Using Motion Blur to Create Atmosphere

Whilst planning a recent trip to a hectic fishing village that I had visited once before, I deiced to review all of my images from my last visit to see what I could do this time to avoid recreating the same photographs. At dawn in this small village, just outside of Hoi An in central Vietnam, everyone gathers on the beach as the fishermen return from sea with boat loads of fish. The beach quickly transforms into a chaotic fish market with bartering, money changing hands and a constant stream of boats off loading buckets of seafood. It’s a dream location for any travel photographer.

On my first visit we were blessed with a stunning sunrise and I came home with a series of postcard worthy images of fishermen silhouetted or semi-silhouetted against the morning sky. Here I was concentrating on creating layers in my images to give them a dynamic feel. These remain some of my favourite images.

However, as I previously mentioned I was keen to try something different this time around. In some of the outtakes from my contact sheets of the first shoot I noticed I’d occasionally left my shutter open a fraction of a second too long, and considering the fast paced movement of the activity on this beach I had failed to freeze the moment. This however, looked as if it had potential for an entirely new way of shooting this scene - and a style of photography I had never tried before. So, I set out on my next trip with the intention of using slow shutter speeds in order to convey the crazy atmosphere of this scene.

As is the case with trying any new technique, the results are hit or miss and I certainly didn’t come away with as many images that I felt proud of as I did last time, but there are a few I am happy with and I really do feel I have made some leeway in conveying the atmosphere of the mornings on this beach. I’ve included a few of the images I took below.

I would absolutely love to hear some feedback on these images, so please leave me a comment, or drop me an email. I’ve also included the same series in black and white below - any feedback on which you think works better would be very much appreciated.

If you are interested in learning more about this technique and are local to or passing through Cambodia, consider joining a photography workshop with me in Phnom Penh, where we can experiment with trying this method in many different, exciting locations.

Creating a Sense of Time and Place in Your Photography

A recent trip to Vietnam got me thinking about the importance of having a sense of time and place in your photographs. Certain images one can look at and instantly recognise the country, city or period in time the photograph is from. So how can we create this in our images?

I think the first and most important thing to do is to get to know the country, province, city, etc. you are in and the aesthetic features that are unique to that place. In some places this is easy - for example when you see black cabs, red phone boxes or big red buses, you instantly recognise that pace to be London. These components in a photograph also give a sense of time, although you might not immediately see it. How much longer will there still be phone boxes? They are mostly there to serve as a tourist attract now. And black cabs or red buses? Alternative transport companies such as Uber and Grab could possibly put an expiry date on these iconic symbols. When we look back on photographs of today’s London in ten years time it will be with a feeling of nostalgia.

A photo I captured in Soho, London in January 2019

A photo I captured in Soho, London in January 2019

The photo above for me has great connotations of time and place. The dapper mans coat and the leather gloves are quintessentially English, and could even give a sense of a time past - however the smart phone in his hands roots the photograph back in to the 21st century. As an example this photograph gives a strong sense of time and place.

A beautiful Vietnamese farmer in a conical hat.

A beautiful Vietnamese farmer in a conical hat.

So how can we use this in travel photography? Vietnam is a country where it is almost too easy to create a sense of place - the traditional conical woven hats are totally unique to the region and can be seen every which way you look.

A photograph of Vietnamese ladies cleaning seafood on a beach in their signature hats.

A photograph of Vietnamese ladies cleaning seafood on a beach in their signature hats.

As I left Vietnam and returned to Cambodia I began to consider what unique visual assets the country has. For me the most prominent are the krama - a traditional checkered scarf worn around the head - and the orange robes of the many Buddhist monks.

A photo of a Cambodian lady wearing a krama captured in Phnom Penh.

A photo of a Cambodian lady wearing a krama captured in Phnom Penh.

I would be really interested to hear what attributes make your country, or countries you have visited unique. Please leave a comment or send me a photograph to . If we can make a good collection I would love to create a post exhibiting the uniqueness of each country. We learn so much from collaborating!

My Rundown of the 10 Best Things to do in Phnom Penh

What to do in Phnom Penh? The city is often overlooked by travelers and it’s definitely easy for expats and locals to get stuck in a routine of doing the same thing every week. Here’s my run down of the ten best things to do in the city.

10. Lunch (and of course tea) by the pool at TeaHouse

Take advantage of the free use of their tropical pool when you buy food or drink at TeaHouse Phnom Penh. Enjoy their afternoon tea tasting session or come for relaxing brunch. The food and drinks are on point and the relaxing gardens and refreshing pool feel a million miles away from the hectic city.

#32, Street 242 Phnom Penh, 12211 .

9. Meditate with the monks at Wat Langka


If you are looking to take some time out from your day to practice some deep meditation then there is no better place than the atmospheric temple of Wat Langka. Meditation sessions are free and open to everyone. Sessions run on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at 6pm and Sundays at 8.30am. They last for one hour are not guided meditations, so they can be difficult for beginners - but if you want to challenge your inner zen this is the perfect environment to do so.

Wat Langka, Samdach Louis Em, Phnom Penh (near Independence Monument)

8. Explore the former Lakeside


What was once the prime area for backpacker hostels, is now little more than abandoned buildings. Since the lake was filled in for a construction project that never quite materialized this area has become pretty run down. However in an effort to bring beauty back to the forgotten neighborhood street artists have started adorning the walls with incredible art work. Take a wonder around and appretiate the open air art gallery.

Start on street 93 and explore from there.

7. Take a Bokator lesson with Cambodia’s best female martial artist


On Wednesdays and Sundays at 6.45pm visit the AZAHAR Centre for Peace, Yoga & Arts
Phnom Penh
for a lesson in ancient Khmer fighting. It is hard work, but a lot of fun. The teacher, Tharoth, is a truly inspiring young Khmer woman - an incredibly powerful woman! Classes run for an hour and cost $5 for locals or $7 for tourists.

39, street 21 Preah Norodom Blvd (41), Phnom Penh

6. Head to Heart of Darkness for a fabulous drag show and dancing

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More than just a night club, Heart of Darkness is one of Phnom Penh’s best spots for dance and entertainment. It calls itself “gay friendly” - it’s open for everyone - and the drag queen show on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights is a guaranteed fun night out. If that’s not enough to tempt you, drinks are fairly cheap and the company is excellent!

38 Rue Pasteur No. 51, Phnom Penh

7. Visit Meta House for documentary screenings and art exhibitions


Meta House screens a range of documentaries, mostly set in South-East Asia and covering a variety of topics from current human rights issues to politics, to local history. They also have exhibitions showing high quality art pieces by local artists. To see what is on the schedule at the moment visit . They also often feature workshops where you can join in with the art and learn new skills!

37 Samdach Sothearos Blvd (3), Phnom Penh

8. Watch a classic movie under the stars at the Raffles Hotel


A visit to the Raffles Hotel, with it’s stunning building, grand grounds, pool and famous Elephant bar (try the cocktails) is always luxurious. Add in a movie under the starts at their Cinema Paradiso and you are in heaven. They show a variety of classic films on a large screen next to the pool. Imagine swapping red cinema chairs for a comfy sun lounger and fizzy pop and popcorn for wine and canapes - all included in the price. Phone ahead to check the film schedule. In the past they have screened the likes of Some Like it Hot, 12 Angry Men, Murder on the Orient Express and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

The Raffles Hotel, 92 Rukhak Vithei, 12302

9. Watch a Kun Khmer (Cambodian kick-boxing) match

A guaranteed fun day out and best of all it’s free! The fights take place at the TV studios around town on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Which studio has a match on changes each week, so ask a TukTuk driver where the match is and he will take you there. They normally start at 3pm and finish after 5. I advise you bring along some street food from the stalls outside and a few cans of beer! You will likely be the only tourists there so it is a really unique and authentic experience.

10. A photography workshop with Gemma Sandell (yes that’s me!)

Workshop attendee Akira having fun shooting in Phnom Penh.

You may have seen this coming, but that doesn’t change the fact that a photography tour in Phnom Penh is a perfect opportunity to explore new sights, smells, tastes and experiences within the capital whilst learning about street photography and portrait photography. You are sure to come away with some great photographs and learn heap about how to take the best shots you possibly can. The photography workshops are most certainly a fantastic way to spend a day in Cambodia. Choose between one day tours, half day tours and two day tours, or if you are feeling more adventurous contact me to arrange a custom workshop anywhere in Cambodia. For more information visit the “Workshops” page above. If I haven’t already sold you on what a great day (or two) the workshops are, then don’t take my word for it, click on the Facebook icon below of visit to see the reviews.

Some Highlights From the Photography Workshops of 2019 So Far

It has been a busy year for me, with my own photography expeditions and studies as well as running the Phnom Penh photography workshops. As I have just launched some exciting new itineraries I decided it’s time to look back over some of the my favourite moments from the workshops this year. I’m working hard to make these the best photography tours in Phnom Penh and all the improvements I’m making can be credited to the great and helpful feedback I’ve got from all the wonderful attendees. Here’s a little taster of what 2019 has blessed us with so far…

I’m really looking forward to seeing what the rest of 2019 has in stall for us! No two photography workshops are the same making them a truly unique and fun way to spend a day in Phnom Penh. Don’t hesitate to contact me for more information!

New Workshops! New Workshops!

Guess what? I’ve launched some new street and travel photography workshops!


After many requests for a half day workshop, I have finally listened and I’m now offering half day city or countryside workshop. This squeezes the best of bustling Phnom Penh city or the traditional Khmer countryside into a shorter tour - 4.5 hours. These tours are ideal for those of you with jam packed travel schedules or for when you just can’t hack a full day in the Phnom Penh heat. With rainy season approaching these shorter itineraries will also allow us to dodge those dodgy thunder storms!

Akira capturing the action at a local wet market on the one day street photography workshop.

Akira capturing the action at a local wet market on the one day street photography workshop.

I have also launched a new and very exciting two day, one night photography workshop. I’ve been doing a lot of exploring in the surrounding area recently and have hand picked the best spots for us to visit. This workshop is a real mix of travel, landscape and street photography. On top of that it’s a truly immersive experience into Khmer life. We will eat local food at local restaurants, stay in a small guesthouse in a rural village and spend our time with some of the most interesting characters in the region. The highlight for me is visiting a monastery to capture the nuns serving lunch to the monks - don’t be surprised if they invite us to join their feast too! This really is the most extensive and intense workshops I’ve done so far, and I’m over the moon to launch it. If you want a more detailed itinerary use the contact page to send me a request.


As always - a big thanks to the recent participants, you have all been great sports (despite the heat!) and I’m excited already for this weekends tours!

A Winters Walk in London

I spent Christmas and New Years in my homeland, England. Among all of the festivities I found time for some street photography. It is always a big readjustment coming from shooting in Cambodia to London. People’s attitudes towards being photographer and perceptions of privacy are widely different. It makes for a challenge that is definitely worth it looking back on these shots. These were all taken around Chinatown and Soho.


New Prints for Sale in the Shop

Today I have launched two new prints for sale in the online shop, “A Child’s Blessing“ and “Ying Ngaam II“.

“A Child’s Blessing“ was taken in one of my favourite spots along the riverside in Phnom Penh. If you join one of the two day long Phnom Penh photography tours we visit this small shrine just after sunset to capture some beautifully atmospheric shots. The natural light from the flames brings out wonderful skin tones that really make portrait shots stand out.

A Child's Blessing

A Child's Blessing

The second print I have added, “Ying Ngaam II“, is a photograph taken in Chinatown in Bangkok. The deep greens in this shot have come out so rich in print that it is sure to make a stunning addition to your walls.

I am always interested to hear which photographs you would like to see for sale as prints, so please drop me a message via the contact page if you have any requests.

Ying Ngaam II

Ying Ngaam II