Cambodia is an ancient land with a broad culture. Since it was once a colony of France, a lot of French influence can be found in the capitol of Phnom Penh in both the architecture and cuisine. Cambodia is also home to one of the largest religious complexes in the world – Angkor Wat. This vast complex is home to a myriad of temples, some of which are still heavily covered with jungle. This photo adventure will include those locations along with floating villages, crab fishermen and Buddhist monks praying in their temple. Bountiful markets filled with all manner of food and goods will bring wonderful photographic opportunities. You will learn how to scout out locations to achieve the best lighting. The small group size ensures that everybody gets the attention they need with individual help when desired.
Itinerary: arrive in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Day 1 – Arrive in Phnom Penh. You will be picked up at airport and transported to our hotel. It is expected that you will be arriving late and will be jet lagged so this is a rest day.
Day 2 – We meet in the morning over breakfast to get to know each other and find out what your photographic interests are and what type of imagery you are hoping to capture. After breakfast we will take a walking tour through the colonial city to the Silver Pagoda and Royal Palace. Dating back to the 1860’s, this is still the primary residence for the King of Cambodia. Ornate buildings and gardens offer many photographic opportunities.
In the afternoon we head along the Sisowath Quay to the Old Market where food and fruit vendors hawk their goods. Afterwards we head to Wat Phnom. Built in 1372, it is the tallest religious structure in the city. Following of day of shooting, we will then gather for a welcome dinner. (B) (D)
Day 3 – Today starts off with a trip to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the infamous “killing fields”. To appreciate modern Cambodia, one must have a sense of their recent history. The museum was at one point a high school that was turned into a prison. The prison cells and instruments of torture are still there to be seen and photographed.
After lunch, we head back to the city for a river tour to Silk Island. The pace of the island is far different than the city that is visible just across the river. Here fisherman strive to make a living and, as the name suggests, looms are a regular household item as locals spin and weave silk into all manner of items. From the Mekong River, we will enjoy a sunset view of the city. (B) (D)
Day 4 – Today we head south to the coast and the small beach town of Kep. Once a resort town for the French and Cambodian elite, the civil war caused many of the mansions and villas to be destroyed though their ghostly shells as still dot the landscape.
We will explore Kep’s famous crab market where you will see and photograph live, fresh crabs and other seafood pulled from the ocean. Here, if you are strong enough, you can haggle for fresh crab then have it cooked for you on the pier. Right across from the beach are numerous abandoned mansions that we will explore and photograph. Some have families living in them with the permission of the original owners to protect them against unauthorized squatters. Others are empty. They are a stark reminder of what happened under the Khmer Rouge.
We will then spend time along the beach scouting for our sunset location, learning how to predict what the lighting will look like at a particular location as the sun changes position. (B) (D)
Day 5 – We take off early today to a local fishing village. The fishermen here usually spend the night out in the ocean and return to shore at dawn. We’ll photograph them and their brightly colored boats as they remove their haul to shore.
Heading into the countryside, we will next take back roads to explore the little seen side of Cambodia. Field workers in rice paddies, salt fields, oxen and water buffalo are all potential photographic subjects. Heading back to Kep before the light gets too low, we will explore more locations for another sunset shot. (B) (D)
Day 6 – Today our tour travels to Siem Reap, home of the vast Angkor Wat temple complex. It is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and part of one of the largest religious complexes. The entire complex covers around 154 square miles! After checking in to our hotel we will take a quick trip to Angkor Wat for location scouting our sunrise photos for the next morning. (B) (D)
Day 7 – We get up early for a classical sunrise shot of the temples at Angkor Wat. While most of the tourist then head off for bed or breakfast, we will be able to photograph the temple grounds in relative peace. We will continue the exploration with a visit to Ta Prohm. Here, huge trees grow out of the abandoned buildings and include some of the most iconic locations in the area. At mid day, when the temperature is hottest, you can take a break or explore on your own before we all head out again for Angkor Thom and the Bayon temple with its 216 gigantic faces. There are multiple locations here for sunset shots. We will explore and scout together to find locations that suit your photographic vision. (B) (D)
Day 8 – Starting with the soft morning light, we explore the temples of Preah Khan, Pre Rup and Banteay Kdei with its magnificent Apsara carvings. Later in the day we will visit a monastery to talk with and photograph the monks. We will be there in time for their evening devotions. While respecting the ceremony, we will be able to photograph the monks in communal prayer. (B)
Day 9 – Today we travel out of the main Angkor complex to explore unrestored temples that are seldom seen by tourist. Ta Nei, Chaw Srei Vibol and Beng Mealea. These temple ruins emerge out of the jungle in pieces, begging for exploration. You will scramble over fallen blocks of stone while weaving your way through a wonder of photographic possibilities. (B) (L)
Day 10 – We start the day with a visit to a market that few tourist visit, Phsar Leu. Even though it is probably one of the most authentic markets in the entire town, few tourist make the trip to explore the food and goods that are available.
In the afternoon we head out of town to the floating village of Kompong Khleang. Because it is the furthest floating village from Siem Reap, it is the not the tourist trap that others have become. We will stop along the way for treats and to meet local villagers. When on the lake, the water level will determine our itinerary which may include visiting a government school, meeting and photographing monks as we offer them alms, seeing the stilted homes and the floating village that ethnic Vietnamese have set up. We will have our sunset photos from on the water. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in all of southeast Asia with water levels that can vary as much as 30 feet depending on the season.
We will then head back to Siem Reap for our farewell dinner. (B) (D)
Day 11 –In the morning we will gather one last time to review the tour and our work and to exchange contact information. Shuttles from the hotel to the airport are available for you to make your flight back to Phnom Penh. (B)