We feature some of the brightest Instagram storytellers in the Passion Passport community through our Instagram Spotlight series. Today, Jack Crosby (@jackcrosbyphoto) shows us why he loves exploring the world and living in Southeast Asia.

A photo by Jack Crosby of a person working in a rice paddy in Vietnam

A photo by Jack Crosby of an aerial view of boats in Halong Bay

Vietnam

Life in Vietnam is like a breath of fresh air. I have never photographed a place quite like it; every unknown street and alleyway holds a new story. One of my favorite pastimes is taking my camera with me to explore these places. I never know what I’m going to find, but that’s what excites me about it ― it’s always different and new. It allows me to avoid searching for that perfect photo, and instead just focus on documenting the here and now.

A photo by Jack Crosby of an aerial photo of Halong Bay
Vietnam is hectic, but downright beautiful. My favorite locations in Vietnam are Da Nang (my current home), Hội An, and the ever-tumultuous Hanoi. In Hanoi, motorbikes speed by in a sort of controlled chaos, the smoky scent of barbequed meat lingers in the air, impromptu barber shops pop up on the sidewalks, and cafes lively with students line the streets. Da Nang sits along the palm-tree covered central coast, With Hội An falling a bit to the south. It is an ancient town-turned-tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. The bright yellow city walls are surrounded by rice fields and the whole area fosters a culture that I’ve yet to experience anywhere else in Vietnam. For the best shots here, I make sure to get up for sunrise, so I can capture images before the tourists arrive.The appeal of photographing Halong Bay is the striking and almost surreal subject matter, I love the way the boats look against the clear water, surrounded by massive limestone rocks jutting out of the sea. The beauty of the place is really quite humbling. I look to capture that feeling in a single image by framing the tiny subject creatively within the much larger scene.

A photo by Jack Crosby of a woman walking in front of a yellow wall in Vietnam I particularly love the image with the backdrop of Hội An’s iconic yellow walls. Leading up to the moment I captured it, I was searching for strong contrasting colors, and I waited across the street from this wall for over an hour trying to get the perfect photo. This wall sits on a busy intersection with motos passing frequently, which made it difficult to isolate a subject without having distracting elements appear within the frame. Eventually, though, everything came together and I snapped the exact photograph I was looking for. This is one of my favorite photos I’ve ever captured.

A photo by Jack Crosby of mountains in LaosLaos

A photo by Jack Crosby of a temple in LaosThere is honestly so much to say about this country. Going in without any expectations, I was absolutely blown away; Laos was the authentic Southeast Asia I had always wanted to see. After all, landlocked Laos doesn’t often make it onto many itineraries of people coming to this part of the world . When I hopped onto a bus from the capital city of Vientiane, a six-hour trip took me through rice fields and over mountains, with glimpses of small wooden villages all along the way. There was a feeling that things hadn’t changed too much in the last fifty years.

Our final destination was Luang Prabang. This is hands down my favorite city in Southeast Asia. The streets are filled with temples, friendly people, and monks that all make the city emanate a sense of peacefulness and balance, a tranquility that everything is just right (not to mention, it is the cleanest city I have been to in Asia). Laos should be on any photographer or adventurer’s bucket list ― I dream of returning to the country when I can.

A building in the rice paddies in Laos

Nicaragua

The four years I spent living in Nicaragua brought the country very close to my heart. To be quite a small country, Nicaragua offers seemingly never-ending beauty. . The west coast’s rocky cliffs break up long expanses of beach, where you can find some of the best surf in all of Central America. Inland Nicaragua is a land of volcanoes and colonial towns rich with history. Granada and Leon will always stand out in my mind because of the “old world” feeling created by their colorful homes and storefronts. In terms of the country’s volcanoes, two of my favorites are Volcan Concepcion and Volcan Maderas. These two colossi sit on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and loom over the surrounding area. Altogether, this scene makes for a photographer’s paradise.

When walking the streets of Granada, the man selling quesillo (a corn tortilla with soft white cheese, pickled onions, and sour cream) immediately stood out to me. I found the entire scene incredibly unique: The way he sat there in peace just watching the streets in front of him, I knew I needed to wait for the scene to unfold in front of me. I took a seat and soaked everything in, waiting for multiple coinciding elements to fill my frame. When the horse drawn carriage passed by, I knew I’d found my image.

Granada is full of beautiful churches, but I wanted to make this photo really stand out so I waited for a strong element to enter the foreground. I was pleased when a Chicken Bus came into frame, as they are instantly recognizable symbols of Central America; the main means of transportation for many,. these buses traverse Nicaragua carrying travelers and anything else they need to transport ― sometimes even animals. Suddenly with the presence of the bus, this image brought together so many elements that are unique to Nicaragua, which I’m glad I can share with others through my photography.

Due to a political crisis in Nicaragua, I had to leave this home away from home, but I still think about those sunrise surf sessions, and sunset photography excursions, always spent in search of incredible viewpoints along the coast. I can just about stand the pain of leaving, , because I know that someday I’ll travel back to this small tropical paradise in Central America.

Cambodia

Last November, I took a lucky opportunity to visit Cambodia for a few days. I took off on a motorcycle straight after touching down in Siem Reap, excited to explore the famous Angkor temple complex. Once I arrived, I immediately understood its popularity: over one thousand years old, each temple is completely different and breathtaking in its own way. Some amaze with their intricate stone carvings, others in the way that they blend with the overgrown jungle. I almost couldn’t believe how well the ruins have stood the test of time. Photographing here was challenging, as I’ve seen so many images of these temples over the years. To make these shots unique, I decided to include a human element. Thankfully, the monks were happy enough to pose for a photo. Their orange robes really stood out, making for a strong contrast against the temple background. As with all my photography, I’m constantly asking myself what I can do to make my work stand out from the hundreds of other photographs taken in these places.

A photo by Jack Crosby of a temple in Cambodia
Monks in Cambodia

Utah, USA

Growing up in Colorado, I was blessed to have Utah and its incredible landscapes right next door. Since the first time I picked up a camera, I have loved driving through this vast desert. Each time I do, I find something new that surprises me; it seems around every bend and over every hill, there is another spectacular viewpoint or lookout. The last time I went, I had the chance to spend some time in Canyonlands National Park, which is my absolute favorite place in Utah. Stretching over miles and miles, it seems like the red-walled canyons go on forever. If you go even deeper into this part of Utah, you can find yourself falling asleep under starry skies and waking up to stunning sunrises, with no one else for miles. This is what I live for.

When capturing these images, I was instantly drawn to the vibrant colors in the way the light hits the earthy hues of Utah. As I watched the sunrise through the arch in Canyonlands National Park, the entire scene lit up before my eyes. The underside of the Arch took on a vibrant glow, and I’m so glad I was able to capture this light.

Another one of my favorite images ― and memories ― from my trip through Utah is the lightning storm over the canyon. Out there, the land is so vast, and I was able to watch the lightning storm make its way along the horizon for over an hour. When I’m photographing, I’m always drawn to wild nature and extreme weather ― I find it completely mesmerizing.

I believe that there is much to be said for good post processing of digital images, but the process begins with the journey; being able to capture and live those moments of the journey is what makes photography so special to me.

Where have you been that has captured you in new ways?

Header image by Jack Crosby.

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Jack Crosby
Jack is originally from Denver, Colorado, but the pursuit of unique photographs and experiences has led him to make a home in coastal Nicaragua and now in Da Nang, Vietnam. You can find him, camera in hand, looking for the stories that make these places so special and sharing them with others.