Recently shot a travel photography feature for Silkwinds, Silk Air's inflight magazine covering the newly reopened Cambodian train service from Phnom Penh to the south coast.
Long gone are the romantic days of train surfing on the roof of a dilapidated Cambodian train. After 14 years the passenger service from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville via Takeo and Kampot has been up and running for less than a year. Clean air conditioned carriages and soft seats make for a smooth ride, top speed of around 60kmh. My only complaint, the passenger service only runs on weekends and unfortunately on our carriage the windows were sealed tight and we were unable to experience the wind, smells and sounds of the countryside as we trundled along. Although from between the carriages it is possible to open the doors and get a mix of fresh air with the odd diesel waft. A great ride, safer and more scenic than bus or taxi travel on the road to Kampot or Sihanoukville. It is definitely worth the extra time. Desapeeup la'or!
The magazine article by Jonathan Evans along with some of my photography can be found in the March issue of Silkwinds here- http://edition.pagesuite.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubnam...
In the main menu of this site you can see photographs from the journey in the "Cambotrain" gallery- http://www.simontoffanello.com/cambotrain
Finally was able to properly use the Sony Alpha 7Rii for a personal travel photography project in Chhlong Cambodia. An amazing high image quality 42mp full frame camera, the small size is perfect for use in travel and documentary photography, but also high end enough for commercial and studio work. Soon HDR processing will be obsolete as new sensors' dynamic range will become greater and greater.
Finally was able to properly use the Sony Alpha 7Rii for a personal travel photography project in Chhlong Cambodia. An amazing high image quality 42mp full frame camera, the small size is perfect for use in travel and documentary photography, but also high end enough for commercial and studio work. Soon HDR processing will be obsolete as new sensors' dynamic range will become greater and greater. I felt liberated with this small, robust camera after being used to carting a hefty Canon DSLR around. Less obtrusive for both portrait and general travel photography. But the Sony menu system will take some getting used to, none intuitive and disorganized. Minimal weather sealing could also be an issue, the camera is now covered in Cambo countryside dust and may need a professional clean at Sony.
In 2003 I took my first ever big motorbike road trip adventure from Phnom Penh to Sen Monorom in Mundullkiri province over 10 days or so, with a 35mm analogue film SLR and a few rolls of Kodak Portra. On arrival in Snool I was covered in orange dust head to toe, few roads were sealed in Cambodia back then. On the return journey we stumbled upon Chhlong village on the river road from Kratie to Kompong Cham. A pretty little town on the banks of the Mekong in Kratie province, dilapidated French colonial buildings, a bustling market and the simple quiet life along the river and surrounds was a real draw that had a lasting impression. We ended up staying for 2 nights in the town's only guest house.
Returning in 2017 with a Bangkok photographer friend was an attempt to get away from the expats and tourists of Phnom Penh, and even Kampot, my go to place when in need of a break. To feel once again the only foreigners around in a sedate land. Kratie city is now just 4 hours from Phnom penh by share taxi and Chhlong 1.5 hours from Kratie on a motobike. For our 2 day jaunt we rented small Honda Waves bikes in Kratie city early morning, after arriving the night before. We skipped Kratie town altogether, the town's folk were miserable in 2003 and not much seemed to have changed 14 years later, something I haven't really experienced in other Cambodian towns. Once out of Kratie town, things changed rapidly into the old dreamscape I remember and still try to hold onto after 14 years living in Cambodia.
Conclusion. The real Cambo still exists out there in all directions, it's just further from Phnom Penh than it used to be. Take it while you can.
You can see a selection of 50 photographs from Chhlong and around on the main site- http://www.simontoffanello.com/chhlong
This commercial car shoot a few months back was shot somewhere out at one of the many new (ish) concrete jungle extensions of Phnom Penh. No idea where I was! Perhaps towards the airport somewhere to the right. Not somewhere anyone would go unless they happened to live around there, pretty industrial. Phnom Penh is spreading by the day it seems, and it isn't pretty- construction, dust, grime, garbage, nowhere to walk, no trees, heavy traffic, noise. I'm happy to reside near the river even if it is tourist central.
Though the brand new MSA studio was on a quiet side street. Once inside, a really good space large enough to shoot a monster truck, it had just been used to film a TVC about the same car. The car eventually had to be taken outside onto a flattened construction area reserved for yet another future PP condo project. As the studio was black and the car almost black. Good for what they wanted for the TVC. But for the stills advert we really needed a white studio to reflect into the car. A silver or light coloured car would have been better. Outdoors solved that but created a whole bunch of unwanted reflections from the surroundings. Great to be working with art director/designer Mr Zacky again from MSA. I used a polariser to rid reflections in different parts of the car over several shots at the same angle with camera on a tripod. Zacky will have used several layered shots in post. And lots of retouch, I don't envy him. As the pianist and piano was somewhat smaller, the black studio worked well and I got around it with some large white sheets, reflectors and four studio strobes.
Still a work in progress personal project, additional Cambodian portraits and refinements of existing portraits can be seen in the Dreamyland album on this site. I have planned to expand the number of images and diversity of subjects, as well as refine the technique. Big shout out to Bunsak But on the retouching and post production end. We hope to exhibit the portraits on poster sized archival prints at a Phnom Penh venue by the end of 2016.
A marathon of a product photography shoot at my Phnom Penh pop up studio. We were required to shoot each of the products sporting the new Angkor Stout design labels- pint and quart bottles, the new can, as well as the brand new stout draft beer in a glass, plus the draft machine itself. All items usually required to be photographed from every angle - low, high, straight, left, right, lying down pouring, with and without condensation, with and without bottle caps.
Beer product photography can get messy and this was no different to past beer shoots, just a lot more of it to plough through. Getting a smooth head at the correct hight on the draft glass is always particularly maddening. If the beer overflows even slightly the glass must be prepped all over again. Creating the condensation drops is forever hit and miss, frustratingly must be reapplied several times as they never go on right, means cleaning and respraying the bottle, can or glass with dulling spray each time before re spraying the fresh condensation mix. The prepping always annoyingly time consuming with beer product photography. Once satisfied with the look the surface can't be touched without ruining the effect so must handle with care. Another real pain is sticking the labels on clean and straight without bubbles or creases.
Lighting these small shiny objects is challenging, especially cans that are a silver or gold. One needs patience for beer product photography. Not my favourite I must be honest, nevertheless very happy to be hired and it is satisfying to see the end result in public around Cambodia.
Final layout design by the good people at Alkemai in Phnom Penh. This time seems they didn't use the condensation versions. Maybe because the dots that make up the print of the new labels are too big and visible. Looks like they used the vector graphic labels over the top of the real ones.
Enough of the product photography rant.