Feature Photograph

Angkor Vat

This week's feature photograph is easily recognizable as one of the popular structures at Angkor Vat Cambodia.  I like this photograph as it’s both technically and compositionally perfect (near).  In fact, when cropping it I induced slight imperfections in the horizon level and centering because I like leaving a bit of food on the plate.  The real significance however is how I captured this “perfect picture” and what I had to go through to get it.

When I visited Siem Reap it was the rainy season and I went there during this time because it was the rainy season.  Most photos I’ve seen of this particular view have a white washed out sky, little depth or dimension, and they all looked the same.  I wanted the perfect picture and I planned at least 14 days n Siem Reap so I could pursue my vision.  Each morning I woke up at 0200, showered and dressed, checked my equipment, and met my driver outside the hotel.  By 0400 I’d be on site, have my tripod set up with the camera mounted, and would sit there chatting with my driver till the sun came up.  By arriving at 0400 I’d arrive before the crowds of tourists and thus be able to stake out the best position.  By the time 0500 rolls around the tour buses have dropped off a few loads, cars have pulled up, and there are perhaps 150-200+ tourists standing there with you waiting for sunrise.  I’d do the same in the afternoon, arriving at 1600 two hours before sunset.

By the fifth day all I’d seen were cloud covered drab days without the appearance of the sun at either sunrise or sunset.  The morning once again disappointed me and here I was at almost 1800 looking at the same drab scene after already standing there for almost two hours.  Suddenly I felt a bit of warmth on my neck and turning around I saw the clouds start to part and about 30 seconds later parted to reveal the sun poking through.  A strong direct light came from behind me and lit up the structure with a golden tone that took my breath away. A few more holes in the cloud cover developed, and a beautiful reflection of the structure appeared in the still waters of the small lake.  All this time I’d had my hand on the remote shutter release, the camera set, and as I pressed the release I knew I had the perfect picture I’d waited for.  Pleased with myself I straightened up and looking around I saw 200+ tourists with small $200 compact point and shoots looking at the perfect picture on their small LCDs!  I smiled, sometimes you work very hard for a shot, some times a shot just happens.

Siem Reap

The above shot “just happened.”  Right place at the right time.  I captured it in Angkor Vat as well.  I’ve made several versions in color, black and white, and even went back and made an infrared version.  I love this scene.  The next time I visit Angkor Vat I’ll rent a dozen monks and space them out in their bright orange robes from the near to far end of the path.  I can’t wait.