Why Is The Sky Not Blue? – My Start In Hotel Photography

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“Why Is The Sky Not Blue?” This is the question that inspired the start of my photography career. It is an unusual question, but it sparked my interest and a continued quest to learn as much as I can about photography.

The Story of my origins in hotel photography

The following is the remarkable story of how I started photography and what led to my passion for shooting hotels and resorts, developing the required skills along the way. At the end of this post, I will share one of my first hotel room images, which is difficult to do. We all have a tendency to display only our best work—and this hotel room image was not among the best.  But every single journey has to start somewhere, and that hotel room photo was my starting point.

I will need to go back a few years (quite a few years, in fact) to when I was growing up. I spent most of my early years moving around the world because of my parent’s businesses. We spent time in South Africa, Brazil, Australia, England, France and the Seychelles. I am always extremely grateful for this period as we visited some stunning places and stayed in some amazing hotels. I have continued this lifestyle in my profession as a photographer.

photographer cambodia

This has to be one of my favorite images. One of the cargo vessels that cruise up and down the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers is beached on Koh Dach for repairs

During my years in Secondary School, I had an interest in photography. I was the president of the Photography Clubs, and we were responsible to attend all the school events, take photographs, and develop the images for school publications. However, with all the moving about, I never had the opportunity to continue with photography as a young person.

In the mid-2000s, I was working in IT in one of the main telecommunication companies in the United Kingdom. This was not something I wanted to continue as a career, and since I was used to warmer climates, the weather was not something I enjoyed. So I packed everything away and headed back to Southeast Asia, to places I never visited before, such as Singapore, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia.

photographer cambodia

Inside the locomotive shed at Phnom Penh railway station. All the old steam and diesel locomotives lay rusting in the locked shed. These photos also played a big part in starting my career in hotel photography, as I will explain shortly

To keep myself occupied during my travels, I purchased a small point-and-shoot camera. Being in such a photogenic part of the world, I spent my days capturing the local culture and scenery. As I continued with my travels, one thing that always caught my attention was that the skies in my photographs were not as blue as in real life. I couldn’t figure out why. All the skies were completely blown out, pure white, and hazy. They lacked contrast. When I had half-decent Internet access, I started researching how I could make my skies blue. This led to me trying to absorb as much information about photography as I could.

Fast forward a few years. I had settled in Cambodia and photography became my main hobby. Almost daily, I would take my motorbike for a long ride on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The scenery, culture, and daily life were inspiring, and the people were so friendly. This environment made for beautiful and fascinating photographs.

photographer cambodia

With Phnom Penh skyline in the distance, life carries on along the river banks

As I shot more and more, I started to gravitate toward different genres of photography.

Landscape and Daily Life

Phnom Penh is still a small city, so you do not have to go far to get away from the traffic and the dust. Unique opportunities abound to capture the experiences and scenery of daily life in the city. Shooting landscapes everyday gave me an in-depth understanding of natural light, shadows, and composition.

photographer cambodia

5 minutes away from Phnom Penh airport, the railways lines head South before they were put back in use

Light Painting

The more technical side of photography caught my interest as I started experimenting in editing images. I loved to work with light painting, which involves creating and capturing trails of light. I practiced moving small lights in a predetermined pattern, and spinning balls of molten steel wool over my head. The results were amazing! These are very difficult images to capture, and they are very editing-intensive. So, these days I do not mind spending a few hours editing an image to make it perfect.

photographer cambodia

Twin steel wool shot at the same time. The molten steel wool creates a beautiful pattern as it spins around on a chain

Urbex

My natural inquisitiveness led me to explore and photograph abandoned man-made structures. Locating the sites and gaining access to them was a challenge. But once I was in, there was always that “Wow!” moment when you were the first person to enter a space in over a decade. Everything was covered in a thick layer of dust, the way the owners left it many years ago. This really was my start in interior photography.

photographer cambodia

There is something about discovering something which has remained hidden and locked away for years. The kitchens from a huge abandoned restaurant complex on the outskirts of Phnom Penh

Cityscapes

I take great joy in finding the best vantage points to capture the Phnom Penh skyline under amazing Cambodian sunsets. And I am love capturing many local destinations and attractions. Photographing the beauty of Phnom Penh also led to an interest in photographing architecture.

photographer cambodia

An epic sunset over Phnom Penh

Hotels & Resorts

After photographing the locomotive shed and sharing the images on Social Media, a local hospitality group contacted me to see if I wanted to exhibit the work in an art gallery at one of their hotels. In turn, I asked if I could shoot one of their hotel rooms. I never looked back since then! As I look back at these photos, I can see so much wrong with the technique, composition, staging, and editing of the photos. But it was the start of my professional journey.

phnom penh hotel photographer

One of my very first hotel interior photos

After photographing the locomotive shed and sharing the images on Social Media, a local hospitality group contacted me to see if I wanted to exhibit the work in an art gallery at one of their hotels. In turn, I asked if I could shoot one of their hotel rooms. I never looked back since then! As I look back at these photos, I can see so much wrong with the technique, composition, staging, and editing of the photos. But it was the start of my professional journey.

phnom penh hotel photographer

A more recent photo.

Thanks for indulging me by reading this long post. But I wanted to provide the background of how I got into photography. I hope this helps the reader understand why photographing hotels and resorts is my passion and not done solely for the financial benefits.

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