To begin, DIY shows starting more or less on time here in Saigon blows my mind. With everything else here being 'time-flexible', and the habitual lateness of punk shows in general, this punctuality is noteworthy to say the least. High fives for that. That said, maybe I’ve become accustomed to things starting more. whimsically. So, unfortunately, I missed The E-killer. Next time, fellas.

The rest of the line up was a mix of pop punk, moshy breakdowns, melodic hardcore and a rather hilarious pop punk cover of 'I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.' The place was packed with over 200 people. Hats off to Soma Art Cafe for cranking the AC to keep it from turning into the usual sweatbox we’ve all experienced at shows in the past. Stage dives, high fives, and ridiculous sing alongs made for one of the most fun shows I’ve been to in a long time.

If this is your first time visiting the site, documenting the punk scene in Saigon is a part of a long-term project of mine and some of my favorite shots can be seen here. Make sure to keep frequenting the page for updates in the future. You could even subscribe to the RSS feed if you’re feeling fancy. Now on to the images.

District 105

7Uppercuts

Razor Leaf

Stupiz Kiz

Tariot

Since you made it this far, feel free to share this to social, comment, send good vibes or gifts and I’ll see you at the next show.