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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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4 Comments

Photographing pre-sunrise & post sunset

It always amazes me when on travel and landscape photography shoots how people react to photographing a sunrise or sunset. At popular locations near these times the place can be really busy with excitable people. The main event happens and as soon as the last slither of the sun sets or first slither of the sun rising, the place becomes quiet and deserted as most people will have left rather quickly.

The after show is where the party is at for me. Once the sun has set, wait and watch the skies and the bounced around atmospheric light play on the landscape. A stillness seems to reappear that hasn`t been felt since dawn. This twilight can last for a while so patience is needed, a good tripod as exposures will be long and it is important to move your camera to manual focus.

Germany, Fussen, Alps reflected in Lake Forggensee, dawn

The shot above was taken about half an hour after sunset in Germany with the Alps in the background at pretty much my default  ISO of 100, when using my tripod.  Aperture in this case was f11 with exposure @4 seconds and lens 35mm. I also used a 0.3 ND grad filter to bring the sky and lake together exposure wise. (In this case a 0.3 as sky and foreground were pretty well matched as the sun had set half an hour earlier)

There is also a pre-show event the time between night and sunrise. This one usually has far less attendees and has its own light and colours in the sky and play on the landscape and is generally much stiller and quieter.

digital travel photography holidays vacations tours to Burma myanmar hosted by Stephen Studd, Bagan temples

Myanmar (Burma): Bagan – sunrise  ISO 100  f20 @ 16sec  ND 0.6 (2 stop) graduated filter

Both need the same equipment and patience to photograph but they are equally a joy to photograph (though on cold mornings the pre-sunrise shoot can be tough to get up for!) The main pleasure at these times of day for me is in the sky lottery, what colours are going to be produced? how long will it last? is it going to completely cloud over? When the conditions all come together a joy fills the heart and you know instinctively that you have the shot and walk away with a spring in your step.

You will need a torch, to get you to your location pre sunrise or away post sunset, it also helps you with your camera dials in low level light conditions. A tripod and shutter release cable are needed and I always use mirror lock on my camera as exposures can be long and you don’t want camera shake. I use the cameras spirit level which helps me get those horizons straight. If you do use autofocus, move it to manual, as autofocus struggles to work in the darker conditions, I always shoot in RAW mode too.

Depending on where you are photographing on the planet determines the length of the after or pre show party. In the tropics you generally only get a maximum of half an hour pre sunrise or after sunset. The point from basically photographing in the dark as the shot below to sunrise daylight happens in about 15 minutes, so you have to be ready and quick to react to the fast changing light.

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

Cambodia: Angkor Wat sunrise. ISO 100 – f8 @ 30sec

I’m often asked whether I prefer sunrises or sunsets, I much prefer sunrises as the lazy photographers are not out of bed and it is always stiller, calmer, more peaceful and accompanied by the sound of birds waking up and filling the air with song. Which do you prefer?

Go out and enjoy these spectacular times of day, you will usually have them to yourself, they still the mind and fill the soul with joy.


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

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’



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