Cambodia (Part 3): A Circuit of Temples
Hey! If you've missed parts 1 and 2 and you would like to check them out before moving on you can find them HERE.
Way back in 2014 my father and I went to Cambodia for a few days when he came to visit me in China. For parts one and two of this series you can go HERE and read all about Tonle Sap Lake and Angkor Thom. This post will pick up where we left off, and that would be on the morning of Day 3.
We got picked up super early that day because our goal was to photograph the famous Angkor Wat at sunrise. So we got to the temple and had a decision to make. We could go inside the walls, get closer to the temple and hopefully catch a reflection off of the reflecting pond or we could stay outside and shoot with the mote and the walls between us and the temple. We chose the latter for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that there would probably be no reflection (wrong time of day).
The tricky part of this shoot was the fact that the sun would be rising behind the temple. This means that we would be shooting into the sun causing the temple itself to be silhouetted against the sky. Normally, shooting directly into the sun is a bit of a no-no. If you've ever tried to take a photo of a sunrise or sunset you may have noticed that the sky might be colorful but you can't see any details in the foreground. That is because the camera isn't nearly as sophisticated as your eyes. Your eyes essentially take thousands of photographs a second and send them to your brain which compiles them and spits them back to you as, what I believe is referred to as, vision. A camera doesn't get that opportunity. You only get one shot (HDR excluded; google it). Lots of times the foreground is fairly boring so your sunrise shots turn out duller than you would have liked. Fortunately for us, Angkor Wat does not happen to be boringly shaped. We also had the moat in front of us, providing a reflection of the sky and adding a bit for interest to the photos. Without further ado...
This last shot is probably my favorite of the bunch. The sun had come up and it was pretty bright which made shooting the temple pretty tough. But I had one last idea. I wanted to see what it would look like if I turned my shutter speed all the way up and closed down the aperture as far as it would go (greatly limiting the light reaching my camera's sensor). What I got was a the sun actually properly exposed, some light in the clouds, a partial silhouette of the temple and a great natural vignette.
70mm, ISO 100, 1/8000 sec, f22
Before I get into the rest of the photos, I do want to give one more piece of advice. As I was putting together this post, I decided to go back and take another look at my original photos from this day (something that I actually do for all of my posts). I found a whole bunch that I passed over the first time but after taking some time away from these photos I decided I actually liked them. The moral of the story for me is that just because something doesn't strike you as amazing right off the bat doesn't mean that you should delete it forever. I am always learning new techniques for post-processing and I am always growing as a photographer. I want all of my photos available to me in the future. Plus when you can get a 2 TB external hard drive which will hold roughly 150,000 RAW photos for $100 I feel like it is pretty easy to justify saving your photos. Rant over, on to the temples.
Now that the sun was up it was time to get going on the rest of our day. We had a ton of time and only a few temples to see...scratch that, reverse it (R.I.P. Gene). Our first stop on the circuit would be Preah Khan. A ruined, tree overgrown example of artistry.
Now on to your baby driving mom and sister on a moped interlude...
And then a shrine at Neak Pean surrounded by water.
The next temple we visited was Ta Som. The recurring motif, obviously, is the way nature has reclaimed these spaces. But one thing that struck me about this temple in particular was how a modern family had set up shop, literally, inside the temple but also tended to and explored it.
The next two stops were very similar temples, in fact so similar it took me a while to remember which one was which. The first was East Mebon.
Donna, this one is for you
Next was Pre Rup.
Our last stop for the day was Banteay Kdei. Again the thing that struck me about this temple was the fact that people were still using it. People today may not be using it the same way the builders intended, but nevertheless it is still a sacred space.
Our day over, we went back to the hotel to rest up for the next couple of days when we would travel out to some of the remote jungle temples. But that my friends is a story for another day.
Until the next time,
If you missed parts 1 and 2 of this series you can find everything right HERE.
Finally I want to give a shout out to Peace of Angkor photo tours who helped us get around during the week.