Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Photography Tour of Angkor Temples, Cambodia

Are you planning a visit to the famous Angkor temples of Cambodia? Are you looking to take back home some great photographs? If you are, I should let you know that the best way to begin your Angkor temple tour is by going on a photography tour of these temples. This helps set a good precedent to your trip and allows you to understand the best lighting times and the best positions for each of the temples.

Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Well, I was in Siem Reap recently and took a photography tour from GetYourGuide to help me understand the topography, sun direction, the lighting times for each temple, a bit of the important history and the best positions to photograph the various temples. Well, when I did end up taking the tour, I was very impressed by the way GetYourGuide had arranged everything so nicely. Peace of Angkor was their local service provider and a very good guide came to pick me up in the early hours of the morning in an air-conditioned car.

Light coming through the pillars inside Angkor WatThe guide helped me understand the itinerary and asked me if I wished to change it. I told him that I would trust his judgment as he has had more experience with Angkor than me. Thus, we bought our 3 day temple pass at the entrance and found ourselves at the pond beside Angkor Wat. The guide took us to the position for the best shot and also gave me an idea of the approximate sunrise time. After the sunrise, we took a detailed walk through the 3 levels of Angkor Wat. During this walk, he explained the overall history and some of the finer elements in the architecture.

Entering the Bayon Temple, Cambodia
The next stop was breakfast where we stopped at a good hotel and enjoyed a hearty breakfast for about 30 minutes. The car then took us to the Angkor Thom campus where we began with the Bayon Temple. First, my guide walked me all across the temple and appraised me of the interesting things of Bayon’s history and something about the 54 towers and the 216 faces. When we entered inside the temple, he continued educating us about the various areas of the temple while guiding us to the best photography positions. Since the guide himself was an amateur photographer, he had a good understanding of lighting.

Smiling faces of Bayon, Cambodia
After Bayon, we walked to the Terrace of the Leper King before breaking for lunch as the sun was really getting to us. Since the sun was really sharp, we decided to take a long lunch at a good restaurant. All our meals were included in the tour package. Post lunch, we headed to the Ta Prohm temple or popularly known as the Tomb Raider temple after the movie Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider. The lighting here was good as the temple is covered by trees, but the crowd here was a little too much to handle. We could have visited this place in the morning, but photos would have come out bad as the place would have been dark due to the heavy forest cover.

Ta Prohm temple taken over by the roots
After Ta Prohm, we decided to visit a nearby temple called Banteay Kdei as we still had enough time for the Angkor Wat sunset. The Banteay Kdei temple was mostly in ruins, but looked elegant in its own way. Shortly, we made our way to Angkor Wat. Here our guide took us to see the reflection of Angkor Wat by the moat surrounding it, but due to the sharp light it didn’t come out well.

Evening time near the moat that surrounds Angkor Wat
When we entered the Angkor  campus,the light was still bright, hence we decided to wait it out and then also got time to explore the shops nearby. Finally, we got to see the reflections of Angkor Wat just before sunset. It was beautiful and marked an end to a hectic, but very eventful day.

Angkor Wat and reflections in monochrome
This comfortable tour in the company of a knowledgeable local guide helped me appreciate Angkor’s history while helping me understand the various photography lighting and position nuances that I could leverage over the successive visits. The AC car and good food were good luxuries to have on that hot day. In overall, I would definitely recommend taking such tours on the first day of your Angkor temple

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