After getting a little misty-eyed while musing on our pre-Civil War travels in Syria and the special people we met, I decided it was time to look on the bright side and a destination recovering from a very tragic and violent past: Cambodia.

In Cambodia, the past is still very present. We have friends our age who talk about escaping the Khmer Rouge and growing up in a refugee camp on the Thai border as if it was an everyday experience, when it must have been life-changing.

Now there is a young generation growing up who are removed enough from the Pol Pot era that they at last have a chance of not suffering the Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that had been passed on to their parents, the second generation following those horrific times.

While there are still plenty of problems for children growing up in Cambodia, most of the kids I have met here appear easy-going, good-natured, and are friendly, with beautiful warm smiles and are always quick to shout out “hello!”

Instead of sharing an image of a wide-eyed smiling youngster that has sadly become a little clichéd (and trust me, I have taken plenty of those in Cambodia), I chose this image because for me it better represents the optimism and carefree spirit of that young generation.

This little girl had just been to the local shop near a suspension bridge in Battambang and was half-skipping half-running home in her fresh pyjamas after an early evening bath. Seeing her so happy and light of spirit gave me a sense of hope.

This image was shot with my old 80-200mm zoom lens, a lens so beaten up that an official Nikon repair shop refused to service it because it’s so damaged, telling me to just buy a new one.

The lens that most photojournalists use now is the 70-200mm lens, but I’ve always seen it as a bit fragile and plastic. If it rolled down a set of stairs like my 80-200 once did, you’d be taking it to Nikon in pieces!

This lens still takes great photos and what I like about its zooms at longer focal lengths is that it compresses the background and makes the very tight in-focus areas stand out so much, particularly if your f-stop is less than F4.

Details: Nikon D600, 80-200mm f/2.8D Nikkor @ 200mm @ F3.2 @ 1/800th second @ ISO400.

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