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The Majestic Phreah Khan

Hall of Dancers. Enter Phreah Khan from east gate, pass through east gopura where a giant tree with giant roots over-riding the temple, to find Hall of Dancers. The wall and columns are decorated with apsara. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih
Hall of Dancers. Enter Phreah Khan from east gate, pass through east gopura where a giant tree with giant roots over-riding the temple, to find Hall of Dancers. The wall and columns are decorated with apsara. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

Hall of Dancers. Enter Phreah Khan from east gate, pass through east gopura where a giant tree with giant roots over-riding the temple, to find Hall of Dancers. The wall and columns are decorated with apsara. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

In Angkor Archaeological Park, Angkor Wat is the most famous temple and a must-visit place. Bayon, just a couple of kilometer away is also easy to reach and tempting. Ta Phrom is well-known as The Jungle Temple, where the movie Tomb Raider was used to use it as shooting location.

Two storey building with rounded columns in Greek-style architecture. It is found near east gopura of Phreah Khan. This shot was made by BlackBerry 9700. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

Two storey building with rounded columns in Greek-style architecture. It is found near east gopura of Phreah Khan. This shot was made by BlackBerry 9700. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

Another majestic temple to visit is Phreah Khan. It encloses area of 56 hectares (138 acres), one of the biggest site in Angkor complex. It was built by King Jayavarman VII, the same king who built Ta Phrom. Both Ta Phrom and Phreah Khan were built on the second half of 12th century. They share similar layout, but Phreah Khan today is still in reasonable state of preservation.

Ta Phrom was built as dedication to the King’s mother, while Phreah Khan is dedicated to King’s father. It is believed that Phreah Khan was used to be the King’s temporary residence.

Enter the temple from east gate and don’t miss a giant tree over-riding east gopura. Make some shots then pass it to find Hall of Dancers. After that, make some steps to north to find a two-storeys building with round columns. However, the purpose of this Greek-style building remains unknown.

Wide angle lens mostly works out in this temple. Exploring the ruins and play with its lines and shapes. I found the columns in Hall of Dancers was found to play with framings. I also tried to play around with modified infra-red camera.

Best time to visit is both morning and afternoon. As the temple is vast, make sure you don’t lost yourself. Be good in your time management, there are still some more temples to visit but Phreah Khan is also have many angles and corners to be explored.

Nature Supremacy. Giant tree with giant roots are found over-riding Phreah Khan. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

Nature Supremacy. Giant tree with giant roots are found over-riding Phreah Khan. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih


The Lure of Ta Phrom

Ta Phrom, in Angkor complex of temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must-visit temple for photographer. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih
Ta Phrom, in Angkor complex of temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must-visit temple for photographer. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

Ta Phrom, in Angkor complex of temples, Siem Reap, Cambodia is a must-visit temple for photographer. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

There are hundreds of temples in Angkor complex, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Angkor Wat is mandatory, but the lure of Ta Phrom is a must-visit temple in Angkor complex. It is one of a kind, photographically, at this moment.

Ta Phrom is temple of giant trees, where their roots are the proof of nature supremacy. It is the reason people calls Ta Phrom as The Jungle Temple. The artistic visualization of ruins and giant roots above it were one of the reason for Tomb Raider movie chose it as one of location set.

Both morning and afternoon are best time to shoot, as the contrast would be less and side light might be more friendly. But as a temple in the hit list of Angkor visitors, there would be people everywhere photographers point their camera.

What I did was find my point-of-interest, chose my angle and wait for other visitors to fade away. The moment last for only a minute or less. Within that moment I had to made some shots in several alternatives composition.

There are mostly dark and narrow passages inside Ta Phrom. Pay attention to signs and direction, obey the “no access” borders and you would be fine. It is not worth such an effort to find unusual angle by climbing over the ruins or cross “no access” area.

Wide angle lens helps a lot. The space of shooting is mostly narrow. Go as wide as you can. One body of camera and one lens would make it easier to browse around.

In my previous visit to Ta Phrom on November 2008, there were some areas under renovation. In my latest visit on July 2010, there were more areas under renovation. Off course, the scaffoldings are distracting for photography. Fortunately, there were still some corners and giant roots available without any distraction.

Don’t get lost in Ta Phrom.


Original post of the picture above in Fotografer.net: Over-riding


The Beauty of Bayon

The Beauty of Bayon. Bayon, the main temple of Angkor Thom, in Angkor complex and its reflection. Photo by: Kristupa Saragih

In Khmer history, it is believed that Angkor Thom was built as the capital city of the kingdom by King Jayavarman VII in the late 12th century. It is also believed that the king built Bayon as the official state temple of Angkor Thom. Bayon was originally built as Buddhist Mahayana temple, but the successors of the king then modified the temple into Hindu and Theravada Buddhist, in accordance with their own religious preferences.

Anyway, the temple lasts till today. It passed hundred of years of history timeline: wars of Khmer kingdoms, wars of Khmer and surrounding kingdoms and later the French colonialism. It is being renovated now, as seen on my latest visit July 2010, and as seen on my previous visit November 2008.

From downtown Siem Reap, visitors will pass The South Gate and find Bayon as the first temple in Angkor complex. Best time to visit for photo shooting is both early morning and afternoon. Early morning visit will benefit the less disturbance of other visitors. But afternoon visit will give photographer the beauty of reflection in a small pond in west side of Bayon.

In order to catch the reflection, the use of polarizing filter would enhance the reflection. Or else, to get rid of it. The polarizing filter also helped to darken the sky, as seen in the picture above. As the scene has high contrast condition in the afternoon, a gradual ND (neutral density) filter would lessen the contrast.

Actually, there are a lot of subjects to be explored in about 22,500 sq meters area of Bayon. All you need is a pair of strong feet and a couple bottles of water. And, of course, a strong motivation to shoot and learn about the temple. Give respect to other visitors and photographers by stay away from “the line of fire” when they “fire” their camera.

I wish, on my next visit I will combine the beauty of Bayon and the beauty of model(s).


Original post of the picture above in Fotografer.net: Peace in Bayon


Sunrise in Angkor Wat [2010]

Sunrise in Angkor Wat 2010. Explore Angkor photo trip July 28 - August 1. Photo by Kristupa Saragih

If you are a photography enthusiast, Angkor Wat is a must-visit place in South-East Asia. Situated in Siem Reap, second biggest city after Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat is the main place of interest among hundreds of temples in Angkor complex. Angkor Wat is the largest temple in Angkor complex, built by the Khmer civilization around the year 1100 AD. It was probably built as a furnerary temple for King Suryavarman II (1112-1152), to honour Vishnu, one of the Hindu God.

Shooting sunrise in Angkor Wat is supposed to be an enjoyful thing to do. Anyway, you should get here by 5 AM in the morning to be ready-to-shoot on-site before the sunrise, and most importantly before the place gets crowded by tourists. It is suggested to leave your hotel in Siem Reap at 4.30 AM, get your transport and go through temple-pass checking station at Angkor complex gate.

The most favorite spot for sunrise in Angkor Wat is in lotus pond in front of it. Bring your torch as it will be still dark in early morning and there is no lighting at all in the temple. You have to cross the moat and go through the Angkor Wat main gate and walk a couple hundreds of meter to get to lotus pond.

Suggested gears for sunrise photo shoot in Angkor Wat are: wide lens 16mm or at most 24mm, tripod and graduated ND (neutral density) filter. Tele lens would be an addition, but tripod is a must to avoid camera shake due to low light condition at dawn. Graduated ND filter is mandatory, as you are facing a high-contrast light condition in sunrise time. Catch the reflection in the lotus pond, set your white balance correctly, and make sure you have enough power in your camera battery and enough space in memory cards.

Shooting time would not be last after 5:30 AM, as the sun will be high after that. You will be surrounded by other visitors with their camera. Give respect to them, and you will be respected. But stay in your position, unless you want to let your place taken by other visitors.

There are local people with their business offering you a simple plastic chair and coffee. Just get one, pay US$ 1 then you will be fine in your position of shooting. This is the latest situation I recognized on my visit, late July 2010. There wasn’t that kind of business on my previous visit to Angkor Wat, November 2008.

Enjoy your Angkor Wat sunrise shooting.


Original post of the picture above in Fotografer.net: Romantic Angkor