ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Dispatch from the Road: Southeast Asia

Every year I try very hard to get away and reboot. This usually takes the form of international travel if at all possible. Leading up to a trip I route all purchases through my credit cards and save my miles as well as my pennies, which I can usually stretch considerably by wandering in true backpacker style. Right now I am in the middle of 3 weeks in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Traveling by “slow boat” down the Mekong River in Laos.

Rebooting is necessary no matter how you do it, but for me, travel provides a few specific experiences that I always look forward to, and that help me grow as both a creative entrepreneur and as a human.

First, I limit my internet to WIFI. This means I can only connect when I am at a hotel or town where WIFI is available. It’s always a surprise that spending days without internet takes some getting used to, but being forced to simply take in the scenery and find other ways to fill time is a welcome break for my brain. It also keeps my outlook positive to step away from the news cycle for a while.

Wandering through Noi Market in Bangkok, Thailand

Second, I typically don’t take my work camera with me. I used to, but found that I ended up using my phone much more often and eventually decided not to resist that pull. Now I take just the phone and a small point and shoot. I like the freedom of shooting with the phone especially, and also the challenge of working within its limitations. It forces me to think and create in a way that is very different from my professional life.


Third, I try to travel solo or at the very least independently of tour groups or cruises. This forces me to be responsible for my own logistics and interact more with the locals. I gain confidence from being able to handle unfamiliar situations and often find that my most memorable experiences happen when my plans are loose or almost nonexistent.

Villagers in the tiny hillside hamlet of Houy Kang Lea, Laos.

I also limit my online posts to no more than one photo a day. I enjoy the challenge of trying to select the best representation of the day; it helps my editing and my ability to critique my own work.

Karst limestone formations near Cat Ba Island, Ha Long Bay, Vietnam.

Finally, I find that the freedom to shoot anything and everything is a welcome change. Even with personal projects, I am always assessing whether they will “work” or whether they are viable for marketing purposes. With travel, it is only about what I see and what I want to capture, which is a wonderful reminder of why I chose this career in the first place.

Umbrellas in Chiang Mai, Thailand

I am also always on the lookout for something that could materialize into a project down the road. Being surrounded by history and culture gets the wheels turning, and meeting so many fascinating people provides a lot of fresh ideas for future projects.

Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam

Whether it’s around the world or just down the road, getting away from the routine and into unfamiliar surroundings is one of the most rewarding experiences. I always return home with boosted spirits, fresh ideas and a renewed desire to get back to work.

Jenna Close is the past-Chair of the ASMP National Board. She is a commercial photographer based in San Diego. All photos in this blog were taken with an iPhone and edited on the road using Snapseed and A Color Story.



Leave a Reply