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Why I Love Photographing Cambodia

I first travelled to Cambodia in 1999 and it was the first place after visiting countless countries as a travel photographer to truly capture my heart. I have been returning to Cambodia ever since this first visit and I am still truly in love with the country.

The reason I originally travelled to Cambodia was of course to visit the vast and sublime Angkor Wat complex.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations workshops photo tours to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

However it was the friendly and charming nature of the Cambodian people that so quickly stole my heart.

South East Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat temple complex UNESCO World Heritage site portrait of Cambodian Khmer old woman with traditional headscarf digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia

During my early visits travel around the country was incredibly slow going. Quite often I would find myself clinging on to the back of a motorbike for hours on end as the bike balanced on the banks between paddy fields, slowly picking its way to a far destination promising unique treasures such as deities carved in river beds on sacred mountains.

Digital travel photography holidays to Cambodia ANgkor Wat Asia hosted by Stephen Studd photographer

Nowadays the roads and transport have greatly improved, opening up more of this rustic and unspoilt country.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

Despite the improvements to roads, it is still very rare to see other tourists anywhere but the hot spots around Angkor. The bulk of the country remains undeveloped with red dust tracks

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

and rice paddies peppered with the tall spikes of sugar palms.

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations workshops photo tours to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

Combined with the traditional wooden Khmer houses that rest on stilts and the occasional passing ox-cart

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

this landscape is rich with photographic gems offering a literal plethora of amazing locations for photography.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

The coast of Cambodia boasts amazing sunrises and sunsets

Digital travel and landscape photography holidays photo tours vacations workshops to Cambodia Angkor Wat hosted by Stephen Studd

and small towns like Kep, famous for the crab market, are places to head for at sunset to see the days fresh catch hauled back to shore.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

I have been taking photographic groups to Cambodia since 2012 and one thing that I hear being said again and again is “I can’t believe we are the only ones here”.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations photo tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat Asia hosted by Stephen Studd

Cambodia still feels fresh and vibrant in comparison to its tourist weary neighbours and moves at a gentle slower pace.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to  Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Myanmar, Burma, Vietnam, hosted by Stephen Studd

For the discerning travel and landscape photographer Cambodia has it all and in my opinion is Asia’s best kept photographic secret.

Digital travel photography holidays vacations workshops tours to  Cambodia Angkor Wat, Burma, Myanmar, Vietnam,  Wales the Gower, Bluebell woods of Gloucestershire UK


I run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam the USA & UK.
Please visit the website for full itineraries and dates of tours: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com


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Black and white photography

Digital photography holidays vacations  tours workshopscourses to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam Wales UK hosted by Stephen Studd

I can remember in an art class at school when we developed a print from a black and white negative, that was my life changing moment, I was hooked, I knew what I wanted to be, a photographer. Printing was one of my passions when I was studying for my degree in photography and loved the whole process of developing the black and white film and then making the prints. I still miss this part of photography, but guess nowadays black and white photography is much easier with software and has reduced the use of toxic chemicals.

I am a freelance travel and garden photographer and also run photography holidays, and on these I always say to my guests “See in colour, think black and white”. Black and white can often work better for you on even dull days or misty ones, such as this misty morning on Ha Long Bay.

Halong Bay digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia,  Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, the Gower Wales UK

Halong Bay: Vietnam: Canon 100-400mm lens – f11 @640th sec ND 0.6ND grad soft -ISO 200

I liked the different tones in this scene and knew it would work well as a black and white image. Pre-visualising  your result is important and having a knowledge of the zone system is also valuable.

To produce digital black and white images these are some of the steps I use.

When taking the photograph shoot in colour and in RAW mode, colour space Adobe RGB. You will have far more control over the finished result photographing in colour and then making a black & white conversion using image processing software on your computer.

It is best to shoot on the lowest ISO possible when photographing for black & white images. At high ISO`s, noise (grain) is more evident, the lower the ISO the less noise. If you want to make the final image more grainy then it is best to add this afterwards in post production software such as Lightroom.

Having first visited Bagan in Myanmar (Burma) over 10 years ago for a shoot for National Geographic I fell in love with the place and it still remains one of my favourite places on the planet. There are over 4,000 temples dotted on the plains and the whole area has an ethereal, timeless feeling. I have been returning to Bagan ever since my first visit and have been working on a series of black and white images. I had already pre-visualised the set of black and white images of the temples and for this series I shot the originals in colour and converted them to black & white in Lightroom.

When you wet processed black and white prints, each make of paper would have a certain quality, feel and tone to them. A favourite of mine used to be Kentmere Bromide paper, which had rich neutral blacks, a brilliant base white and superb tonal rendition. I used to use this paper for selenium toned prints to produce a warm feel. To replicate this feel, in the develop mode of Lightroom I use the split tone function.

tones

I produced a set of photographs of Bagan that won an award in the travel category of the International Photography Awards. If you are producing a series of photographs that will be seen together it’s best to keep the same tone for each print so they work well  together.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam hosted by Stephen Studd

Bagan temples: Canon 100 – 400mm lens, f16 @ 1sec  ISO 100

In the develop mode of Lightroom, in the ‘tone curve’ you can alter the contrast of the photograph, much as you could with processing prints through choice of paper and processing. For the photograph above I adjusted the tone curve until I got the desired effect.

curve

I tend not to use the main develop functions when producing a black and white image, apart from possibly a little clarity:

untitled

On a shoot at the Grand Canyon the light was truly working for me early one morning as the sun rose above the horizon. The shafts of sunlight through the moody clouds was a photographers dream.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam hosted by Stephen Studd

Grand Canyon: Canon 24-70mm lens  f16 1/20th sec – ISO 100

I also thought this would make a lovely black and white. For this photograph I wanted a Kentmere Kentona photographic paper feel which featured a chloro-bromide emulsion to give warm deep rich blacks and a warm white base. For the image below I again converted it to B&W in Lightroom, altered the tone curves and split toned the image.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam hosted by Stephen Studd

In Cambodia I was wandering around a rural village saying hello to people in the Khmer language, when I came across this lady. She spoke back to me in Khmer and I replied back, much to her amusement. She called out all her family and got me to speak to them. They all found it funny that I was speaking their language, as they spoke no English. I was invited to their house to drink sugar palm water with them, which is highly prized, it has a lovely sweet and very earthy taste to it.

I was just about to ask if I could take some photos, when the lady had already pointed at my camera and stood up, I always find it amazing that thought always seems to have no language barriers. I took some photos of her and when she looked at them on the back of the camera she gave me the seal of approval. It is these chance encounters that really make me buzz when I am on a travel photography assignment as I love meeting the people of the country.

I was pleased with the portrait and decided to convert the photograph to black & white in Lightroom and again split toned the image.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam hosted by Stephen Studd

Khmer woman portrait: Canon 24-70mm lens. ISO 500 f6.8 @1/250th sec

I wanted a black and white image that this time had an old Ilford Galerie photographic paper feel.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Vietnam hosted by Stephen Studd

This was done by processing in Lightroom and using the tone curve and split toning to the desired effect. In this image note it has a cooler feel to it, with a little more blue hue in the shadows..

To recap, for black & white images, start thinking in black and white. Shoot in colour in RAW mode on the lowest ISO possible, then convert the final image in the post production software of your choice.

Next time you visit a photography exhibition or gallery that is displaying old wet process photographic prints take a close look at them and see the differing tones and contrasts, if you are lucky they will also display which paper they were printed on. You can use this feel of wet process photographic paper in your own digital prints.

Nowadays there are many different digital print papers on the market, these have different feels and tones too. Fine art digital printing is an art in itself, you really need a fully colour calibrated, controlled digital workflow to achieve the best results. Experiment, have fun and if you are producing black and whites for the web then try some of the techniques above, I’d love to see them.


I run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Burma, Cambodia and Vietnam.

I also run landscape photography workshops and weekends in the Gower, Wales and Bluebell woods photography workshops in Gloucestershire, please visit the website for full itineraries and information: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

Newsletter subscribers receive special offers throughout the year on my travel photography holidays and landscape photography workshops, you can subscribe here

‘May the light be with you’



Stay connected: 

Facebook:

DigitalPhotographyHolidays

StephenStuddPhotography

Instagram: @stephenstuddphotography/

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@StephensPhotos

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Photographing sunrises, be in place early.

There is a time between night and actual sunrise that is really magical in photography. This time of day is my favourite, it has a unique light and colour and is generally still and quiet. You also get to witness the sky lottery; what colours are going to be produced, how long will it last, is it going to completely cloud over, which quite often happens. When the conditions all come together a joy fills the heart and you know instinctively that you have the photograph you came for.

digital travel photography holidays tours to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam, Marrakech and Gower Wales hosted by Stephen Studd photographer myanmar hosted by Stephen Studd

Angkor Wat, before sunrise. Manfrotto tripod and head: Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm lens: ISO 400 – 30 sec @f8 – 0.3ND soft grad filter

You will need a torch to get you to your location pre sunrise, it also helps you with setting your camera dials in low level light conditions. For the photograph above, the scene was really dark to the eye. I set my camera up on my tripod and used a remote release for mirror lock as exposures can be long and you don`t want camera shake. I took a test shot at an extremely high ISO to see whether I had focussed correctly with manual focus. If you use autofocus it is best to move it to manual focus as cameras find it hard to focus in very low light conditions. Once I knew the camera was focused I locked the focus and set my ISO to 400, which still gave a 30 second exposure at f8. I always photograph on manual mode and as the light changes quickly from near dark to sunrise don’t forget to keep adjusting your camera settings. I always have my camera set to RAW for high quality images. I used a 0.3ND soft grad filter to balance the sky with the foreground. I could of used a 0.6ND but wanted the water to be slightly darker than the sky.

Depending on where you are photographing on the planet determines the length of time before first light and sunrise, in the tropics you generally only have about half an hour pre-sunrise.

When it starts to get much lighter, be ready for the actual sunrise, which will give you a whole new feel to your scene. As you can see between the two photo’s the cloud had completely disappeared in the photograph below, which was taken 45 minutes after the photograph above. I had waited for the sun to rise to give me another saleable image from the same morning. Both images have been published in several travel magazines and books.

For the shot below, in my last blog post ‘How to Shoot into the Sun’, it explains how to achieve this effect in your photographs

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, photo tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat, sunrise: Manfrotto tripod and head; Canon 6D, Canon 24-70mm lens:              ISO 100, f16 @ 1/500

Get out and enjoy this spectacular time of day, it stills the mind and fills the soul with joy!


I run photography holidays and tours to Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and in the Gower, Wales, please visit the website for full itineraries and information: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

Newsletter subscribers receive special offers throughout the year on my travel photography holidays and landscape photography workshops, you can subscribe here

‘May the light be with you’



Keep connected: Social media:

Facebook:

DigitalPhotographyHolidays

stephenstuddphotography

Instagram: @stephenstuddphotography/

Twitter

@PhotographyHols

@StephensPhotos

Google +

+Digitalphotographyholidays

+Stephenstuddphotography

 


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Travel photography holidays

This month my travel photography holidays have been featured in Practical Photography magazines Holidays & Courses Directory. It was great to see the portrait of the Hmong girl from Vietnam on the front cover.

Digital photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar, (Burma), Cambodia Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Morocco Marrakech and the Gower, Wales 2015 and 2016 hosted by Stephen Studd

The travel photography holidays that I host to Burma, Vietnam, Angkor Wat Cambodia and Marrakech were in the directory.

Stephen Studd hosting Digital travel photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar, (Burma), Cambodia Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Morocco Marrakech and the Gower, Wales 2015 and 2016

Also my UK landscape and flower photography workshops.

Stephen Studd hosting Digital travel photography holidays vacations tours workshops to Myanmar, (Burma), Cambodia Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Morocco Marrakech and the Gower, Wales in 2015 and 2016

I also run private 1:1 photography workshops throughout the year, both in the UK and abroad.

The first of my UK workshops starts in April and May 2016 with the Bluebell Woods in the Forest of Dean.

Bluebells flower photography workshop digital photography holidays tours workshops holidays vacations

This is one of my favourite times of year when the beech woods come alive with carpets of bluebells.

I hope everyone gets time to go out with their cameras and capture the beauty of our planet wherever you are.

NEW DATES FOR APRIL AND MAY 2016 are on the website:

Websites:

My travel photography holidays & UK photography workshops website: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

My travel and garden photography website: www.stephenstuddphotography.com


Social Media:

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/DigitalPhotographyHolidays

https://www.facebook.com/stephenstuddphotography

Twitter

www.twitter.com/PhotographyHols

www.twitter.com/StephensPhotos

Google +

https://plus.google.com/+Digitalphotographyholidays

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Behind the photo: Portrait of Khmer woman, Cambodia

South East Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat temple complex UNESCO World Heritage site portrait of Cambodian Khmer old woman with traditional headscarf digital photography holidays holiday vacations tour tours workshop workshops to Myanmar Burma Cambodia Angkor Wat Venice marrakech Paris Morocco Prague hosted by Stephen Studd

Cambodia is one of my favourite places for travel photography. On a recent trip there I wanted to photograph the sugar palm village which is on the way to Banteay Srei temple, part of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

The sugar palm tree (Borassus flabellifer) is the national tree of Cambodia and has over 800 uses. The root of the tree is used in traditional herbal medicine, the hard heavy wood is used for house building and for furniture making, the palm fronds are used for thatching roofs, making mats, baskets, hats and fans and also weaved to make the walls in traditional Cambodian homes and the fruit is used to make, palm water, syrup and sugar., which has a very low glycemic index.

The sugar palm village is always a hive of activity with bubbling vats of palm sugar steaming away. I was wandering around the village greeting people in the Khmer language, when I came across this lady. She spoke back to me in Khmer and I replied back, much to her amusement. She called out all her family and got me to speak to them. They all found it funny that I even bothered to speak their language, they spoke no English. I was invited to their house to drink the sugar palm water with them, which is highly prized. It had a lovely sweet and very earthy taste.

I was just about to ask if I could take some photos, when the lady had already pointed at my camera and stood up, I always find it amazing that thought always seems to have no language barriers. I took some photos of her and when she looked at them on the back of the camera gave me the seal of approval.

It is these chance encounters that really make me buzz when I am on a travel photography assignment as I love meeting the people of the country. Over many years of travelling to Cambodia I have learned some words and phrases and they always break the ice when meeting people, this is the same when travelling to any country.

I was pleased with the portrait and decided to convert the photograph to black & white in Lightroom and then split toned the image, which is a favoured technique of mine for black & white photography. I used my favourite Canon 24-70mm f2.8 lens, at 70mm – aperture f6.8 – shutter speed 1/80th sec at ISO 500 as the light level was quite low.


I host small group travel photography holidays and tours to Cambodia, Burma, Marrakech and Venice, further details can be found on my website: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com