Thursday, January 19, 2012 12:00 AM

Kien Lam: around the world
in under 5 minutes

Former DP photographer Kien Lam '06 has made a splash on the world stage with his under-five minute time-lapse video of his nearly year-long trip around the world.

He visited 17 countries over 343 days, traveling without a set itinerary or plan, other than to head east and keep going. The 4 minute, 50 second video is composed of 6,237 photographs, and received more than 2.4 million views on YouTube since he uploaded it at the start of the year. 

Lam quit his job as a financial strategist in San Francisco to travel. In a recent interview with a travel blogger, Lam said, "I wanted to travel for more than 2 weeks at a time. Whenever I used to visit a country and meet other travelers, I was always envious that they had 2 months or 6 months or a year to travel. My entire “vacation” or “travels” was just one of a long list of places they were visiting on one trip. I felt like I wanted to do it now, rather than put it off for later."

How did he decide which countries to visit? "That was hard. I wanted to start in London to see some friends and then follow the sun and warm weather. 2010 was a particularly cold year in San Francisco and I just wanted to go where it was warm. I had places I wanted to visit, and made my decisions from country to country as I arrived."

Lam attributed his interest in photography to his early days at Penn — and the DP. "I took a Introductory Photography course my freshman year in college," and then joined the DP. "Having access to professional equipment and shooting real events taught me a lot about photography," he said. "The rest I learned on my own through shooting and a lot of trial and error."

For his world trip, Lam used only one camera — an under-$1,000 Panasonic — with two lenses. He shot more than 25,000 photos on the trip, although only 6,000+ appear in the video.

Penn even makes it into the video, with a blink-and-you-missed-it time-lapse shot of Locust Walk (at the 3:06 mark). On his website, Lam writes: "How many times have I walked down Locust Walk and how many more times would I have walked down if I actually went to all my classes? The path from here to the world of finance to backpacking the world and then becoming a photographer may not be a straight or related one, but sometimes that’s just how the universe works. And I’ll take it."

Read more about Lam's incredible journey on his website:

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