DPS 6-02: Images of Cambodia, Going Beyond the Postcard

Images of Cambodia: Going beyond the Postcard + New Cameras Announced for PMA


DPS 6-02: Images of Cambodia:
Going beyond the Postcard + New Cameras Announced for PMA

Moving Beyond the Classic Postcard Shots

Everyone is familiar with Angkor Wat, and most likely you've seen a classic sunrise image like the one above on a postcard or in a coffee table book. Without question it is a great experience to wait quietly before dawn for the sun to peek over the towers. The many other people patiently waiting for the same thing detract only slightly from the event and of course don't affect your final photograph.

But one of the joys of leading or participating in a specialized photo safari is that we have enough time to go beyond the typical postcard images and create unique images that convey our own personal vision of sites and cultures. In this case we were able to go back for a second dawn and approach Angkor Wat from the other side. Instead of being surrounded by dozens of other tourists and photographers we had the entire side of the complex to ourselves. Alison and Ed chose to use the opportunity to make some great images of the stone carvings and shrines in the galleries with the morning light just touching them, like the one below.

Most of the rest of the group enjoyed the views and photographs from the warmly lit Southern side, which offers some expansive views. I noticed that a large portable seating structure had been placed on the East side for the nighttime spectacles--which provided a unique opportunity to photograph the temple "straight on" from about 20' up in the air rather than the usual ground level shot. I had always wanted to capture an image that conveyed the whole sweep of its height from the ground level galleries all the way to the towers. I'd imagined the image being in black and white like the first classic photos of the temple captured when it was "discovered" by French explorers.

Unique Perspectives

Almost as familiar as the profile of Angkor Wat is the tree growing through the Ta Phrom temple. It doesn't take long standing in front of the tree to see why. Every busload of tourists to Cambodia seems to have to stand in front of the tree and have their guide take their photograph. Ambitious groups pose one a time for portraits in front of the tree. Not only can the wait become quite long if you want to pose in front of the tree, but the chances of getting a shot of the tree without people in it can seem quite slim at times. Fortunately patience and planning is also rewarded here. The tourist flocks all rush off to a pre-planned hilltop sunset leaving enough time to enjoy the tree in solitude and think a little about how to photograph it.

Aside from the obvious interest of the tree and the building and it's familiarity there isn't much color in the scene and being deep in the forest it is almost never evenly or warmly lit. But because I could finally get close and work near the tree I realized that the fallen stones that had moved out of place near it would make a great element in the image and that going vertical would help capture more of the essence of the tree instead of the more common landscape mode images which emphasize the lines of the temple. The result was an image which keeps the familiarity of the scene but provides a new look at it from a different perspective.

Any site visited by a large number of tourists will necessarily have lots of access restrictions. The result tends to be many images shot from the same or similar locations. So there is a substantial benefit if you can make your way to lesser known or harder to reach sites that still have photographic value. In our case we spend a portion of our days in Cambodia heading out to temples that aren't as well known or aren't as easy for large groups to visit. We're rewarded with the opportunity to exercise our creativity by shooting new subjects from new locations. Below you can see Alison shooting down from a "pile of rocks" at one of our favorite jungle temples where there are seldom more than a few visitors.

But by being creative with perspective we created shots like this one:

Creative Timing

Similarly, getting to photogenic sites early in the day can make a large difference. By mid-morning, Banteay Srei, for example, is inundated with tour buses and everyone has to carefully follow a prescribed route through the complex. But an hour after dawn we're inevitably the only people there and are able to set up for panoramas like the one below with no one else in the image.

Off the Beaten Path

Cambodians themselves can also be wonderful photo subjects. In general they are friendly, courteous and outgoing. Unfortunately many of the locals around the major temples make their living by either hawking souvenirs to tourists or begging for money to get their photo taken. Here too a little effort pays off handsomely. In this case the woman on our trip were particularly interested in visiting a nearby market that we had heard good things about, so Bonnie made sure we made time for a walk through teh market one morning. It was far enough away from the major temples that they saw almost no tourists so interacting with us became a great break from their normal daily sales chores. We had a great time and got some wonderful images like the ones below.

So the next time you're heading off to a great location, think about taking a little extra time and planning so you can go beyond the postcard images of the site and create some passionate images of your own. If you'd like to join us on our trips we'll of course be happy to give you some more ideas and lots of opportunities to fulfill your creative vision. We'll be headed back to Cambodia as well as Burma and Laos in December and hope you can join us. You can learn more about the trip or sign up on line. We've also posted these and and our as web galleries. As an experiment we're using Flickr for these images (note they are still protected by copyright) so please give us your feedback on how you like it.

--David Cardinal, Cardinal Photo

Invitation to participate in our December, 2008 Photo Safari to Cambodia and Burma with an extension to Laos

If you're interested in visiting Burma and doing some photography, we hope you can join us for our December, 2008 safari to Burma and Cambodia (with an optional extension to Laos). There really is no better time to go. To learn more or sign up visit our or email us at safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com. Our 2008 trip will similar to the dates from 2007 (the weather was ideal both for traveling and for photography)--November 30th to December 13th, but we have made a couple improvements based on what we've learned from previous trips: we're adding a day in Cambodia to allow us to have more time to work with our images since there is just so much to see there we keep running out of time, and we're adding the day in Burma for a similar reason and to allow more time for those who want to do more non-photographic sight-seeing (think shopping:-) while the rest of us spend some time working with our images. PS We've been asked about the maximum group size. As always we'll keep the group small, with a maximum of 8 photographers on this trip.

Cardinal Photo Safaris Update:

Grizzly bear female
Alaska bear safari

Alaska Grizzly Bear & Puffin trips, July 2008:

Our 2008 sessions are nearly sold out but we have 1 opening left for week 1 (week 2 is wait list only), so . We'll have plenty of Alaskan Brown "Grizzly" Bears, as well as visit rookeries for Horned Puffins, Tufted Puffins, Common Murres and Kittiwakes. We're also likely to have some good Bald Eagle photographic opportunities and of course scenic shots of mountains, coastline and lovely flowers. This is a great trip for couples or non-shooting companions as the lodge is in a beautiful setting on the coast with plenty of opportunity for other activities.

Africa :
May 2008 trip is SOLD OUT

Other Dates for 2008 & 2009 are TBD

Our trips feature plenty of mammals & birds. We'll see lions, elephants, giraffe, leopards, cheetah and quite a few varieties of antelope along with several dozen other species of exotic animals. For more details email safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com.

Asia Photo Safari, January, 2007

Burma and Cambodia, December 2008:

We're excited about returning to Burma (Myanmar) and Cambodia. The main trip will be divided between the temple areas in Cambodia (especially the Angkor temple complex including Angkor Wat) and Burma (including historic Mandalay and the plain of temples at Bagan, as well as the capital Yangon, nee Rangoon). . We'll also have an optional post-trip extension to Laos, featuring Vientianne & Luang Prabang.

We just finished a second very successful 2007 trip and are ready with what we think will be an even better itinerary for next December and next December. .

Crested Caracara
South Texas Safari, 2007

South Texas Birds, April 13-19, 2008
2008 is SOLD OUT, email safaris [at] cardinalphoto.com for wait list or 2009 information

After a great safari this year I'm anxious to get back to "The Valley" in south Texas and join a few of you to really focus on bird photography for a week again next year. There is no better way to improve your shooting skills, hone your flight shot technique and come home with lots of great images than by spending a week with us at these awesome Lens & Land properties.

We have some great upgrades for 2008, including luxury accomodations at a brand new game lodge close to the ranches. The small trip size (maximum 6 shooters), private ranches, and full service structure (all your local transportation, room, meals and drinks are included!) make this the premier trip to South Texas for bird photography. or .

events updated 1/28/2008

PMA 2008 Early Camera Announcements

As expected PMA has brought with it a flurry of new camera announcements. Even before the show has started Nikon has introduced the and Canon the Nikon has also unleashed a flurry of . You can read our quick summaries here or follow links to the press releases:

January 29: Nikon introduces entry-level 10MP D60 D-SLR with EXPEED chip, fast start-up, 3fps, support for SDHC & Eye-Fi cards. Available in February, price TBD.

January 29: Nikon introduces 6 new Coolpix models (Coolpix L18, S210, S520, S550, S600, P60), with breakthrough low prices for 8MP to 10MP resolution, packed with features, and some even have a new "Food" mode and "Active Child" mode. .

January 24: Canon introduces , 12.2MP D-SLR with 3" LCD, LiveView and improved CMOS sensor for $800 MSRP. The XSi is also Canon's first D-SLR to use SD & SDHC cards instead of CompactFlash cards. It is expected to ship in April and will also be available with the 18-55mm "kit" lens for $900.

January 23: Canon updates its Powershot line with 4 new models the . [Note: I'm looking forward to upgrading my SD1000 to an SD1100 or one of the new CoolPixes when they comes out in February/March to take advantage of Image Stabilization.]

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