Dave's Photo & Travelblogue

Photo shoots. World travel advice. Tips on Munich & environs.

HDR Photography in Cambodia

So, I’ve finally processed a few of the High Dynamic Range photo sequences that I took on the RTW trip. Here are a few from Cambodia, which you can also see (in higher resolution) on my Flickr page.

This is probably my favorite of the final prints, taken from the third floor of the Angkor Spirit Palace hotel in Siem Reap where I was staying. The benefit of HDR is that you can see detail in both the bright and dark areas of the final “composite” picture.

Cambodia Sunset over Rice Paddies

Here’s an interesting shot of an approaching storm, which killed the sunset I was waiting for at this temple. Unfortunately the software I have isn’t good at aligning images, and has no manual feature. So they didn’t line up perfectly, something you can see in some of the edges where light meets dark (but only in the higher res versions on Flickr). Either way, the scene is great – everything from rain, to black clouds, to blue sky!

Angkor Storm - Badly Aligned

Finally I’ll close up with another photo from the rice paddies sunset over Siem Reap. There was actually someone burning brush over behind the trees, that’s why there’s an area with smoke rising.

Cambodia Sunset 2 over Rice Paddies

There will be a lot more HDR photos coming, as I go through the Camera RAW images that I took all throughout the RTW adventure. Stay tuned!

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 2:56 pm.

1 comment

Temples of Angkor

Based on a friend’s advice, I hired a guide to visit Angkor Archaeological Park. Best advice yet! It cost me $25 for a full day, plus $12 for the tuk-tuk (my guide brought his own excellent driver). I met Saron and Mr. Nan early on July 20th.

First things first: if you see Angkor Wat without a guide, it’s just a big pile of old stones. Even with a guidebook, you’ll spend hours figuring out where you are and which paragraph describes the temple or carving you’re facing. Then, you won’t know where to go next or what’s the best nearby temple – so you’ll need 2-3 days to see what a guide can show you in one day. Think of how much you spent to get here. The extra $25 for a guide (probably split between a group of 2-4) is nothing!

Here’s the first temple we saw. As an experiment, they have left the large trees growing amid the stones. Cutting them (and the subsequent root-system decay) can destabilize the stones and cause a collapse, if its not done carefully.

Tree growing on an Angkor temple

My guide Saron (http://www.sarontours.com/) is one of the most friendly, honest, and well-spoken natives I’ve met in Asia. His prices are reasonable, he really knows his stuff, and he didn’t try to persuade me for any shopping or donations. Besides this, I really appreciated his humanitarian outlook, as he formerly worked in community outreach and education programs. Besides explaining Angkor, he showed me Cambodia from a native’s viewpoint.

Face hidden by trees - I hear this is on a guidebook cover

When people think of Angkor Wat, this is the temple that comes to mind:

Angkor Wat temple

But the Angkor complex is so much more. There are hundreds of temples, and Angkor Thom is actually a whole city interspersed here and there with temples. Each King had to build temples to the gods and to his forebears, so over hundreds of years, this really added up. Many have been restored to reach the condition they’re in today, and teams from several nations are working hard on further restorations.

There’s so much to say about Angkor, and I have too many photos! I’ll just give a brief selection of memorable moments. Here’s a comical carving (from the kilometers of wall carvings at the complex). See if you can figure it out:

Angkor wall carving - turtle bite

The man and his wife are walking with a pole between them. But she has walked too close behind him! The turtle hanging from the pole has bitten him in the butt, so he’s upset with her.

From the correct angle, the Buddha faces seem to be rubbing noses:

Buddhas touching noses

Some of the temples still have moats around them. These are actually for structural reasons! The foundations were built on sand, and wet sand is more stable. Many temples collapsed when their moats dried up. The builders also learned from their mistakes: temples without enough stairways collapsed, so newer temples have more stairways angled in many directions. Think of the stairways like European cathedral buttresses.

Angkor temple - reflection in the pond

Eventually I’ll write more posts about the fascinating Angor Wat and surrounding temples. But I hope this taste has piqued your interest in traveling to Cambodia! It’s a wonderful country, and I can thank my guide Saron for making the experience even better.

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 3:22 pm.


Angkor Sunset Storm

Admission to Angkor Archaeological Park, to see Angkor Wat and the other temples, is simple: choose a one-day, three-day, or one-week ticket. The multi-day tickets are usable over a longer period (I think a week and a month, respectively).

One really nice thing that I prefer over Machu Picchu: with the one-day ticket, you can enter the park a day before your visit, after 5pm, to see the sunset. Sweet!

Unfortunately for me, the sunset on July 19th got rained out. But I did get to climb up to the “sunset temple” (I can’t remember the Khmer name, but every tuk-tuk knows it). Eventually I will post some HDR (High Dynamic Range) shots of the rain approaching across the low-lying forest. Here’s the temple itself:

Sunset viewing temple at Angkor park

The stairs are quite steep. Go slowly and don’t look down – yeah, that steep. The idea of these temples was to imitate mountains, because Cambodia doesn’t have any majestic peaks like the Himalayas. Gods would be persuaded to visit these simulated mountain peaks, and even the King had to climb hand-over-hand up the stairways, humble before the gods.

Without HDR, the best one can do to capture the majestic clouds is to silhouette the foreground. Fortunately, the temples of Angkor lend themselves perfectly to this strategy.

Silhouette at Angkor park

Yes, that baby thunderhead was an omen of things to come. I waited out a brief shower from the west after talking to a tour guide who said it didn’t look too bad. Ten minutes later I saw another wall of rain moving toward us from north. When the guide saw that, he said, “Oh. That direction it usually lasts longer. I have to talk to my tour group, maybe we go down now.”

I took my cue and headed home, beating the rush to the tuk-tuks by ten minutes. My hotel driver unfortunately didn’t have any roll-down sides for the tuk-tuk (which every other one had), so I got soaked anyway.

Just as an aside: compare the shot above with a similar one where the silhouette is centered.

Example of bad framing at Angkor park

Bo-ring! The more interesting framing of the first shot captures the sky and the silhouette much better. Using the “Rule of Thirds,” place your subject on imaginary lines dividing the frame into thirds (vertically and/or horizontally). This composition makes a much more aesthetic photo.

As for a Cambodian sunset: I did see one a couple days later. Coming up soon! What was your best sunset ever, or worst attempt at seeing one? Flickr links please! <grin>

Posted 11 years, 9 months ago at 3:17 pm.


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