Feeling the Benefits of Fitness Thousands of Miles from the Gym

High atop a mountain of salt, I try and get a good angle on this worker depositing freshly harvested salt.

High atop a mountain of salt, I try and get a good angle on this worker depositing freshly harvested salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third in an occasional series. All photos by Ly Hoang Long.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On my recent photo shooting trip to Vietnam, my friend and colleague, Ly Hoang Long, took a bunch of candid shots of me while I was working. The idea was to record my last photo shooting trip for my book, Vietnam 40 Years Later, and to also create some images to promote the publication.

As he always does, Long took some great images. And as I looked at them I realized they were about more than our photo shooting trip or the book. I observed with some satisfaction that the images stand as a testament to the success of my fitness program and the creative benefits that flow from being more fit and healthy.

On this trip I also was accompanied by Khoa Tran, a very talented photographer and videographer based in Saigon. Khoa helped me find some great portrait subjects in Saigon and in the Mekong. And he also shot some great video of me working that will be used for a trailer on the book. Khoa was sufficiently impressed with my weight loss that he is now participating in a fitness boot camp in Saigon.

During this trip, I shot in most of the widely different environments that Vietnam can dish up. We worked on the steamy streets of Saigon, on the murky Mekong River at the

Left, locals often enjoy seeing their images. Right, running somehow did not keep my shoes dry.

Left, locals often enjoy seeing their images. Right, I can run again but that did not keep my shoes dry.

floating markets in Can Tho, under the searing sun on the coastal salt fields in Nha Trang and the humidity-filled air of the rice planting region north of Hanoi. And we often got up before dawn and finished just after sunset.

Photographers who travel to such far-flung destinations will tell you those hours and conditions are typical — and often times far worse. But back in the day when I was 40 pounds heavier, this kind of schedule was devastating. I would end the day totally exhausted and every flabby muscle in my body ached.

No one can be at their creative best when they feel that way. And being overweight and out of shape also compromises your safety. I am certain that my obesity played a role in 2008 when I lost my balance and fell off a mountain-side rice paddy and totally blew out

Khoa and I try to get a smile from our young subject.

Khoa and I try to get a smile from our young subject.

my left knee.

To be sure, I got tired on this trip. But it was nothing like before and each day I was ready to attack our shoot list with new vigor.

And so, as I look at the photos, I am very proud of my 40-pound weight loss and I can see the beginnings of a more athletic body. But the photos also are a reality check. They give me an objective view of what remains to be done: I still need to lose another 25-to-30 pounds.

Based on the benefits I’ve enjoyed so far, I can’t wait to get lean and mean. I return to the gym where I am lucky to have a personal trainer who I believe is this city’s very best. I also return with my highest level of enthusiasm and energy ever, which more than anything else will propel me to success.

That’s what happens when fitness and creativity work together.

With the mountains of far North Vietnam as our backdrop, Khoa Tran checks his camera settings and sound for our video.

With the mountains of far North Vietnam as our backdrop, Khoa Tran checks his camera settings and sound for our video.

This Nha Trang fisherman and his buddies in the boat were great and willing portrait subjects.

This Nha Trang fisherman and his buddies in the boat were great and willing portrait subjects.

We were lucky to show-up at this school the day they weighed and measured the children.

We were lucky to show-up at this school the day they weighed and measured the children.

When it was time to do my video, I had established a bunch of new friends.

When it was time to do my video, I had established a bunch of new friends.

 

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