This image is from nearly 6 years ago at Angkor Vat.  As one of my favorites its printed and displayed on the wall in my apartment.  On this specific wall there are two 20x24 inch prints, and four 11x14’s.  This is printed at 11x14 inches.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, over the last few months I’ve watched numerous clients and visitors stop to carefully check out this one wall.  It’s my “Angkor Vat” wall and some of my favorite images from Angkor Vat are on display.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L USM, @F8  1/5th  35mm  ISO 100

 

This image is from nearly 6 years ago at Angkor Vat.  As one of my favorites its printed and displayed on the wall in my apartment.  On this specific wall there are two 20x24 inch prints, and four 11x14’s.  This is printed at 11x14 inches.  So what’s the big deal?  Well, over the last few months I’ve watched numerous clients and visitors stop to carefully check out this one wall.  It’s my “Angkor Vat” wall and some of my favorite images from Angkor Vat are on display.   

What peaked my curiosity is that virtually every person spends more than a few minutes checking out the wall and six images, and in most every case they finish with this print, as if they enjoy it the most.  Once they tune into this image you can always watch their face go through a series of emotions and thoughts.  Several have remarked “that’s a very powerful image.”  Perhaps.  But what I want to talk about is why I made this capture and what was involved. 

Angkor Vat is a huge complex encompassing many temples and buildings and just as many outdoor scenes.  I’ve spent weeks there, each day further refining my shot list.  This image wasn’t on my shot list.  I was walking through a dark temple late in the day right before the park was to be closed and was greeted by dark grey wall after dark grey wall.  Several photography groups being led by workshop pros were guiding their group to take the more common aisle of door frames like the shot below.  (sorry for the poor focus, but I never intended to use this shot and grabbed it in passing with no serious effort)

 

 If you can excuse the focus, you can see why this view is a workshop staple.  Cascading door frames, directional light, and color at the end of the aisle.  I’ve said before, if I wanted postcards I’d just buy some and save myself from lugging my gear around.  I’ve also said before that when you see groups of photographers pointing their cameras in a certain direction, look in the opposite direction and it’s there where you’ll often find the much better composition.  This day was a great example.  Turning 180 degrees I saw my feature photograph.

Canon 1ds Mark II, 24-70mm F2.8L  USM  @F8  8/10th  57mm  ISO 100

 

If you can excuse the focus, you can see why this view is a workshop staple.  Cascading door frames, directional light, and color at the end of the aisle.  I’ve said before, if I wanted postcards I’d just buy some and save myself from lugging my gear around.  I’ve also said before that when you see groups of photographers pointing their cameras in a certain direction, look in the opposite direction and it’s there where you’ll often find the much better composition.  This day was a great example.  Turning 180 degrees I saw my feature photograph. 

I was tempted to move to the right and make the capture of the shrine, praying lady, AND the cascading doorframes.  But it didn’t feel right.  Motioning to my assistant for my tripod I quietly and quickly set up the tripod and mounted the camera, pulled out my Gossen light meter I use for such shots, and quickly adjusted the settings on my then new Canon 1ds Mark II in manual mode.  Using an external shutter release cable, I then made the capture.  Just one.  Because I was using my personal light meter and because I was very familiar with how my light meter meters light.. I only took the one exposure. 

I wanted ISO 100 for the best image quality, the perfect framing from the most powerful angle, and in my 24-70mm’s sweet spot for sharpness and the least possible distortion.  I knew if I metered the light correctly the colors of the shrine would stand out and the graduations of light on the walls would be apparent.  The reason I did this quickly is because we were at the time of day where the light was dropping fast.  My first light meter reading taken before setting up, was a full stop different from the reading I took after setup and right before the exposure. The sun was falling that fast.  I was also concerned the lady, who I considered an essential component of the composition would move or leave at any moment. 

There are so many reasons I love this image.  It’s full of color from the oranges in the shrine to the green moss on the wall, you get a feel of the ‘cascading doorframes’, graduated direction light, a lady in fervent prayer, and more than anything a glimpse of what is now a tourist attraction.. being used as it was meant to be used for centuries.  No tourists.  No modern anything.  This image could have been captured hundreds of years ago and nothing in the composition would be out of place.  It’s the one truly different image from that days shooting that you won’t find on a post card.  And it helps that its technically correct. 

I miss Angkor Vat.  I’ll be going back early next year.