Part 2: The Power of Nature.
The Angkor Wat Archaeological Park covers an area of approximately 400 square kilometres and is made up of over 1,000 temples. They were first built as Hindu temples later becoming Buddhist and date back from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Many of the temples are overgrown and have been ravaged over time.
The first time I visited one of the overgrown temples in 1999, it left a lasting impression. This was before Ta Prohm temple was well known, as it later appeared in the film Tomb Raider. Giant trees stand proud, growing from the tops of temples with their roots looking like drops of melting wax reaching for the ground.
What fascinates me about the Angkor Wat temple complex is the evident power of nature. The temples that were built as a place of high devotion rising from the Earth, to them being abandoned and nature steadily taking them back. Mammoth trees rise out of some of the temples ripping them apart slowly.
Weather over time has eroded the carvings, indeed destroyed many of them, but at the same time made them into a new form of beauty.
Lichens and mosses have slowly covered the carvings over the centuries adding another dimension to them.
They have been transformed into potent Nature temples. If each temple were weathered or destroyed down to the last grain of rock, the temples would still be there for eternity.
The Earth swallows the toppled temples returning them to where they once came, completing a cycle.
The temples that make up the Angkor Wat complex are fantastic locations for photography. Having visited them on countless occasions since 1999 my favourite time of year is just after the monsoon rains have finished, when they are at their most verdant. Up until 2006 I shot solely on a Mamiya RZ medium format camera, using Fuji Velvia 50 ISO transparency film with the camera always mounted on my Manfrotto tripod for my travel and landscape photography. With this set up I could keep the ISO low which meant less grain and better quality for my exhibition prints, I could also use lower shutter speeds too. By this time the body of the photography work on the temples of Angkor Wat had been built and the photographs had been exhibited on many occasions.
In 2006 I bought my first digital camera, the Canon EOS 1DS Mark II which became a game changer. At this time many of my pro photographer friends also made this switch to digital too. I found the transition quite natural and enjoyed working with a new camera, testing its capabilities and limitations. Gone were having to carry around rolls and rolls of film, polaroid and wet processing, in were digital SLR’s, CF cards, computers, electrical plugs and software. With all this my style of photography started to change and evolve, my passion for Cambodia remained.
Join me next week on my continued journey to Angkor Wat with my new digital workflow.
Stephen Studd is an award winning professional travel & garden photographer from the UK. Stephen also runs photography holidays and workshops to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Myanmar, Marrakech, Venice, Prague & Paris with his company Digital Photography Holidays.