On the road again Zac Patsalides takes to the winding roads of Northern Vietnam with his Leica Monochrom and M6

Zac Patsalides is a British photographer based in Suffolk. At the age of 15, he was gifted an old Pentax film camera and his love of photography was born. During recent years he has traveled across the globe shooting with his Leica Monochrom and M6. His career has gone from strength to strength and his images have been featured on Vogue online, as well as LFI Mastershots. Here we feature the second installment of his “On the Road” series and Patsalides tells us of the ups and downs of biking through the mountains of Vietnam.

My journey through Vietnam began in November 2014 and with it my series “On the Road” was born. My first journey was cut short after an accident whilst attempting to bike through the Mui Ne Desert and I was left wanting more. Earlier this year, I returned to the chaotic streets of Hanoi’s Old Quarter, ready to do it all again, but this time I was heading to Vietnam’s far North. My journey would take me through the hill tribes and up towards the Chinese border. I’d already visualized how I wanted the composition of my images to look; a point-of-view perspective with the handle bars in the frame. My aim was to give the viewer the feeling of being right in the middle of the action.

After the accident in 2014, both my camera and my ego were left more than a little bruised and as I sat on the bus that took me over the border and into Laos I promised myself that I would be back again to finish what I had started. My first photographs from the “On the Road” series had proven to be very successful and I still believe that they are some of my strongest images. This gave me even more of a reason to return, not to mention the breath-taking scenery.

You experience more on a Vietnamese road in 5 minutes than you ever could in an entire lifetime of driving in the UK. It’s commonplace to see people carrying fridges, pigs, TV sets and families of five on one motorbike without even batting an eyelid. One of the more memorable legs of my trip was to the Chinese border. The journey began in Hi Giang, one of the most Northern cities. Here, I obtained my permit to drive into the restricted border area. From Ha Giang, the journey took me higher and higher into the mountainous Northern region and I soon noticed the Chinese influence on the way of life and the food. As I got closer to the border zone, it became progressively more remote and the road conditions also deteriorated. As I finally reached the “North Pole”, Vietnam’s most Northern point, I felt without a doubt that I had accomplished what I had set out to accomplish. I’d got the shots and I’d actually managed 6 weeks on a bike without any (major) accidents.

I used the Leica Monochrom for the main body of the series, primarily because I was able to use the aperture priority function. I had to keep one hand on the handlebars so it would have been tricky to get the exposure correct if I had used the M6. Believe it or it not, it’s actually very difficult to ride one handed whilst looking through an ultra-wide viewfinder. I often found myself nearly bumping into the person ahead because of the distorted perspective. The great thing about my Leica cameras is that I was able to ride with both of them around my neck because their size isn’t too limiting. Generally, I shot with the Leica Monochrom but used the M6 for quick landscape shots and portraits.

I have already started planning for my next ‘On the Road’ story, which will take me from North America down through to South America, so stay tuned.

You can see more of Zac Patsalides’ photography on his website and his Instagram.

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