Cambodia Two Boys

Cambodia February 2017

Once again, we ventured east last month – to the wonder of the world at Angkor Wat in exotic Cambodia. We captured the silk cotton trees growing through the ancient ramparts at dawn, shot hundreds of monks chanting in hypnotic unison at sunset, took portraits of sea gypsies on a community fronting Cambodia’s largest lake, plus indulged in a spot of fish nibbling (don’t ask), snoozed in a super stylish boutique hotel – and came home with some amazing new images – and new found friends.

Thanks to you all who made the trip so special.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 FCC
FCC Angkor Hotel

And what a warm return to one of our fave hotels – the FCC Angkor. A former governors mansion at the front; and behind – chic modern, floor to ceiling glass rooms, opening out onto the lap pool (and a stones throw from the luxe spa – nice!). This is our base for the next ten days and we couldn’t think of anywhere more relaxing to spend it. What really makes this hotel is the staff – we’re upgraded on arrival and our bags are already in our rooms and a welcome cocktail in our hands. Yum!

First day, we’re running through our exposure, explaining the essential functions of the camera (in non-techy language, of course) and slowly get to grips with our cameras, so before long we’re moving the dials and working our camera manually, without even really realising it. Along the way, the staff provide us with chilled milkshakes to keep our energies up!

Then it’s out to Angkor Wat, a 200 square kilometer complex of temples, wild animals and lakes – simply stunning. It’s easy to understand why Angkor is talked of as the eighth wonder of the world – the largest religious building on earth – and voted by Lonely Planet as the world’s number one sight. Here, our guide escorts us around the central temple, shooting scores of ornate apsara dancers, the light trickling through the ancient monuments.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Bayon

Great images seem to come quite easily here, everywhere you turn there is something beautiful to shoot. Later, we’re out to taste some Cambodian food – Amok Trey, steamed local river fish in coconut milk  – delicious – and Lap Khmer, seared beef in lime, chilli, cucumber and tomato – fresh and perfect for hot weather. In fact, Siem Reap has become a bit of a foodie place these last ten years, every type of cuisine is here, and cheap too. Super high quality Italian, Thai, and more for a fraction of the price back home. The ice cream at the Blue Pumpkin is also too good and we wish it was harder to get to from our hotel.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Sea Gypsy

This morning, we head west to Tonle Sap lake, Cambodia’s largest expanse of open water, and to visit the sea gypsies, who reside along the lake. A short boat trip later, we’re into small hand made carved wooden canoes, for a trip through the mangroves, then to visit the myriad stilted houses where the gypsies live. Fabulous portraiture opportunities here, and miles away from all the tourists.

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Temple

The next day we’re out to the local temple, where 100 young monks from all over the country reside – each night praying in hypnotic rhythm and an incredible sight; they are also more than happy to have their pictures taken too – giggling to each other as they see the shot on the back of the screen.

After too many cocktails in Miss Wong’s, we’re up early to meet up with Lim, our guide into a rural village, chance to see the impact foreign aid has had on the people living here. Lim points out new water wells, stamped with UN markings, as evidence of change, a new local school – then an open canopied pagoda where we learn how to cook some Cambodian classics, before exploring deep into the village, taking rice along to those in need (and taking some pictures too).

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Cook
Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Helicopter

Another early start, and on board a helicopter, chance to see the early light coming over the temples of Angkor. Then after a quick snooze and some well deserved R&R, we’re backstage at Phare, the Cambodian circus formed in 2013, a not-for-profit school designed to train some of the poorest children in the art of acrobatics, dance and performance. Our unique access gets us behind the scenes, chance to put together some of the lessons learned on portraiture to good measure, then it’s into the stands to watch the show.

Our final days are spent bringing together all the skills you’ve learned, and with 1-to-1 guidance from our tutor, shoot a final show ready for our pop-up exhibition in the grounds of the FCC. A stunning ten days spent in the tropics!

And here our are shots of the week …

Shot of the Week – Neil

Who says a leopard can’t change it’s spots? Our landscape photographer turned portrait shooter Neil came alive during our portrait day –  and with his signature 20mm lens, Neil makes this shot a stunner!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Neil

Shot of the Week – Paddy

Our very own Cartier-Bresson! Throughout the week, Paddy was the photographer standing back and observing, very much the social doc photographer he excelled in our documentary day! Improving his technical skills daily and using what we had learnt – Paddy got this great shot on burst! Brilliant!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Paddy

Shot of the Week – Sheila

Only on the second day, after cracking her exposures, Sheila shot this beautiful portrait of a food seller outside the temple. She had a natural ability to connect with her subjects and produce real and honest shots, which we all enjoyed throughout the week!

Creative Escapes Cambodia Feb 17 Sheila