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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


Stay connected:
Facebook: DigitalPhotographyHolidays
Instagram: @digitalphotographyholidays
Twitter: @PhotographyHols

Google +: +Digitalphotographyholidays

 

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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/

Twitter

@PhotographyHols

@StephensPhotos

Google +

+Digitalphotographyholidays

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Marrakech, Morocco Best Travel Destination 2015

Travellers Choice on Trip Advisor has voted Marrakech the top destination in the world to visit .

digital photography holidays holiday tour tours workshop workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd

Marrakech, Jemaa el Fna sunset

It is easy to see why, just 3 hours flight from the UK and you are transported to a city that for me, as a travel and garden photographer, has such a rich tapestry to photograph. No visit to Marrakech is complete without a visit to the main Jemaa el Fna square, a cocophony of noise from snake charmers to drummers with the smell of spices and food being cooked for locals and visitors from far and wide.

One of my favourite street food stalls in Jemaa el Fna is Chez Hassan, number 32. You can’t miss it, just look for the one creating the most steam and smoke as the best Merguez sausages in town sizzle on the griddle, be patient as it’s hard to get a seat as this is a firm favourite with the locals.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd

Chez Hassan, number 32

Of course there is much more to Marrakech than the main square. The nearby Koutoubia mosque dominates the skyline and is a favourite location of mine for photography.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Koutoubia mosque

Woman walking in front of the Koutoubia mosque

The souks and narrow winding alleyways of the old Medina always come up with travel photography gems. Getting to find your way around can be very tricky, fortunately after photographing here over the years I know my way around the maze like labyrinthian narrow streets.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd medina

Man with donkey cart, old Medina, Marrakech

There are so many great backdrops for photographs in the old Medina. I am always on the lookout for a good background for a photograph. One of the skills of travel photography is to observe the movement of people in a particular location and see when the best light hits the scene. Once you have found a location with good light and movement of people, a trick I employ is to frame my scene with the camera on a tripod with a remote shutter release. When a person comes through the scene I’ve framed they don’t have the same reaction as if I had the camera up to my eye. I tend to even look away when they appear as if I’m not even taking a photograph, it’s a trick that works for me, resulting in natural looking images with people.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd cyclist medina

Cyclist in the old quarter of Marrakech

In the old Medina I love the crumbling coloured walls, there always seems to be a good prop set against them.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd bicycle medina

Bicycle, Medina

The Medina is home to many artisans located in their own areas. The tannery district is only for those that can bear the stench, but a fascinating place to photograph.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd tannery district

Tannery district

Other favourite areas are the wool dyers district.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd wool dyers district

Wool dyers district

and the metal work district.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd metal workers district

Metal workers district

If you are in this area be sure to check out the Museum of Photography to see some amazing photography from Morocco spanning a number of decades. The place also has a great rooftop café with views over the sprawling city and Atlas mountains.

A great escape from the hustle and bustle of the old Medina is to go and visit the iconic Jardin Majorelle, a feast for the lens with its cobalt blue walls, colourful containers and collections of cacti and bamboos. The garden was restored by Yves Saint Laurent and there is a memorial to him in the garden.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle – Yves Saint Laurent garden

Spend some time here, there is plenty to photograph, you can also get one of the best Moroccan breakfasts in Marrakech in the courtyard garden.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle, ‘Kalanchoe Beharensis’

Be sure to look out for those hidden corners too.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

If you want to escape the city altogether the Atlas mountains are only a short distance away with its Berber villages and slower pace of life.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Atlas mountains

Atlas mountains

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd Atlas mountains

Atlas mountains

Back in Marrakech there are numerous souks to get lost in, my favourite is the spices souk.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd spices souk

Spices souk

It’s worth while weaving your way around the maze like souk to see what you stumble upon.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd souk

Marrakech Souk

I love exploring the quieter areas off the beaten track, you just never know what you are going to encounter around each corner.

digital travel photography holidays tours workshops to Marrakech Morocco, Vietnam, Cambodia, Burma Asia hosted by Stephen Studd man with fez hat

Marrakech man in traditional djellaba and fez hat

Other places of interest for photography are the various Palaces and the Ben Youssef Madrasa, a favourite place with my guests on the travel photography city break I run there each year.

North Africa, Morocco, Marrakech, Marrakesh, Digital photography holidays and tours to Morocco, Marrakech Ben Youssef Madrasa

Ben Youssef Madrasa

An alluring appeal that keeps me coming back to Marrakech is the light and the African sunsets you get there. Perch yourself on one of the numerous cafes in the main square, get yourself a Moroccan mint tea and a tajine, watch the place come alive as the sun sets, and enjoy the feast for all the senses. Yes the billowing smoke you can see in the shot below is coming from Chez Hassan.

Jemaa el Fna and Koutoubia mosque, sunset

Jemaa el Fna and Koutoubia mosque, sunset

You can join me on a 5 day travel photography city break to Marrakech in September 2016, with an optional photography excursion up in to the Atlas mountains where we have a traditional Berber lunch on my Berber friend CoCo’s roof terrace.

Full details can be found on my travel photography holidays website: www.digitalphotographyholidays.com

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


Keep in touch:

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

Instagram: https://instagram.com/stephenstuddphotography/

Twitter

www.twitter.com/PhotographyHols

www.twitter.com/StephensPhotos

Google +

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

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

 

 


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Angkor Wat, Cambodia, and Siem Reap, Best Travel Destinations 2015

Trip Advisor has just announced that Angkor Wat is the top Landmark in the world to visit, with Siem Reap voted 2nd best Destination in the world.

UPDATE: Lonely Planet has just voted Angkor Wat as the Best Travel Destination to go and see 2015.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK

Monks in front of Angkor Wat.

I have been photographing here since 1999 and it is truly a magical place, Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The whole Angkor complex stretches some 400 km2, so there are always new places to discover.

Of all the different temples that make up the Angkor complex, Angkor Wat is the jewel in the lotus and also the most well preserved of them all.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK

Angkor Wat, sunrise

The stone carving here is some of the most exquisite of all the temples.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK

Apsara detail, Angkor Wat

Even though the place sees a large number of tourists each year, local life still goes on in and around Angkor Wat.

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK South East Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat temple complex UNESCO World Heritage site young boy fishing in the moat of Angkor Wat sunset

Boy fishing at Angkor Wat

Siem Reap is the gateway to the temples and a town that has expanded over the years but never lost its charm.

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

Shrine on the banks of the river, Siem Reap

digital travel and landscape photography holidays, vacations, tours and workshops to Asia, Cambodia: Angkor Wat, Siem Reap. Vietnam, Burma (Myanmar), Marrakech Marrakesh Morocco, the Gower Wales UK South East Asia Cambodia Siem Reap Angkor Wat temple complex UNESCO World Heritage site portrait of Cambodian Khmer old woman with traditional headscarf

There are now great places to eat and drink to suit all budgets in Siem Reap. I’m looking forward to heading back again this November. There are places available on the photography holiday if you want to improve your photography skills. Because of my extensive knowledge of the area I get you to the best places for the best light.

My photography holidays here also support some NGO’s helping street kids, the rural poor, people with disabilities and also a nature conservation project.


Details of the travel photography holiday I run to Angkor Wat can be found on my website: http://www.digitalphotographyholidays.com


You can follow my journey over the years of photographing at the Angkor Wat temples on the Manfrotto website: http://www.manfrottoimaginemore.com


Keep in touch:

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

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


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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