Buddha's birthday celebrations....F8 Photography style

We are now into our second day of the Phnom Penh photography workshop and we started the day bright and early before 6am shooting the views over the Mekong river for sunrise and the workers and monks coming over off the boats from silk island. Sunrise over the Mekong, Leica M9P, VL 21mm F4

Monks arrive by boat from Silk Island, Leica M9P, 90mm Summarit

After that it was a quick breakfast and heading out to the local monastery...it still wasn't yet even 7am...a few yawns of tiredness could be seen, but everyone was highly motivated to get some shots before the harsh sunlight started...which wouldn't to far away...this is one of the main problems this time of year in Cambodia, the heat is unforgiving and the light can be extremely harsh...so its early rises and late finishes to capture the best light.

Lydia at one of the temples in the monastery, trying to catch a bit of shade from the heat.

We spent a good hour at the monastery chatting to monks and helping those that wanted to practice their english language skills, as well as playing with the kids and fascinating them with showing them their images on the back of the cameras.

Leica M9P, 90mm summarit

Today is the 25th of May, the day on which the Cambodians celebrate Buddha's birthday, ascencion and enlightenment.  We were lucky enough to be invited back in the afternoon by some of the monks to witness the parade and take part as we wished.  Of course this would offer us a great photo opporunity so we all graciously accepted the invitation and headed back in the early afternoon to see what unfolded.

Leica M9P, 90mm summarit

Similar shot to above, but this time trying the Leica M Monochrom and 28mm.

Several of the monks we had met earlier were conducting preparations in the main temple so we hung out there anxiously waiting as more and more monks and children gathered below.  Andrew was kind enough to offer me the lend of his Noctilux lens as he wanted to try my 75mm lens.  This worked well as as I knew with so many people around, if i wanted to single out someone i would need to be using either a Noctilux or a 75/90mm focal length.

Excited kids await the start of the celebrations, Leica M9P, 50mm Noctilux

The kids were all carrying flowers as offerings for inside the temple after the precession which was about to get underway for the next 30 minutes or so.

Monks prepare for their celebration march around the monastery, Leica M9P, Noctilux

Leica M9P, Noctilux

As the parade came to its end back at the temple I crossed the street to try and get some shot of the Monks coming past with a bit of symmetry, as i focussed on this monk he didn't notice me, but just looked up to the heavens....i thought...."jackpot" as that was for me the shot of the day....so we had spent a good few hours around this area and I think it was well worthwhile and a great experience to be able to be part of their day.  We will be sure to return on Monday with prints for them all to return our gratitude to them for allowing us to photograph them.  Tomorrow its off to silk island bright and early at 6am.  Looking forward to more great photo opportunities in a rural setting.

My shot of the day for me personally, Leica M9P, Noctilux

If you wish to see other images and blog posts from this trip and other Cambodia trips you can see a selection by clicking here.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog here.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and photography and video training workshops, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


Southern Cambodia photography workshop - Feb 2013

Our next Cambodia workshop will be concentrated in the southern part of the country for 5 days around Sihanoukville, Kep and the surrounding islands.  This promises to be another successful experience for a small group of photographers (maximum 6) to fully immerse themselves in a photo rich environment with 2 instructors for personalised hands on training. For more information on the workshop and to register your interest, please follow the link below or click on any of the images:


Here are a few images of this wonderful part of the world from one of our previous trips there that we will enjoying exploring with you again soon.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page or on the ‘LIKE’ box to the right side of this blog.  You can share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below or on the left side of this blog.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below or on the right of this post OR by clicking this link.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and photography and video training workshops, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


Makati, Makati, Makati

(Kurt Kamka on the prowl on the back streets of Makati, OMD - 25mm)

Some will know Makati as the business district of Manila in the Phillipines....some may know it for another reason - an infamous red light district.....you will find neither of those places featured in this blog post.

Today's post is about two guys just going for a walk down a few streets of Makati, well away from the business zone and suits and well away from the red lights.  I see both those things in Hong Kong on a day to day basis whilst moving around town and I have no desire to feature either of them here, so I wanted to simply show a few images from taking a walk down some completely normal streets just off the tourist map in Makati with my new shooting buddy Kurt Kamka.

I was lucky enough to hook up with Kurt Kamka on this trip who was my trusty guide throughout my few days shooting.  He does some outstanding photography on the streets of Manila and his work can be see at the following links:

1.  Kurt Kamka Blog

2.  Kurt Kamka Tumbr site

Something I have mentioned a few times before and will continue to do so is about using the Olympus OMD camera for this type of photography - in my mind its perfect....simple as that.....both me and Kurt shoot in a similar fashion with this camera, fully utilising the rear tiltable screen as a viewfinder and one touch  shutter release of the screen...it works wonders.  Ironically both of us previously shot with Leica M series cameras but are both finding the Olympus to be well up to the job on the streets (Kurt also still shoots with a Leica S2 camera).

(Brothers, OMD - 75mm)

We had earlier been shooting some people that live at the Catholic Cemetery in Manila (blog post on that featured here) then grabbed some water and headed for another hours walk round some back streets.  These are the images that we captured on that walk.  I am still mesmerised by the colours of the Phillipines, I actually find it hard to shoot in black and white here, as everything has a beautiful 1970s pastel colour tone to it (in my mind at least), which I just want to record all the time with my camera.  Even this little girls blue Ukalele seen below was exactly that, from the clothes to the Jeepneys, the colours just scream out at me.

(Perhaps the warmest smile of the day - OMD - 75mm)

We came across these kids sat in the street playing musical instruments and having a great time together, I stopped to take some photos, help them practice a little bit of English and then scare them with my terrible Ukalele skills...lol.

(Image by Kurt Kamka - The kids weren't familiar with my Beatles and Rolling Stones renditions...lol)

I have never seen so many smiling kids as I have seen here during this trip, a lot of people call Thailand 'The land of smiles'....I'm quite sure the Phillipines could easily win this title also.

(Land of smiles, OMD - 75mm)

There were also plenty of animals to be found along these back streets, I saw a lot of cockerels tied to doorways, and Kurt explained to me that these were used for 'cockfighting', a viscious sport I imagine which seems to be very popular here and in many other parts of Asia.  I also encountered a vicious dog or two, luckily tied to a post, and probably the skinniest cat I have ever seen!

(Who let the dogs out?, OMD, 25mm)

('Ma-Cat-i' in Makati, OMD - 25mm)

As well as the young kids in the street we met plenty of elder folk who were equally as nice and pleased to meet and interact with us as we wandered through their neighbourhood.  Of course we had a few funny looks at first, but with big smiles and friendly gestures, every single person we met was more than happy to be photographed.

(Friendly gentlemen in Makati, OMD - 75mm)

On our way out of the back streets we came across a building site, where some workers were hanging around outside on a break, they stopped us in our tracks and insisted that we photograph them.  The Fillipinos just seem to LOVE being photographed at every opportunity.

(Pinoy smiling builders, OMD - 75mm)

As we finished our walk the heavens opened and poured down, so it was time to jump in a cab and head back for a coffee and some editing.  A succesful day was had by both of us and a great first meeting.  On the way back to my hotel I was reminded of the poverty that of course exists here as beggars tapped on the taxi window asking for money, I am never sure what is best in this situation, does giving them money keep them on the streets...i guess so...but its always a hard call for me...

(Begging at the roadside - OMD - 12mm)

The following day I found a photography paradise in a part of town called 'Pembo'.  I am currently editing my images from that location and will do my next blog post on that once I arrive back to Hong Kong tomorrow afternoon.  Please be sure to come back for a look as there are some great characters featured in those images and if anyone reading this has any desire to photograph life in the phillipines, I strongly recommend visiting that place.

All images here are shot on the Olympus OMD with various prime lenses and all processed with 1-click presets fromVSCO film presets, still by far my favourite film simulation filters that work directly as a preset within Lightroom 4.

For other posts I have written recently with images of the new Olympus OMD in Manila please see the links below:

LINK TO BLOG POST: Residents of Makati Catholic Cemetery

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Manila (first trip in July 2012)

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD shooting in Ulingan, Tondo, Manila

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and photography and video training workshops, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


OMD goes to Manila

(street scene in Manila) NOTE ABOUT PROCESSING:  All images here are shot on the Olympus OMD with various prime lenses.  They were then all processed in Lightroom 4 with 1 click presets from 'VSCO film 02' using only their Fuji Superia 800 for colour or Fuji Neopan 1600 settings for black and white.  These are my favourite film simulators and make any digital camera RAW files sing instantly with 1 click.  More information can be found here at the VSCO website on these presets.

So, after a successful trip to Cambodia using the Olympus OMD  the previous week, I decided another trip was in order, this time the other direction from Hong Kong, heading South East to test the EM-5 on the streets of Manila in the Phillipines.

Now some things must be mentioned about Manila for any budding photographers wishing to travel there.....BE CAREFUL.  As much as I liked the city, for sure there is a lot of things that could easily go wrong here....some of the poorer parts of the city are for sure totally unsafe for westerners to venture into alone, and carrying expensive camera gear around is only going to attract unwanted attention.  Like many other places I have visited you must stay streetwise, don't flash expensive gear, leave your nice watch at home and most of all use common sense.  Walking around at 2am in a poor neighbourhood in Manila is going to end in tears for sure....

(Traffic wardens in Manila....ummm whats the point...)

The first thing I noticed when walking around various parts of Manila was the traffic.....it seemed there was complete chaos on the roads, not dissimilar to Hong Kong at rush hour, only here it seemed to be the same all day long....so i chose the best options of transport, my own two feet :-)

When I did travel between districts I used the famous 'Jeepney' buses that can be found everywhere, they are great fun to drive around in, extremely cheap and provide good photo opportunities from the back door, open windows and even of the people inside.

The first day I was in Manila I was lucky with the weather, the light was great, it was hot, just a nice afternoon for strolling around exploring the city.  Lunchtime is clearly siesta time in Manila with people strewn all over the place getting an afternoon nap, kind of reminded me of my parents place in Spain where the same thing happens every day.

(siesta time in Manila, its sleep, read or relax...)

The few people that weren't asleep were having an easy time playing board games in the street.  This kind of place was helping me relax a lot even after a few hours, as I always compare with Hong Kong, which seems to be really non-stop (part of the reason I love to escape as often as I can), you really don't see this kind of lifestyle in Hong Kong, despite the heat, people are running around at full pace 24/7, at least in the inner city where I work and live, so its really nice to see people taking time out and 'smiling'!!!

(A lovely lady who was more than happy to pose for photographs in the street)

Like most asian cities, the streets were full of children playing and kids always make great subjects for me, they are innocent yet their faces tell a thousand stories, something i noticed recently when shooting a scene in Hong Kong was that everyone in the scene was just going about their business apart from 3 kids in the scence, all of them were looking directly at me....maybe kids would make the best street photographers...as they are very very aware of their surroundings and dont miss a trick :-)

(happy kids (and dogs) playing in the street in Manila)

Of course some people view photographers a little more suspiciously, but despite that, a big smile and a handshake go a long way, and as usual, everyone I met and befriended were absolutely fine being photographed.  Even the gangster looking dudes who try to look 'tough' guy tend to break a big smile when I show them their photo and tell them they look like 'James Bond'....flattery gets you everwhere...

(locals in Binondo district, Manila)

The variety of people and colour around the city really attracted me, it really is a bustling metropolis and a great photography location.  As I mentioned earlier discretion is the better method with camera gear (as is pretty much anywhere in my experience), so using the little Olympus OMD was actually perfect (yet again), as it allowed me to shoot discreetly from the hip using the touchscreen with its super fast autofocus.  This is the 2nd time I have used it travelling in a month, and it didn't skip a beat at all, ultra reliable....I thought I would miss my Leica M9...but if I'm honest, this thing is far more functional, never ever stutters like the Leicas do (thats a simple fact that sometimes the M9 just won't react when you press the button...) and the image quality is amazing, of course not superior to a full frame camera...but most of our work is going on the internet or medium sized prints, I am quite positive to 99% of people, there is no visible difference in image quality, and those that think they can tell a difference on a processed image (especially at web size images)....well their name is Pinnochio I'm afraid....

(diverse characters around town, security, driver, and the oldest paperboy!)

A quick note again on the presets that I have used to process these images, they are from VSCO, and are the simplest and most powerful presets you can get in my opinion for Lightroom, ACR or Aperture.  They really do emulate the film looks well....how do i know this....because I shoot a fair bit of these exact films on my Mamiya 7ii and my Contax G2 and scanned files have very similar tones and characteristics to these digital files once processed.....so if you are looking for a filmic simulator that takes seconds to process your RAW files, these are worth a look for sure.

(Processed with VSCO Fuji Neopan 1600 or Fuji Superior 800 settings)

Whilst I was in Manila, I did some shooting in a very poor area called Ulingan in Tondo, probably the roughest and most dangerous area of Manila, the reason being I want to work with a charity there called Project Pearls, and I will be heading back to Manila now that they have made contact in a few weeks to do some video work with them.  You can see the blog post and video of the images shot there last time at this link, its really quite amazing to see the resilience of these people who live and work there.

For other posts I have written recently with images of the OMD please see the links below:

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD shooting in Ulingan, Tondo, Manila

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Cosplay event in Hong Kong

LINK TO BLOG POST: OMD goes to Cambodia

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.


Olympus OMD goes to Cambodia

(Gary in the railroad village with the locals outside Phnom Penh with OMD and Mamiya 7ii)

So here we are again, back to the glorious backdrop of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this time bringing a different camera system - The Olympus OMD for a 4 day field test.

This blog post is not an all out review of the camera system, I'm not a techno-phobe, this is a real world usage review and highlights of my thoughts on the camera system in a fast changing environment and for close up street and travel photography...you won't find any MTF charts or detailed lens analysis....just images that I shot and my thoughts on them :-)

The last time I visited Cambodia I shot only the Leica M9, as I had shot here several times with full Canon DSLR systems and wanted a smaller rig to shoot travel photography with, and the Leica was a perfect fit...albeit the seriously expensive option.

The Leica system is hard to beat (some say impossible), so the bar was set very high, I have achieved some fantastic results with my Leica M9, therefore I already had an unfair comparison level in my mind...but I thought if a camera is going to succeed in 2012 and beyond, it needs to raise the bar and match some of the already outstanding options available to us.

With this in mind, I wanted to test some other rigs out to replace my Leica rigs for street photography and lightweight travel photography.  I had tried the Fuji XPro-1 a few months ago, and have written some positive thoughts on that camera system, but after extended use I must admit I found the autofocus to be a little slow and inaccurate at times for my liking, even though the image quality was great.  Therefore that camera was moved on and I was back to using Leica again.

Anyway, the only remaining system that attracted me was the new Olympus OMD, with a selection of the already proven prime lenses available from Olympus and Panasonic.  So the day before we flew to Cambodia I picked up a kit, camera, grip, 12mm f2, 20mm 1.7 and 45mm 1.8.  I figured this should cover most of what I need, and I tend to shoot a lot very close up, so I assumed the 12mm lens (24mm equivalent) would be spending most of its time on the camera.

One of the features that I was initially unsure of with the Olympus OMD was the touchscreen for shooting....At first I thought this was a bit of a gimmick, as I'm a traditional style photographer who likes to look through a viewfinder (I don't care much for EVF either....), so I didn't think I would like the touchscreen feature, especially for shooting.

However, I am a changed man, the touchscreen shooting feature - the ability to compose, focus and shoot almost instantly using only the screen has completely revolutionised the way i shoot with this type of camera.

(using the touchscreen to shoot...image shot below)

I learned the cameras menu systems, and setup it all up how I wanted on the 2 hour flight from Hong Kong to Phnom Penh, without the manual (I never read manuals), so that was easy to do, this helped me warm to the camera once I had it all set up how I wanted, disabling a few features, and programming others to the function buttons to suit my needs.

(First image I took on the OMD, 12mm)

This first shot above was the first time I had tested the touchscreen, which allows you to literally just press wherever in your composition you wish the camera to focus and then shoots....this happens almost instantly, so its a great way to capture a scene or a portrait without having to raise the camera to your eye...its kind of like shooting using zone focussing from the hip...except you take away all the problems that method has (misfocus, composition issues, etc), so in reality this could be the perfect street camera for me.

Because there are very few cameras with this technology currently, I believe that nobody at any stage during my trip there actually had any idea what I was doing when I was shooting in this way....even if I approached them and requested to take a picture, once I was done they would still stand there waiting for me to start....I like that, as then I can capture a more natural image with no barriers.

(local villagers on Silk Island, 45mm) (elderly lady on Silk Island, 45mm)

Using the longer lens (45mm - equivalent to 90mm) was also great fun, as I had the same control as with the wide lenses to capture tight portraits without having to raise the camera.  Another thing that has amazed me, having only used this system for 2 weeks now is how sharp the lenses are.  I am used to Canon gear for work, which is great...and Leica gear for travel/street which can be phenomenal if you get the right lenses....however...in all honesty for the price of these lenses (some as low as only a few hundred US dollars) their performance is amazing...I couldn't ask for sharper images, and that coupled with super fast and super accurate autofocus...i just love this camera more every time I pick it up.

(school kid hiding under a desk, 45mm)

(local school in Phnom Penh, with super friendly staff and kids, 45mm)

However, as mentioned earlier, I am happiest shooting close up with a wide lens (normally a 24 or 25mm lens, so the Olympus 12mm (equivalent to 24mm) was always going to my new best friend on this camera, and to be honest, this lens was the reason I bought the system in the first place...).

Below are a further selection of images I shot there over a 4 day period with the various lenses.  I think as this was the first week I had used the camera, I was more than happy with how it performed and the quality it produced.  The main thing is that I haven't missed using the Leica, despite it being my workhorse camera for the last several months....this tells me something....I'm not saying one is better than the other, as I still think the Leica M can produce amazing photographs, however if you want a system that can give you a lot of the portability and loads more technical gucci features than any Leica....and you don't want to remortgage your house to afford the system....then maybe the OMD is worth a very serious look.

(using touchscreen again and getting nice and close with the 12mm lens)

(on boat roof on way across the Mekong River, 12mm)

(children on Sisowath Quay, Phnom Penh, 12mm ISO 6400) (sleeping child, railroad slum, 12mm)

(railroad slum, Phnom Penh, 12mm)

(monks at the riverside, 12mm)

(Pagoda Boy, 12mm)

(Rush hour, early morning, 45mm)

(villagers on Silk Island, 20mm)

(102 year old female temple minder, 20mm)

(railroad slum kids, 20mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(railroad slum kids, 12mm)

(Our little gang of photographers, L to R: Giles, Steve, myself and Dave, 12mm)

Guest blog posts on this trip from Steve who accompanied us can be read here:

Guest blog posts written by Dave who also came along can be seen here:

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Guest post: Shooting film in Cambodia (Rocco)

Note:  This post is written and all photos by Rocco Paduano who attended both our Street Photography and Cambodia workshop over a period of two weekends.  Rocco is partial to film cameras as well as his digital M9, this trip he took both, this is his story. - Gary Tyson, Director F8 Photography.

(Playful children jump onto our Tuk Tuk, Leica M9, 35mm)

It was with great anticipation that I awaited being able to spend five full days in Phnom Penh along with Gary Tyson from F8 Photography, Ranjit, and Trevor Smith on a travel photography workshop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

(The author, Rocco Paduano in Phnom Penh)

As a veteran of the Hong Kong Street Photography workshop, which Gary organised with Eric Kim, I could not wait to put some of the knowledge gained to test in and around Phnom Penh.  However, I did not want to just document random images of life in such a colorful city.  I wanted to be able to tell a ‘story’, and somehow begin to build some consistency in the types of pictures I was producing therefore I am hopeful that I am moving in the right direction.

(Taking a break from reading lessons at a local Wat for a photo, Leica M9, 35mm)(Giving back pictures was priceless, Leica M9, 35mm)

Cambodia is a daunting place to say the least.  As one of the poorest South East Asian nations, ravaged for the better part of the 20th century by different conflicts, it was witness to one of the single most brutal acts of genocide humans ever inflicted on each other.  One reads about the rule of the Khmer Rouge between 1975 and 1978, and one can only imagine what the Cambodian people had to endure in the name of totalitarian ideologies.

(Pictures of genocide victims at Tuol Sleng S-21, Leica M9, 35mm)(Interrogation room at Tuol Sleng S-21, Leica M9, 35mm)(Confinement cells at Tuol Sleng S-21, Leica M9, 35mm)

However, today the country is young (approximately 50% of the population is below 22 years of age), full of hope, and full of smiles.  As photographers seeking to hone our skills and to explore a life beyond our own, we were always welcomed with a smile and a “hello”, mostly by people living on the fringes of society.

(Young child from a poor neighborhood near Phnom Penh train station, Leica M9, 35mm)

I originally envisioned doing most of my shots in black and white, in good old ‘street photography’ style.  However, I soon realized that ‘street photography’ takes on a whole new meaning in Phnom Penh.  People pose for you.  They want their picture taken, thus making the whole notion of ‘street photography’ much harder to define in the usual context.  We migrated towards a photographic style that was more ‘documentation’ (or as Gary would call it, ‘environmental portraiture’), than candid ‘street photography’.

(Street fruit vendor, Leica M9, 35mm)

Amazingly, while shooting in poor neighborhoods, we all realized that we were inundated with color.  From the shadows cast in tight alleyways, to the color of the unpaved roads, and that of the clothing worn by the people, it did not seem as if we would be doing any justice by capturing these images in black and white.  I shot digital with an M9, and film with an FM3a.  Although I took many shots with the M9, I found that the pictures that talked to me the most came from the FM3a.  Color slide and black and white films have characters of their own and add a unique personality to the image (assuming the exposure is correct).

(Making sarongs the old fashioned way, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Kodak BW400CN)

(Old villlage woman, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Kodak BW400CN)(Ferry boat hand, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Kodak BW400CN)

 Our trip started out just right, as we congregated at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club along the Mekong River; a place that has hosted numerous war photographers as they documented Cambodia’s turbulent history.  There was no shortage of inspiration as the walls of the FCC are covered with past and present images of Cambodia and its people, through war and peace.

(The author Rocco (right) with RJ in the Tuk Tuk out looking for photo opportunities)

(Gary and Ranjit taking a break with the Captain whilst crossing the Mekong, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 50)

With that, we embarked over the next five days into outings that would surround us with a reality somewhat foreign to us.  Between poor city neighborhoods, Wats and Buddhist monks, villagers and farmers on the outskirts of the capital, there was no shortage of smiles, new friendships, and plenty of experiences.  There was, however, a shortage of photo paper and photo ink, which was rectified by a quick visit to the local Canon supplier.  Being able to give an instant print of the pictures we were taking allowed us to give something back to the very same people that gave us so much visual inspiration.  It brought them closer to us, and allowed us to establish a connection with them even through our language barriers.

(Young monk, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Kodak Elite Chrome 200)(Young village siblings, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Kodak Elite Chrome 200)(Saffron tunics, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 100F)

 Shooting in Phnom Penh was a totally new experience as to what I have been used to lately.  In Hong Kong people are less likely to pose for you, or even take the time to pay any attention.  Thus, ‘street photography’ takes on a different style; furtive and stealthy, candid and more likely to be black and white.  There are a lot less smiles in Hong Kong, and a lot more chances of a ‘confrontation’ with someone that does not want their picture taken.  It is a stark contrast to what we were faced with in Phnom Penh, where people with relatively little smiled and were happy to share a sliver of their lives with us.

(Old village man, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 100F)(Proud father, Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 50) (A great way to end the day! Nikon FM3a, 50mm, Fuji Velvia 50)

As we returned to Hong Kong, I am sure all of us contemplated the past five days.  Phnom Penh and its people certainly left a mark, and gave us a different perspective even on our own reality.

Final note from F8:

Gary, the Director of F8 has also written a blog post about his experience, that can be seen by clicking here.

Another of the workshop attendees, Trevor, has also written a blog post about his experience, you can read that here.

Also, Gary's assistant RJ wrote a blog post about the same trip, that can be found here.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Guest Post: My Cambodia experience (Trevor)

Note:  This post is written and all photos by Trevor Smith who attended both our Street Photography and Cambodia workshop over a period of two weekends.  Trevor works in Saudi Arabia so had a long journey to be with us, this is his story. - Gary Tyson, Director F8 Photography. (The eyes are the window to the soul...)

After a weekend with Gary Tyson of F8 Photography and rising street photographer Eric Kim on their street photography workshop in Hong Kong, I was brimming with confidence and keen to test myself armed with new skills as well as explore  a different country which is recovering from an extremely brutal past.

Flights all booked and kit checked we were all set, but sitting in Gary’s office waiting to go to the airport....the flight time was approaching fast and Gary, the consummate professional had to tie up any lose ends before the trip, which almost made us miss the flight, so a mad dash to the airport started off the adventure to Cambodia.

The plane doors opened on the airstrip in Phnom Penh onto a sweltering heat that smacks you in the face.  Eventually through Immigration, customs and red tape we fall out into the night heat and manic road system towards our hotel.

(Weather and light was harsh for many landscapes but I tried where I could)

An early rise the next day for a full days shoot, bright eyed, bushy tailed and excited. After a typical English breakfast (you can take the boy out of England but not the …. Well you know).

Gary recalled what was to be our trusty and faithful Tuk Tuk (Motorbike/Mopeds with carriage) driver (Gary has used him many times on his previous exploits), his orders were find us a typical riverside shanty village along the Mekong.

From his vast experience as a Photographer and many visits to Cambodia, Gary briefed us as to the type of photos and the kind of reception we could expect along with all the technical jargon my tiny brain could handle.  Sam (our Tuk Tuk driver acted as translator, explained our presence and intention and always asked people if they minded us photographing them, normally with a promise of a print for them to keep).

(A motley crew...Rocco, RJ, myself and Gary from F8)

It was hugely daunting for me (as well as I suspect for the village dwellers), we were swamped by laughing, excited kids and curious, smiling, coy adults wanting their photos taken by these funny looking people, most are happy to see their face on the LCD screen as this is the closest they will be to being on “TV”, so they were astonished when we gave them a printed photograph.

(kids and villagers around Phnom Penh and Mekong Island)

Two hours whizzed by as did a whole pack of photographic paper used on the portable printer Gary brought along. Photos were dished out to old and young alike and each one was received with pure delight and excitement (what a great idea and a great piece of kit the Canon Selphy 800 printer is).

(Every travel photographer should have one of these printers at all times!)

Back at the hotel we swapped stories and compared images, had lessons on Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2), post processing (editing if you prefer), in essence this told Gary what he needed to know about our individual strengths and weaker areas which he could mentor us on, one to one throughout the next few days shooting.

(local villagers greeted us with friendly curiosity)

The next few days were photos, photos and more photos with visits to different villages, markets and pagodas. We also took some time to visit the infamous and very solemn S21 prison and killing fields which I’m not going to dwell on as this was a very sombre experience that contrasts with the vibrance of life now prevalent in Cambodia.

(the infamous S21 prison camp)

One of the days we took a trip to a Buddhist commune, which had lots of homeless people given shelter and food by the monks, this included children that were being schooled when we arrived.  They took (I’m guessing) a welcome break to afford us some photo opportunities.

(children living with the monks at the Pagoda)

Every Buddhist male is expected to become a monk for a period of his life, optimally between the time he leaves school and starts a career or marries. Men or boys under the age of 20 may enter the Sangha as novices nowadays they may spend as little as  1 week or 15 days  to accrue merit as monks. These communes/monasteries are the heart and soul of such communities.

(a very proud child monk)

That particular Monastery was deemed quite “Rich” in comparison to many.  Sam our tuk tuk driver suggested we take a trip onto 'Mekong Island' which was a completely different way of life for both residents and Monks alike much more rural but none the less spectacular and humbling. The moment we arrived (and pushed the Tuk Tuk up the dirt tracked hill) we were greeted by mopeds full (3, 4 and sometimes 5 passengers) of happy, smiling faces that followed us up the track waving all the way and of course riding ahead to tell everyone else. Young and old alike were out waving.

(shooting the kids on the island)

(villagers greet us with Gary from F8 in the background shooting us working)

After several interesting photo opportunities along the way we arrived at the “poor monastery” which looked deserted less a strong looking old man sweeping the courtyard. Sam did his thing and the old gent said it was okay to take photos as long as we asked before snapping someone.  After 10 minutes of snapping the old man we heard youthful giggling coming from just around the corner. Gary led the way and asked the monks (aged around 17 - 20) if we could photograph them upstairs in their accommodation from where they gazed down at us, which was a simple would structure without decoration or paint etc.

At one of the poorer Pagodas on Mekong Island)

Unfortunately the batteries ran out on the printer so we vowed to return the next day with photos (which we took down the local print shop and printed in large format as they were particularly patient with us, taking so much of their time).  We returned with the photos and an offering of a 50kg bag of rice (which we know helps feed the monks and the people living around the monastery). We received a blessing from the main monk (excuse terminology). Further up the track there were female Monks and some field workers which again provided some great photo opportunities.

(I can't beleive he chose the same colour as me...:-))

Before heading back to Hong Kong I thought I better get a traditional shave and haircut!

(street barbers give you the best shave and haircut for 2 US dollars!)

Then it was time to fly back to smoggy Hong Kong came far too quick and although I cant put my finger on the reason why, I was very sad to leave Cambodia.

I was completely blown away to see such poverty and yet the amazing people therein, always had a smile and warm greeting as long as you were willing to spend the time of day with them.  A note here is DON’T JUST ARRIVE, SNAP AWAY AND DRIVE OFF AGAIN, its not polite and they are humans with their own pride and feelings regardless of their situation. Great people that have suffered much and continue to do so, but they are amongst the friendliest I have ever come across.

I left Gary in Hong Kong to fly back to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia via Singapore which gave me much time to reflect on the previous weeks, Hong Kong and street photography, Phnom Penh and environmental photography along with the people (both photographers and the photographed).

I have to say I have been lucky enough to travel extensively, been on many courses/workshops and had many memorable travel experiences but this was by  far the best experience.  So a big thanks to all but a massive thanks and huge thumbs up to Gary Tyson and F8 Photography.

Roll on the next trip……..Vietnam?? Hmmmm :-)


Final note from F8:

Gary, the Director of F8 has also written a blog post about his experience, that can be seen by clicking here.

Another of the workshop attendees, Rocco, has also written a blog post about his experience, you can read that here.

Also, Gary's assistant RJ wrote a blog post about the same trip, that can be found here.

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.




Cambodia - Me & my Leica M9

Note: This is not a technical review of the Leica M9 in any way shape or form, its purely my own view of the experience of using one in the field with the images I shot to support my views, I also comment here about some AMAZING Zeiss lenses that I have been using that should definately be considered if looking for alternative glass for Leica cameras. (Children live along the disused railway line in Phnom Penh, one of the poorest parts of the city - this shot taken with the Zeiss 25mm 2.8 lens, which surpassed my expectations, delivering amazing sharpness and 3D look every time)

So its been 6 months since I travelled to Cambodia and almost as long that I've owned and used a Leica M9 for my street photography in Hong Kong.  On my previous travels I have always taken too much gear, 5D Mk IIs, lights, video kit....the list goes on...

One of the reasons I acquired a Leica M9 was to enable me to travel light and still maintain a full frame camera with high quality as well I guess as taking a step back into retro-land and simplifying the process by using a rangefinder with minimal external functions, other than aperture and shutter...

The purpose of this particular trip was a mini-workshop, teaching a few previous students some 'environmental portraiture' in a photographically rich environement, which was to be the city of Phnom Penh in Cambodia and its surrounding villages and islands in the Mekong river (blog post on their work to follow).

As I was teaching as well as shooting my own work, the Leica gear was a perfect compromise as it enabled me to move around quickly with just one small bag (the thinktank retrospective 5) with all my gear inside instead of the usual large heavy backpacks that I carry full of DSLR kits.

My packing list for this trip was:

Leica M9. Leica lenses: 35 f2, 40 f2, 50 1.4, 90 f2. Zeiss lenses: 21 2.8, 25 2.8 (quite possibly my new favourite lens). external viewfinder for the 21/25 lenses. 2 x batteries. Macbook Pro and external firewire 800 'Lacie rugged' hard drive

(I always use external firewire or thunderbolt drives to store and manage my Lightroom catalogues - it runs just as fast if not faster from an external drive (as long as not USB, and worse case scenario if my laptop were to be stolen I would still have my external drive with all my images (that stays in the hotel safe when I'm not there).

Enough of the technical jargon....below you will find images from the trip that I shot (we were there 4 full days).  All I can say at this point is the M9 far exceeded my expectations, delivering everything and more than my Canon can deliver, and to be honest I think the star bit of kit on this trip was the Zeiss 25mm 2.8 lens....it nailed every shot with some of the best 3D rendering I have been able to produce.

(More kids living in shacks along the disused railway line)(old lady, shot with the Zeiss 25mm lens...amazingly sharp)

One of the most prevalent features of Cambodia for me are the children, there seems to be just masses of kids everywhere, a lot of them living in extreme poverty yet in general they seem quite content, I guess they don't know anything else, so they just cope with what little they have.  Whilst in this run-down part of town, I noticed one child that stuck out more than others, because he was pure white....you can see him in the photograph below right.  I spoke to his mother and father through our translator (both parents were very dark - his mother can be seen in the image looking down on him).  I was slightly confused as to his origins, however they assured us that his dark skinned father was indeed his natural parent, and that the mother had watched some western TV shows and prayed for her child to look that way, and lo and behold - he was born white with light almost ginger coloured hair!

(Children of the railway village, including the 'western' looking child we found pictured here on the right)

We also found some local older girls who spoke perfect english and were happy to admit they worked as 'bar girls' in the red light area of the Phnom Penh, they were also happy to be photographed.  It is an unfortunate fact that in this city for young women living in these areas, this lifestyle is probably by far the most lucrative for them - an unfortunate situation that is probably emulated in many other cities around Asia and the rest of the world.

(working girls that live in the railroad slums)(in the doghouse...)

Although this part of town is extremely poor, it is photographically rich, every doorway and person I saw was a potential photograph, one of our workshop participants felt a little uncomfortable to shoot in this neighbourhood, feeling it was slightly voyeuristic and intrusive.  I can totally see his point and why he felt that way, but I personally have shot in many areas like this all around Asia, and my general feeling is that if you approach your subjects the right way, talking to them first, asking permission, and I also take a small Canon CP800 printer with me and supply them with prints right there and then (the battery on this thing lasts almost a week whilst churning out 40-50 prints a day!!!), then generally its a very positive experience for everyone, probably a novelty for them for some western people to visit, show an interest, give them gifts and exchange lots of smiles along the way.

(giving back a print and some candy to the kids was certainly the best way to gain access for us)

Of course a visit to Cambodia wouldn't be complete without involving some monks or temples...we didn't want to travel to the famous temples in the North around Siem Reap, instead we opted to find some working monks in pagodas around and outside the city on the outlying islands in the Mekong river, so our next day was spent in the heart of mosquito land around the rivers.  We found plenty of friendly working monks who were more than happy to be photographed, we took them a 20kg bag of rice as a gift and that opened up all the doors we needed to get some nice environmental portraits, as well as them enjoying practicing their english language skills with us.  In my experience this has been always the kind of reception I get, other people I have spoken to tell me Monks usually don't like being photographed...I personally have no experience to support that theory.

We also found a muslim area in Phnom Penh, something I had noticed on previous visits, unfortunately people were very reserved and not willing at all to be photographed, everyone I approached either ran away or waved me away, so I respected their wishes and left them alone, I only managed to grab one shot in that part of town which was a young girl who I guess was out shopping for her family, she giggled and covered her face when I spotted her, but didn't seem to mind being photographed so I took the chance and grabbed the shot from across the street.

(young muslim girl in Phom Penh)

On our last day we were finishing up and driving back to get our gear to head to the airport when we noticed a massive gathering of women and children at the roadside.  Our Tuk Tuk driver informed us that this area had a free childrens hospital so everyone was waiting for that...I couldn't resist jumping off and grabbing a few shots from across the street to create a panoramic look then getting up close with the Zeiss 21mm lens as they all seemed happy enough for me to be there...

(the Zeiss 21mm 2.8 performed amazingly on the M9)

So that was it, 5 days travelling around Phnom Penh and the surrounding villages, only the Leica with me this time, and I hope the images above can speak for themselves...with a few different focal lengths this kit was much more efficient for me than my bulky gear I normally take...I will be testing the Fuji XPro1 shortly which may indeed give the Leica a run for its money, especially given the incredible price difference and the amazing high ISO performance of the Fuji...(I tried one last night back in Hong Kong so I have seen the results already)...So until next time, I hope you enjoy the images from our travels and they can inspire you to get out and shoot...and if you haven't been to Cambodia already....you are really missing a gem of a place to visit...not to mention Angkor beer is amongst the finest ale I have ever sampled :-)

My assistant photographer RJ has also written a blog post about his experience, that can be seen by clicking here

Thanks for taking the time to visit our blog, if you like our blog and website, please ‘like’ us on our public Facebook page and share this story with your friends with the Facebook and twitter links below.  You can also subscribe to our blog via the RSS link below.

F8 Photography provides commercial photography and training across Asia, with workshops on Street Photography and other photography and video training courses, more details can be found via the ‘courses and workshops’ link and upcoming events via the front page of our website.

Nurturing Passion – Creating Capability

Arguably, in life, there are things that we either have or we don’t have… One of the key things that we look for in clients, when working with them to develop their skills in photography is a passion, a passion for the art and a passion for the subject. Easily developable are the skills associated with the subject, with practice and guidance we can equip clients to become more proficient and effective in using the tools – camera, lenses, flash and post-production software, etc.

What is harder for us to develop is this core ingredient, passion – you either have it or you don’t… However, what we can do, when a client discovers their passion; is nurture it.

Our last trip to Cambodia is an example of how we did this: we invited a client, Ranjit Gurung who is starting out in photography to join us; he has this passion.

Our challenge was to take this raw passion and nurture it in a way that Ranjit could dramatically improve the outputs from his equipment:

  • Canon 550D
  • 100mm f2.8 macro
  • 50mm f1.4
  • 17 – 55 f2.8
  • Off Camera Flash

Of course we know that you cannot turn someone into a professional photographer overnight, but we do believe that given the right opportunity, training, encouragement and feedback, you can fast track people in the right direction.

Ranjit in action
Ranjit looking at how the light falls inside the temples around Angkor Wat, Siem Reap.

Our approach is to enable our clients to become more comfortable in the use of their equipment – typically, technical skills development under different conditions, using low light to advantage and off camera flash to enhance drama in the photograph. Once this is in place an increased confidence becomes apparent.

We have found, over time, that one of the key capabilities to nurture in our clients is their ability to approach and interact with their subjects – especially during street photography and portraiture. Again, this comes with practice and support – we role model and encourage our clients and after a few initial approaches our clients are simply raring to go.

Through on-going feedback and guidance we equip our clients to take a more considered and compositional approach to photography. Moving the client from holiday snapshots to striking images.

Below are a few of the pictures Ranjit captured:

Using off camera lighting to achieve dramatic portraiture.
A young boy plays in the rain.
Looking out from the dormitory at the Lighthouse orphanage, Phnom Penh.
Capturing the action at Khmer Boxing, a national sport in Cambodia.
Girl at her home near Phnom Penh.
Laughter at the temples of Siem Reap.

Ranjit said:

"Shooting with Gary & Chris from F8 Photography has been one of the most amazing experiences for me, I feel I have learnt lots about the skills of photography, how to approach and interact confidently with subjects, and most important how to realise my passion. It was hard work, but worth it, I really look forward to my next photography adventure with them!"

For more information about our photography training, click here to check out the different courses we run on our website under 'courses & workshops'

Infrared Siem Reap - Cambodia

So another trip to Cambodia is well underway, including a short visit back to Siem Reap and the famous temples. I have been using the Leica M8 for some personal work over the last few months and not really had a chance to test it to its full potential yet, so thought I would bring it along to Cambodia and try it out with some infrared shots, as this is one of the few digital cameras that can shoot direct infrared without needing to be modified, just pop an IR filter on the front of any lens and its ready to shoot immediately, so two cameras in one effectively, which softens the blow when factoring in the cost of the thing!

Anyway here are a few images taken around the temples of Angkor Wat and the famous Ta Prohm (Tomb Raider) temple one morning earlier in the week, all shot with the Leica M8 and Voigtlander Heliar 15mm F4.5 II lens using an R72 infrared filter.

Student Showcase - Catherine

One of my students that has almost finished the foundation course recently took a trip to Yunnan in China to practice some of the new skills she has learned throughout the course. Today we met briefly for a coffee and she showed me a few images that she took on her travels, and I found them 'inspirational' to say the least - I fully intend to visit this place myself now!

Absolutely outstanding work for somebody who had little knowledge of photography only a few months ago, this is the reason I love teaching photography - when I can see a students new skill set shining through in their work and their confidence growing every time they pick up the camera, thats what its all about!

She deserves every credit for producing such nice imagery, and this type of attitude reinforces the fact that no matter what we teach or how much you read about photography and composition, there is no substitute for getting out there and taking pictures, which is exactly what Catherine has been doing, and it really shows in her work, its going from strength to strength!

Keep up the good work, I look forward to seeing more soon!

All images in this post copyright to Catherine Yue Wang

'Som Tot Moy' - F8 Exhibition in Soho, Hong Kong (VIDEO)

We exhibited our images from recent trips to Cambodia in Soho in January & February of 2011, with the aim to raise money for a Cambodian children's charity.  Here's the video from the opening night.  Thanks for all the support, we really appreciate people taking the time to see our work. _MG_2328_tonemapped-Edit.jpg

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