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Buddhist monks having lunch. They are only allowed to eat what they have been given.

01. Buddhist monks at lunch. They are only allowed to eat food that they have been given. Fuji X-T1 with 23mm f/1.4 lens. ISO 2000, f/1.4 at 1/125th second. Being invited in to share time with the monks was a privilege facilitated by our tour translator.

Nowhere has quite touched my soul like Cambodia. Four weeks of travels in ‘The Kingdom of Wonder'(The Cambodian tourist board slogan) has left me wanting more. The friends I made, the sheer fun of the place and the opportunities for photography yet fulfilled will ensure I return. Here is part one of a photographic diary of my adventure captured on the Fuji X-T1 and X-Pro1 cameras.

02. I asked if I could make a portrait of this monk, I found the ladder and placed it in the scene and lit him with a Cactus RF60 Speedlight on a stand triggered with the Cactus V6.

02. I asked if I could make a portrait of this monk, I found the ladder and placed it in the scene and lit him with a Cactus RF60 Speedlight on a stand triggered with the Cactus V6.

Camera kit: Fuji X-T1 with 10-24 and 55-200mm zooms plus 14mm, 23mm, 35mm, 56mm and 60mm primes. I used the primes for my portraits (mainly featured in the next blog posts) and the zooms for landscapes.

03. I captured life on the water using the excellent 55-200mm zoom.

03. I captured life on the water using the excellent 55-200mm zoom on the Fuji X-T1. Note the baby in the make shift play pen on the boat in the top photograph.

04. There are still a lot of classic hand made wooden craft in use in Cambodia. Although fibreglass boats are in plentiful supply There is a nostalgia and appreciation of these beautiful craft.

04. There are still a lot of classic hand made wooden craft in use in Cambodia. Although fibreglass boats are in plentiful supply There is a nostalgia and appreciation of these beautiful vessels. Fuji X-Pro1 with 10-24mm zoom lens.

Cambodia is rapidly changing. The Cambodia cities of today are barely comparable to the Cambodia of just three years ago. There is an emergent middle class that is pulling the economy up, attracting tourist money and getting things done. In just the last two years there has been an influx of western grade restaurants and coffee shops. I’m not talking about trashy fast food outlets but high quality chains. Cambodia is proud to be a country without a McDonalds. There are Browns coffee shops and Blue Pumpkin cafés on many streets in Phnom Penh together with boulangeries where local young entrepreneurs sit with friends sipping Doppio Macchiatos. They are smartly dressed surfing the fast, free, wifi using their Apple laptops and Samsung devices or tapping into the the extensive LTE and 4G networks. Bradband accesability seems way ahead and far cheaper than in the UK. I bought a sim for my iPhone at the airport for 5 USD and It gave me 2.75Gb of data to use in a month plus free calls and texts within Cambodia. Super value and super fast.

05. Many of the children in Cambodia are rich in true sense of the work. They have no material possessions to their name but have love, fun, friendship and an exciting future.

05. Many of the children in Cambodia are rich in true sense of the word. They have no material possessions to their name but have love, fun, friendship and an exciting future.

06. My style of street and travel photography is fully engaging. I'm not one to be sneaky to get the shot. I love to give warmth and energy and receive a reciprocal reaction. I like to share the moments I capture with my subjects.

06. My style of street and travel photography is fully engaging. I’m not one to be sneaky to get the shot. I love to give warmth and energy and receive a reciprocal reaction. I like to create and share the moments I capture with my subjects, hopefully they are moments of joy and laughter. I photographed this gorgeous girl in a monsoon. I had the 55-200mm lens on my X-T1 and shot with a focal length of 135mm using  ISO 2000, 1/125th second at f/4.4

07.

07. The nation is very youthful. The recreation of a population murdered by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s is in a second generation phase.

A journey by Tuk Tuk through the streets of Phnom Penh took us past car showrooms including a Rolls Royce dealership, swanky new boutique hotels and infrastructure development on a substantial scale. Just a few years ago, according to the people I spoke to, the streets of Phnom Penh were a wash with begging children and homeless families living in squalor. Now, it appears the children have largely become Tuk Tuk drivers and the streets are swept. Phnom Penh is the first Asian city I have been too that I could see myself living in. I rate it above Singapore and Hong Kong for charm and friendliness. Everyone in Cambodia it seems wears a smile and having coming from such a recent terrible past this is quite a pleasant surprise to most first time visitors.

08. The spirit of Cambodia is in every interaction. The charm and fun the people exude is infectious.

08. The spirit of Cambodia is in every interaction. The charm and fun the people exude is infectious.

09. These children live on the shores of the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in South East Asia. In the rainy season the waters rise up to 4m flooding a massive land mass.

09. These children live on the shores of the Tonle Sap, the largest lake in South East Asia. In the rainy season the waters rise up to 4m flooding a massive land mass and irrigating the rice crop.

10. A behind the scenes shot of a fashion shoot

10. Top: We visited families living on the water in floating homes. They make their living from fishing the Tonle Sap lake. Bottom: A behind the scenes shot taken at one of our portrait shoots with Kate.

The Fuji X system – A perfect travel kit. A month in Asia with it’s rich colour, seductive landscapes, and hot and humid climate has taught me that the Fuji X kit is up to the job. I did have a few problems though, notably I stripped some of the coating from my 56mm prime lens by unknowingly using a lens cloth contaminated with Deet. That’s the stuff for repelling mosquitos but it melts flip flops (according to Julie, my wife) and eats lens coatings too as I found out. Also, our 55-200 lens got a bit of a soaking in a monsoon so I sent it off for re-greasing and checking over as a precaution before it goes to a private game reserve in Africa with Julie for three months. But other than that the kit performed well. I was worried about the constant 36 -39 degrees temperatures and the 95% humidity but the climate was not a problem.

10. Even paddling in the rain a local woman raises a smile.  the livestock is on floating barges too.

11. An elderly woman raises a smile while paddling in the rain. the livestock lives on floating barges too.

12. These children were cooking up some local shell fish

12. These children were preparing dinner.

13.

13. Life on the water in such a hot country is so remotely different to anything I’ve experienced or seen before.

14. Agriculture by design. The start of the wet season is the right time to visit Cambodia. Just one month before the fields were baron waiting for the first rains. Now they are lush with the vibrant green shoots of newly planted rice.

14. Agriculture by design. The start of the wet season is the right time to visit Cambodia. The tourists have nearly all gone and the countryside is lush with the vibrant green shoots of newly planted rice. Just one month before our tour the fields were baron waiting for the first rains of the season.

15. A father carries his daughter home after a day working in the fields.

15. Top:  A father carries his daughter home after a day working in the fields. Bottom right: The rice planted by hand is accurately spaced for a bumper yield.

16. Rice planting near Kep in the South of Cambodia still utilises the traditional methods unchanged for centuries. Tractors are arriving in Cambodia by the thousand so it is likely that this method will be gone for good within the next couple of years.

16. Rice planting near Kep in the South of Cambodia still utilises the traditional methods unchanged for centuries. Tractors are arriving in Cambodia by the thousand so it is likely that this method will be gone for good within the next couple of years.

17. The clothes that the rice planters wear disguises the intense heat. Always in the high 30s and with high humidity.

17. The clothes that the rice planters wear disguise the intense heat. With temperatures always in the high 30s and with high humidity the climate of Cambodia takes some getting used to.

Think Tank Retrospective 7 Camera Bag – Perfect for the Fuji X. Julie and I both had our Think Tank camera bags with us in Cambodia, We have the Retrospective 7 and the Retrospective 30 respectively. Despite the difference in number from 7 to 30 the bags don’t vary that much in size. The slightly smaller 7 is ideal for an X-T1 with 4 primes, a Speedlight, trigger, spare batteries, iPad, wallet and keys. The Retrospective 30 can accommodate 2 X bodies, 3 zoom lenses, 2 Speedlights, triggers, batteries, an iPad or small laptop, wallet and keys.

18. If you are into landscape and cloudscape photography Cambodia is an amazing country to visit. You can watch the monsoon clouds build each day and witness the fresh clear sunlight after the rain has gone.

18. If you are into landscape and cloudscape photography Cambodia is an amazing country to visit. You can watch the monsoon clouds build each day and witness the fresh clear sunlight after the rain has gone.

19. As the sun goes down it's time to enjoy the refreshing of an ice cold Angkor beer or a glass of fine wine imported from France and sold at a fraction of the cost here in the UK.

19. As the sun goes down it’s time to sit back and enjoy a refreshing ice cold Angkor beer or a glass of fine wine imported from France or Australia and sold at a fraction of the cost we are used to here in the UK. Prices and service levels are on the up in Cambodia and will soon be at Western rates.

The ‘With love and Lovegrove‘ tour of Cambodia was ten days of magic. It combined an amazing travel photography experience with four dedicated portrait photography tutorials based in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Kep. I’ll be posting the portraits I shot in Cambodia over the next week after a dedicated post on the temples of Angkor.

We really did have a fabulous tour experience. The boutique hotels and fine dining far surpassed my expectations and the people of Cambodia are a joy to be with. If you would like to join me on an extended 12 day tour and experience Cambodia in 2015 email Blaise to be put on the information list and we will keep you up to date with the details of what will be my last tour of this fabulous country. Also in the planning stages for 2015 are tours of Cuba and Burma. Email Blaise about those too.

Please share your experiences and lasting memories of Cambodia. :)

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2 Responses

  1. Nigel Betteridge

    Many of these shots are real gems, particularly the B&W shots under the “Cambodia is changing” text.Thank you for sharing them with us. I’m sorry to read what deet did to the coating on your 56mm lens, I knew it doesn’t mix with plastic, but hadn’t heard it was bad for coatings.

    Reply