In Search of the Perfect Shot in Cambodia by Alex Robinson

Dong laughed contemptuously at my nervousness.

“Cambodian dogs are friendly. They won’t attack.”

I still insisted on avoiding them, and taking the long route – through the temple – clambering up seemingly endless flights of steps in the sticky heat, cutting through a courtyard and eventually finding my way back on to the street, beyond the slum. Even Dong was sweating when we finally reached our destination – a flat, concrete roof covered in barbed wire, sharp thorn bushes and weeds.

“It’s perfect!” I said.

Dong looked at me like I was insane. Had the mad foreigner really dragged him around the city for three hours. For this?

“I go and fetch the car,” he scowled.

But it really was perfect. Beyond the weeds and the wire, Sihanoukville lay spread below me – lit by the low light of the sinking sun, which turned the buildings a warm yellow and silhouetted the distant islands in the bay.

Up until now all our efforts at finding this view had been frustrated. I’d dragged Dong around all the beaches. We’d tried the tops of buildings – all were too low, and a vantage point on a cape at the front of the city. We’d trekked to a spot next the phone masts on the hill behind Sihanoukville, but the view had been blocked by trees. It was from there that I’d spotted this location.

“Over there,” I said triumphantly, “that’s our spot.”

“You want go there?” said Dong reluctantly, “Really?”

It was a struggle to get here too. Every road to the temple had been a dead end or a loop until local market vendors pointed to a dirt track cutting up into a scruffy, dog-filled slum that huddled at the top of the hill around the temple we’d just climbed through.

After Dong headed off to get the car – which was parked at the temple steps, I dropped my sweat-soaked camera bag to my feet, set up the tripod and camera, plugged in the cable release. And shot for the next half hour – until the day turned into twilight and the city lights came on.

Asia, South East Asia, Cambodia, Sihanoukville – the largest city on the Cambodian coast. View of the city skyline

It was then that the mosquitoes descended in hordes.

I must have looked even stranger to Dong when he finally got back – slapping myself like a flagellant as clouds of insects swarmed over my open skin. Not that he looked like he cared. His mind was on other things.

“The dogs no friendly. I went back along the street and they chased me to the car. Nearly got bit.”

“You finish picture?” he said hopefully

I played them back.

“They’re perfect Dong. Thanks so much.”

Poor Dong had endured what must have been the worst tourist excursion of his year so far. He’d narrowly escaped slum dogs. I was hot, sweaty, covered in bites that would take ten days to stop itching. He looked at the wheals on my legs, chuckled and took my tripod.

“You photographers are crazy,” he said. “…the things you do for a perfect shot…”

Asia, South East Asia, Cambodia, Cardamom mountains, Chi Phat, boatman on the Piphot river at sunrise (MR)

To see the rest of the images from Alex’s trip click here

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