This photo was taken at a local cemetery in Siam Reap, Cambodia, armed with my medium format 6×6 square format camera, I was in for a treat. 6×6 square format is my format and lends to its own unique sort of composition. No longer are you restricted to rules of thirds and now the image in front of the photographer will dictate the best composition for framing. The photo just flows on to the frame. There are landscape or portrait options, freeing your mind. Here I was using slide film, knowing that I would be shooting indoors in low contrast environments. The only challenge was fighting camera shake hand-holding a such a large and heavy camera. As with all spontaneous portraits, you need to be quick off the mark and this fully automatic medium format camera was simply made for the job compared to a relatively slower Hasselblad manual camera. If I was using a manual camera I am sure this image would just remain in my memory and never have made it on to film!
Another photo taken in Phnom Penh street side, the weather was steamy and there were lots of people just relaxing on various jumbles of makeshift furniture. Here is a powerful photo, with the man in the foreground in deep thought, the diagonal line drawn by the bench draws the viewer into the photo. The lens’ shallow depth of field isolated the main subject, with classic compositional placement of objects, makes for an emotive expression of the man contemplating.
Photo of a lime grocer in a street market of Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The biggest impression from my first trip to Cambodia is the people, after the long struggles during the evil Khmer Rouge regime the people’s morale is high and even in poverty the mood is uniformly happy everywhere. The Cambodian people are friendly and wasn’t photo shy, a smile from the photographer goes a long way. I made a concerted effort to show the picture I just took on the LCD display of the camera to the subject and that would invariably elicit laughter all around. It is important to make it easy for the next photographers to come along, so I always try to leave a happy trail.
This photo is one of my favorites of the trip, the natural spot lighting, the genuine smiles, the vibrant colors of the lime and various articles splayed about makes for a colorful photo. This lens is probably one of my favorite and most used in the Canon stable. It is sharp and high contrast with beautiful out of focus areas, if its the only lens I own I would be a happy man.
The bas relief sculpture on the walls of Angkor Wat is nothing short of remarkable, I highly recommend doing some research before going so you understand the stories behind the bas relief more, I would allot more time to study these sculptures while you are there. The story behind the bas relief starts on the eastern wall of the complex from the right hand side and go counter clockwise around the whole complex, it is a story about a war between demonic deities and Gods. The condition of the relief are in remarkable condition given their age and is a testament to the enduring craftsmanship of the ancient Khmer. This photo was taken in a rather dark and very narrow corner around the inner sanctum of the complex, its secluded position meant some protection from the elements and the deeper contours of the engraving remains and is more evident. The narrow confines made it difficult to take a photo, but with some tripod balancing act on the rubble and a wide angle lens I was able to capture this low contrast scene in stark relief. The small aperture on a wide angle lens made sure that the foreground and the background was in sharp focus. The original monotone nature of the rocks have been made vibrant not with post-processing but the multi-color hues of the lichen that has made its living for centuries off these forgotten women.
This photo was taken at a park adjacent to Wat Lang Ka in the center of Phnom Penh, this elephant has been a part of the local urban landscape for over ten years and is something of a celebrity in Downtown Phnom Penh. The photo depicts the elephants’ cranial aspects like those found in Egyptian wall reliefs sculpture. The body of the elephant is acting as a frame in the photo holding up three sides. The elephant is wearing sandals due to an injured paw, caused by wear on the hard concrete roads. You can tell this Cambodian elephant apart from its African counterpart from their much smaller ears. Elephants in the wilds of Cambodia are endangered and those in captivity are also diminishing in numbers. Elephant handling in Cambodia is an ancient art that is also in danger of extinction, these handlers are call Phnong, who traditionally use domesticated elephants for clearing trees for land cultivation, but as the value of the elephant increase with tourism, many Phnong are selling these elephants to large companies for use as transports around tourist sites like Angkor Wat.
I wasn’t sure what was the best way to start this new journey into my camera life, so I figure I will start with the boy depicted in the header. The picture is that of a boy on the streets of Cambodia. It isn’t even a particularly technically proficient photo, its taken in harsh sunlight, the boy is squinting, its actually a crop of a poorly composed picture to improve composition. But what I’ve learnt above all about photography is that a good photo is comprised many elements, but the most important is that the subject is significant to the me the photographer. So a snapshot done by a mother of her precious child is as important and satisfying to her as it was for Ansel Adams to take photos of wild America. This photo has significance for me because it brings back a happy memory.
A friend and I arrived at Ankor Thom near Siem Reap in the heat of the noon day sun, not the best time to explore, nor to take photographs but sometimes when traveling with a time limit you don’t always have the luxury to take photos during dawn and dusk, so you make do with what you’ve got. We trekked through the ruins of Ankor Thom and this boy followed us from the car, we didn’t know what he was about as he clearly didn’t understand any English so we initially ignored him. As we were exploring the boy would tug our sleeves and point to interesting markings and areas in the ruins, so what we have here was an impromptu and unasked for guide. We continued to explore the ruins and it was sweltering hot and there weren’t many photo worthy scenes, so after a hour and a half or so, we were glad to be heading back to the air-conditioned car. We decided to get the driver to pick us up from under the shade of a large tree instead of walking all the way to the car with our heavy gear. It was time for us to say bye to the little boy that silently have been following us for all that time.
I don’t usually give money to street urchins, but he was different, he actually gave us a service. So breaking with tradition we gave the boy US$1.00. What we didn’t expect was the joy that one dollar brought to him. It was an unforgettable experience to see this boy joyously skipping away from us, waving that dollar in the air like it was a winning lottery ticket down his imaginary yellow brick road.
This photo and the header reminds me that it is the joy that we bring into another’s life that makes life worth living. It is through photography that I have captured a fleeting moment in time to forever help refresh my failing memory.