Photography tours and courses in Siem Reap

What a place to improve your craft.

What we say: 3.5 stars

With its incredible colours, sepia-toned dawns and evening light, fascinating daily scenes and easy smiles of the people, Cambodia is a photographer’s dream, and the mystical Angkorian complex especially has drawn artists of all kinds since its rediscovery in the 19th century.

Henri Mahout's early images of Angkor Wat were partially responsible for the growth of interest and arrival of many archaeologists and other professoinals on whose knowledge and hard work we now rely so much

An early image of Angkor Wat from Henri Mahout.

For amateur photographers too, Cambodia provides rich opportunities for capturing images that have a certain magical something. Going home with a camera full of striking, exotic, moving, or just plain different images is entirely possible for those that keep an eye out and are ever-ready to snap.

The Ice-Man Cometh

The Ice-Man Cometh.

But one place where that doesn’t seem to happen is at the temples themselves, which are notoriously difficult to shoot in any way that does justice to their scale and majesty. Some of that has to do with the light, as many visit the temples at times when it’s not at its best (in the early morning and evening). And some of it has to do with the fact that shooting objects on the scale of the Angkorian temples takes a different approach to perspective than we usually exercise when shooting more “normal” sized structures.

One solution may be to sign up for a photography course while you’re here. A number of locally based photographers run short courses that can help you get the best images possible of Angkor and its surrounds, and in some cases also really improve your shooting skills for future adventures.

One of the photographers that has been around for the longest is American John McDermott (disclaimer: he is a friend of the Travelfish.org owners). A well established fine art photographer and photojournalist, John first came here in 1995 to capture Angkor during a total eclipse of the sun, and was bewitched. He came back again and again to capture the mysterious temples before finally deciding to stay. Since then his dream-like images, conveying a sense of the ephemeral and timelessness, of air and solidity, all at once, have developed iconic status.

One of John's iconic images of the Bayon

One of John's iconic images of the Bayon.

John offers half or one-day courses that are tailored to each individual. He will meet the client the day before the shoot to go over their skill level and hopes for what they would like to learn and work out a programme. A half-day course is $300 and a full-day course, $500. Individuals or groups will not be combined with others, but he will take couples or a small single-booking group, up to a maximum of four (this may have an effect on price).

John is also planning a week-long workshop together with the extraordinary Japan-based photographer James Whitlow Delano in October this year. More information will be posted on that soon so keep an eye on his website.

For another perspective, Kimleng Sang is a local tuk tuk driver who came by photography in a very unique way. Driving a Canadian photographer around Angkor one day, he asked if he could have a go. Amazingly, the Canadian didn’t hesitate to hand over his expensive equipment, and that exchange became a life-changing moment for Kimleng. Since then, without the benefit of formal training, Kimleng has been hunting out the best light and best perspectives for shooting the temples of his homeland of which he is so proud. He charges a very modest fee of $25 for taking photographers around Angkor to find the best ways of shooting the temples. Extended transport, food and the Angkor pass are, of course, not included.

Peace of Angkor tours also offer dedicated photo tours of the temples, the surrounding countryside or the lake, with prices starting at $39.

You never know who you might meet off the beaten track

You never know who you might meet off the beaten track.

For something a little different, Dutchman Eric de Vries and American Carolyn O’Neill have recently started to offer workshops that focus on street photography in Siem Reap (as well as Bangkok and Phnom Penh). These two experienced professional photographers will be able to guide you through the different processes, techniques and tricks that can raise your street photography from the interesting to the captivating. They hold scheduled workshops, but can make weekday arrangements for individuals on request. The fees are $150 for one day, and $260 for two days, and include instruction on editing in black and white.

Monks waiting inside Bakong Pagoda, and demonstrating my need for classes

Monks waiting inside Bakong Pagoda and a demonstration of my need for classes.

Last updated: 2nd October, 2014

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