Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 50: TEMPLES OF ANGKOR - PREAH KHAN

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my visit to Angkor Wat in Pic(k) of the week 48; likely the best known place in Cambodia. What a lot of people don't know, is that Angkor Wat is just a fraction of the Angkor site which covers about 400 square kilometers.

From the 9th till the 15th century, Angkor, Khmer for Capital city, flourished as a megacity. Until the industrial revolution, it was the worlds largest city with a population of more than 1 million people at its peak in the 12th century. It took researchers till 2007, by using aerial and satellite images, to conclude that Angkor was such a megacity, consisting more than 1000 different temples. What is left of the old Angkor city today, is anything from a piece of rubble in the jungle to entire temples like Angkor Wat and many others.

One of the harder ones to shoot is also one of my favorite temples in Angkor; Preah Khan, seen in the image below, is a large temple built in the 12th century for King Jayavarman VII to honor his father. The two large statues on the West entrance standing amongst the lush green, are especially photogenic. Beside some clearing of the jungle, the temple is largely left unrestored after it was discovered in the beginning of the 20th century adding to the general atmosphere and mystique.



Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF16-55 f2.8 lens
  • 1/250s, f8.0, ISO 4000, 27mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC Classic
  • Nik ColorEfex Pro by DxO for optimal contrast
Unless you are Cambodian, you must have an access pass, often also referred to as an "Angkor pass", to enter the site. As of NOV 2018, it costs 37,-USD for a single day and 62,-USD for a three day pass. More info can be found here

With 2 million people visiting the Angkor temples annually, it can get very busy, especially during the high season. Avoiding the crowds is therefore essential if wants to do some decent photography.

I personally used the services of Photo Cambodia, let by Dutch Photographer Eric De Vries. We did spend 4 days with Eric photographing remote villages outside Siem Reap and the Angkor temples; I can definitively recommend Eric's services, even if you can only hire him for a single day!

Today, Angkor doesn't really exists anymore as a city where people live; when visiting the Angkor temples, people stay in Siem Reap, which is just a short tuk tuk ride away.

As documenting some of the temples of Angkor, was one of the main objectives of my latest photo-adventure to Cambodia, I've made a short slide slow presentation, called "Temples of Angkor". A small resolution can be found below, but please make sure to watch it in HD for the best viewing experience at the following link here.




A gallery of all the "Temples of Angkor" images can be found here

Remember: "We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us" - Winston Churchill. 

BJORN





Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 49: THE KIDS OF CAMBODIA

My last two Pic(k)s of the week, have been coming from a recent photo-adventure to Cambodia. Typically for most of my longer travel photography trips, I try to work on a short personal project during the trip.
  
In the late seventies, when I was about 9, I vividly remembered when a Cambodian boy came to my local school to attend classes. We were told that he had lost his parents and had come to Belgium as a refugee. At the time, we had no idea what was happening in Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime.

When I visited Cambodia for the first time last month, I learned that between 1975 and 1979, one in four people were killed in one of the largest genocides in history. 

Linking the facts together 40 years later, a new project called "The Kids of Cambodia" was quickly born! In this personal project, I'm showing 100 different kids in a variety of cities and small villages across the country. 

Although Cambodia is still number 14 in the ranking of the poorest countries in the world, I found a lot of smiley faces and mostly people that wanted to get on with their life's! 

The image below of a Western girl, sitting next to two Cambodian boys along the river in Siem Reap, is symbolic for the project.


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF50-140 f2.8 lens
  • 1/250s, f9.0, ISO 1250, 77mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC, using Acros Y camera profile
Unfortunately I have lost track of what happened to the boy in my school, but I nevertheless would like to dedicate "The Kids of Cambodia" gallery to him! If anybody can help me find him, the school I'm talking about is the "Broederschool in Roeselare, Belgium" end of the 70's. 

Lastly, as I was traveling with my wife, some of the images in the gallery have been shot by her. Although she only recently has taken up photography, I'm impressed with some of the images she came home with! Well done.

Next weeks Pic(k) of the week, will introduce a second gallery from Cambodia, which is all about the great temples of Angkor.  

Remember:"Sometimes it's the journey that teaches you a lot about your destination











Thursday, November 29, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 48: ANOTHER DAY AT ANGKOR WAT

Cambodia, has been on the list of places to go to for a long time... I finally managed to tick it of the list. One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking about this Southeast Asian country is undoubtedly Angkor Wat.

A a prime example of Khmer architecture, this amazing temple complex built in the 12th century, is even on the National flag. Over the last 10 years, tourists worldwide have also discovered Angkor Wat, leading to a huge influx of visitors to Siem Reap, the city where the temple is located.

I had read multiple posts talking about the hundreds of people that flock to Ankor Wat for sunrise; some people say it is a must see while others hate the crowds. I wanted to make up my own mind and try at least once! 

Erik De Vries, a dutch photographer based in Siem Reap, who I hired for a 4 day photo-tour, recommended not to bring any tripod. I must say that I initially questioned that decision, but in the end I was happy I didn't!  

As the ticket booth for the Angkor Wat temple complex, opens at 5am, Erik showed up at our Siem Reap hotel at 4.45am in a tuk-tuk. A quick drive to buy our three day ticket passes, which by the way are not cheap (37,-USD for a single day and 62,-USD for 3 days) and then to the temple grounds.

Most photographers, shoot the temple at sunrise from one of the two reflection ponds. The one on the left, which has the sun rising behind the temple, had some scaffolding in the foreground, so we elected to use the right one. As we arrived around 5.45am, there were already a hundred or so people trying to get to the front of the small lake. 

A tripod would indeed be more of a hindrance than a benefit. Thanks Erik. It was not that I was about to make a unique image. Just do a google image search for "Angkor Wat sunrise" and you'll know what I mean!

At least the sky looked pretty dramatic the morning we were there. Below is a triptych shot handhold. The first two images were shot within 15 mins while the third one was shot after lunchtime. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF16-55 f2.8 lens
  • handheld at 16mm, varying shutter speeds and ISO between 800 and 160
  • Lightroom for RAW development
  • Nik ColorEfex pro 4 for optimal contrast
In hindsight, I was happy that I did the sunrise shoot at Angkor Wat. More for the overall experience than for the actual images I shot. The alternative of shooting one of the other temples around Angkor Wat is not really an option as the other temples only open at 7am.

Personally I find that if I start with shooting those iconic images first, it clears my mind and gives me the artistic freedom to then make some "real" images. 

I hope to finish the editing process of the images shot during my 10 day visit to Cambodia, somewhere next week. More about this in a future blog post.

UPDATE: More images of the Temples of Ankor can be found here.

Remember, "Focus on the journey, not the destination

BJORN




    

  

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 47: GREAT MOMENT IN CAMBODIA

I'm writing this from my hotel room in Siem Reap, on the last day of an amazing photo-adventure to Cambodia. What a trip it has been... so many great experiences that will be engraved in my memory forever! 

One that stood out the most is related to the image below. While strolling through a rural village about an hour out of Siem Reap, I noticed a nice reflection on a scooter parked inside an open motorbike maintenance shop. Quickly positioning myself across the street, I managed to compose the image below. Although the lens used is far too long for classic Street Photography I'm still happy with the result! After framing the shot below, we made a series a Street Portraits of the family and chatted to the three kids which all spoke remarkable good English. Being extremely sweet, we wanted to reward them with a small tip. Something I rarely do, but which I did find appropriate for the circumstances. 

When my wife handed out the money to the youngest of the three, he immediately gave it back to her, and stated the following: "Madam, we have everything, food, a house, clothes. We go to school. Look at us, we are happy. The only thing I know is English. I don't know what to do with money. Please take it back" - remarkable words from a 7 year old!


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with XF 50-140 f2.8, 120mm
  • ISO 800, 1/320s, f18 (such a small aperture to increase the sunburst effect)
  • Acros Film Simulation + Yellow filter, no editing, straight out of camera  (SOOC)
Once the image editing of the more than 3000 images is over, I'll be updating this post with a link to one or two specific galleries. For now, this is the only image uploaded from the trip so far. Meanwhile please check my Instagram account for more here. I'll also blog about my  photo-adventure to Cambodia somewhere in December. 

Lastly, I'm running a FREE Street Photography workshop on THU NOV 22 during the Xposure Photofestival held this week in Sharjah, UAE. The workshop will explain the why, how and where of Street Photography (90 mins) and will be followed by a hourlong photowalk. Fujifilm X-series cameras can be borrowed for free. Please click here to register online. If you don't have one already, you just need to create an account via the link. Places are limited. 

Remember: "It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter" - Alfred Eisenstaedt


BJORN


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Pic(k) of the week 46: STREET HUNT - Street photography workshop at Xposure, Sharjah, UAE

One of my favorite Photofestivals in the UAE is without a doubt the International Photography Festival "Exposure"; a relative new event  in the emirate of Sharjah, bordering Dubai. 

Like last year, I'll we holding an "Introduction to Street Photography"workshop followed by a photowalk during the event, for the fine guys of Fujifilm Middle East. Called "Street Hunt", the free workshop will start at 1pm sharp, on Thursday 22 November 2018 at the Sharjah Expo center. Pre-registration is required and shall be done through Fujifilm Middle East; check out their Instagram account for more info here or click here for registration.

The workshop will address the why, where and how of Street Photography; especially around the region. On a first come first serve basis, Fujifilm X-series cameras can be lend for the duration of the afternoon. A perfect opportunity to test out what all the Fujifilm excitement is all about!

This weeks Pic(k) of the week, is a silhouette shot I shot last week from a pedestrian bridge in Dubai just before sunset, is the banner used for the workshop/photowalk. 


Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T3 with the XF100-400 lens
  • 1/640, f8, ISO 160, 252mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC; main editing was a creative use of White balance for a more impactful image
Shooting Street Photography with a long lens like the XF100-400, is of course somewhat controversial... Since I was shooting across a 10 lane highway, a long focal length was the only way of getting the shot. Unusual for Street Photography, I also shot in high speed burst mode (CH 20fps) using the new Pre-Shot function of the Fujifilm X-T3 (review here). Doing so made picking the best shot when it comes to gesture, very easy. 

I do plan on blogging about these two controversial Street Photography techniques, somewhere in December. 

Remember: "Sometimes you need to milk the cow a lot before you get a little bit of cheese" - Henri Cartier Breton