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World Heritage with a splash of colour

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The world is beginning to open up again. Thoughts turn to travel. Where to next? Well, for some it will be South East Asia, a wonderful region for travel and photography. And an absolute must-visit has to be the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

It was about a week ago that I had a look back at images I shot while there in 2017. Flipping through them onscreen, a few random thoughts crystallised.

Add a splash of colour and perspective

One of my crystallised thoughts was the way that a small splash of colour adds a dimension of present-day into the stone structures. It injects life into the image, and for me, a favourite colour has to be red.

I do acknowledge that it was artist Dianne, my artist-in-residence, who brought to my attention the idea of a dash of red being special in an image. She says that Renaissance painters were among the first to deliberately use this trick.

But if you can’t find red, other colours can work ok too. This is especially if the opportunity for a different perspective presents itself.

Looking down, looking up. Perspective also adds interest, but I still like to see a splash of red in there

Maybe add even more people

Looking further into the image set, I find myself also liking the portrayal of groups as well as individuals. But I do prefer images where the architecture is dominant and the people are incidental.

People presence. When the architecture is the main game then I prefer an image where people don’t dominate. It’s good to have them there, but not to the extent that they detract from the overall impact of such a special site.

Street photography at an ancient site

A completely different approach at special sites such as Angkor Wat is to find a place to watch the world go by, indulging in some quiet and unobtrusive street photography.

This presents an interesting challenge in deciding whether to emphasise the people or the architecture. Or maybe give equal weighting to both. The joy of spending multiple days at Angkor Wat is that it allows opportunities for experimentation and trial of different approaches to photography.

Where next?

So, a quick review of some old images has reinforced certain aspects that I want to keep in mind as the world moves back into travel mode. Where to go next? Remote, special, historic are three criteria on my checklist. Hmmm. Thinking.

(The gear? Well, the weather was inclement, so I used my trusty backup rainy-day camera, A Fuji X20. Compact and lightweight, and now almost as ancient as Angkor Wat, it still delivers when rain is forecast).

Read more Wayne Gerlach articles on Macfilos


21 COMMENTS

    • Hello George, glad to see that you read through to the end of the article and noticed that the camera was a Fuji.
      Yes, my trustu little Fuji travel camera, because on days when rain is present or threatens I use it instead of one of my Leica compacts. Even then, the Leica compacts are really just Panasonic Lumix’s, albeit with a red dot and a sprinkling of Leica fairy dust (as our editor has written in the past).
      In fact, if Leica had maintained their long past relationship with Fuji I’d think that the little X20 would have looked good with a red dot a few years ago. They really are a great little camera, now quite old in the digital era, but they still produce very pleasing results. You can pick them up for pocket money (almost) on Ebay – get one, you won’t regret it 🙂

      • Fantastic shot the 05-1 for instance: the vertical with four women. My experience with Leica dust was a long one with M8, although it wasn’t magic but common sensor dust. Since then no more M. Just a CL forever… I keep three Fuji’s for using in their decisive moments, as you say.

        • Thanks for further comment George. In fact, the four lady shot and the two accompanying are my favourites in the set ….. Am I allowed to nominate my own favourite(s) ?

          • Absolutely
            In my view two others are good exercises but inferior due to a more casual overall . Composition is great in that one. Plus frame inside a frame, hats vs hatless, standing vs not etc

  1. A place that always captures my attention, can’t pick a favorite photo! Envy your trips, thank you for finishing my week.

    • Cheers John. I enjoyed trawling the archives to compile them, and realizing which images I liked more than others, and why.

  2. Thanks, Wayne. As a result of reading your contribution, my wife Cathy and I feel re-inspired to visit Angkor Wat. The strongest photo, in my opinion, is the one with the stones in the foreground at the lower right of the first group. What might be the best times in the year for photographing early in the morning and late in the afternoon?

    • Thanks Frank. There are so many sights similar the one that you like to be found all over a huge area. It is a magic place. Allow yourself a number of days sightseeing if you are able to visit. There are good hotel accommodations in Siem Reap, just a couple of miles from all the major archeological areas. Temples and ruins everywhere, magical.
      And yes early morning or late afternoon are both ideal for photography. I’m not a morning person, but on day one our guide insisted that we be at the main temple site before dawn to see the sun rise over the temples. Well worth it. And that afternoon he took me and the Leica X1 back to catch the changing colours on the main temple as the sun set (Michael – I can’t seem to find that articlefrom a few years ago using the Macfilos search engine, in order to reference it).

  3. In 2008 when I was living and working in Qatar, I was going to speak at a conference in Thailand and bring my wife with me and then go on to Angkor Wat after the conference. However my wife was feeling unwell just before we were due to depart and so I just went to the conference by myself and we cancelled the Angkor Wat leg of the journey. My wife was perfectly fine after I got back from Thailand

    I have often regretted not going at that time. Wayne, your lovely photos have made me regret that even more. However, our days of making long flights across the globe have largely gone by now and neither of us would have much enthusiasm for flying to Cambodia from Dublin.

    As for cameras, for me these days smaller is better when travel is involved.

    William

    • Thank you William. Yes, it was unfortunate that you and your wife were unable to visit Angkor Wat. It truly is one of the world’s great places. But health comes first, so I’m sure that you made the right decision at the time.
      And yes, I agree fully that smaller cameras are preferable for travel photography. Even today I’d probably use my Sony RX100. Teeny tiny pocketable and high quality witha short zoom, I blame our Editor Michael and Macfilos correspondent David Babsky for heading me down that line. Although the siren call of the Ricoh GR series can also be heard if I sit quietly.
      I’m sure you would have a one or two favourite compact film cameras in your collection that your would choose for travel. I wonder which one(s)?

  4. Thanks Wayne for sharing this article which brings back fond memories of this place. The Angkor temples are magnificient. You’ve made your little Fuji shine. I suppose the small zoom must have been a great help to capture details of the architecture and sculptures. Like William I think small cameras are the best travel companions.
    Jean

    • Hello Jean. I have just now read your comment, after entering my reply to William above.
      Yes, I was actually thinking of you and other Macfilos members of the Ricoh GR clan as I wrote that last sentence 🙂 You are correct that for travel photography I do appreciate the short zoom of my little old Fuji X20 and newer Sony X100, and that is probably the only reason that I haven’t yet pulled the trigger on a GR………but never say never…..
      True though, that a small pocketable camera makes for easier travel photography, for me at least. But if folks prefer to carry larger kit then more power to them, or should I admit “more powerful them”.

  5. Interesting article Wayne which raises many questions. Hard to get a meaningful photograph of a ‘decisive moment’ with such a background. Maybe one day I’ll try it there myself!

    • Thanks Kevin. You are quite correct that it isn’t easy to choose a background for classical “decisive moment” photography. That’s why I suggest that the very special architecture of the ruins should dominate over humans in the images, as much as possible. The only image that approaches a decisive moment might be the one of the lady with the red backpack beyond the two headless statues, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to get a better perspective for that one.
      Yes, do try to get there, and take the X Vario, it would provide you with great results.

  6. Thanks, Wayne, for the practical travel advice and the photographic encouragement. Sounds fabulous!

  7. Just been looking through my pictures of Angkor Wat ..yours are completely different from mine.

    Mine are more like your first four pictures ..with few people in them, and with many close-ups of the engravings, reliefs, inscriptions and other details ..especially the gigantic faces carved in the rocks.

    ( I used an old Sony F828 ..that’s (one of) the camera(s) with the tilting lens ..and a resolution of 2048 x 1536 ..that’s only THREE MEGAPIXELS! ..But they look OK to me.)

    But wow! ..Yours are so very detailed! I really like the 6th picture: you really have to hunt through the photo to find the people (..apart from the man with the blue backpack). I like that the three women are all facing in different directions, and almost blend in with the stone. (Mr Turner used that ‘red splodge’ trick, too, but I find it more interesting with these pictures to try to find the humans within the stone environment.)

    (I found that many of my pictures were taken from inside, giving lots of contrast between distant light, and the dark stone within. Yours are all bright and sunny, and seem to show the exteriors much more. But perhaps those are just the ones which you’ve chosen for this selection.)

    I find your photos – like the one with the woman sweeping – of native Cambodians amidst the stones – rather than international tourists – are so much more satisfying: they ..and that one in particular.. really embody ‘Cambodia’, rather than saying ‘Tourism’.

    I’d hang that (almost timeless) picture of the woman sweeping on the wall.

    David.

  8. Gday David.
    I do also have many images of the type that you indicate in your collection. Angkor Wat is such a wonderful place….and photo opportunities are everywhere.
    As I said, it was only during a review of the archive that it crystallised that I especially liked those with a red splash or subdued people within the stonework (or both). I did spend a few minutes photographing the local lady sweeping. It was special to watch her from a distance as she quietly and contentedly went about her work.
    And you are quite correct that Turner liked to use the red splash trick. A Diploma in Fine Arts is coming your way 😃

  9. For me a place I would love to see, let alone have a camera on hand to be around. This is one of those iconic places for me, and must thank you Wayne for showing me it in true technicolour, and above all else in a way I had never thought of.

    You made me laugh, with the very discreet – the boss told me to shoot with red in the image. But agree with the point, against the stark stone it truly works. Our historical artists clearly knew a thing or two, and the modern world really does not need to reinvent these perspectives.

    Thank you for sharing, made a hard day, enjoyable.

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