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Tips for Travel Photography
BEFORE YOUR TRIP
  1. Online scouting

Thanks to  new technologies,  there is a lot you can do online to prepare for your trip:  Google Maps is an invaluable resource you can use to explore your future locations.  I would recommend to install the  Google Maps app and not use the browser version. From  the app you can switch between map, satellite and terrain views. Terrain view is actually very useful to have an idea of the topography of the place as even small hills are visible.

Another powerful tool which include many map features (satellite, terrain) is  TPE  (The Photographer’s Ephemeris). TPE is available as a paid app for Android and IOS and also for free on a web browser. It will give you very useful information on how the light of  sun and the moon is falling on the land.

It is  however more challenging to find the best photography spots online. Few websites (with associated app) do exist like Shothotspot  and Locationscount   but they will give you a rough idea of the shooting locations at best. You can some research on Instagram by tags and if you are lucky you will find some useful pictures. You can use also Google images  but GPS coordinates are not available.

2. Get acquainted with the culture and language

Speaking few words of the local  language can make a big difference in your pictures. Make also  some research on the dos and don’ts before you fly to a new location. For language, some apps can be useful to master the main sentences. Google translate is surprisingly good as well and it is possible to play the audio.

ON LOCATION
3. Buy a sim card

Do not bother using the roaming service from your provider at home  you will probably end up with a huge bill.  It is much cheaper to buy a local sim card once you arrive at your destination. Many companies propose now 4G package with several GB of data. Your smarphone will be your tool to get on google map and of course to share your favorite picture in real time.

4. Interact with people

Being genuinely interested by the activities of the people you try to photography certainly help. You might be able to take picture of the after a good talk or after sharing a cup of coffee or tea so you have to be patient as well.

5. Use prime lens and/or wide angle lens

That are several benefits about ditching  your heavy zoom lens for travel photography. If you are using a 70-200 mm 2.8 you will happy if you do not carry out all day. A big lens is also very visible and intimidating for some people, making  photography in markets challenging. As you need to stand far away, you will loose the interaction with your subject which can make the picture more interesting.

If you are into portrait, a 20, 35 mm or 50 mm prime lens (on a full frame) is suitable. Usually prime lens are faster (get more light) than a zoom lens so you will be able to get better quality pictures in low light (indoors for example). You will gain in portability as well.

6. Get out of the beaten path

Get out of the beaten path will not only allow to get unique shots but also  sometime to get better people photography shots. The element of surprise can in this case works for you.

Who will guess this picture was taken in Yangon in Myanmar one the biggest city in the world?

I certainly did not expect meeting a kid holding a live fish on the train tracks near Poipet in Cambodia

7. When shooting, only few centimeters can make a big differences

It is not only about the mm of the focal  but also the cm on the ground. moving only few centimeters can change dramatically the outcome of a picture especially in a place with many people.

8. Follow the light

A good light is what will make sometime the difference a killer shot and a ok shot. For landscape photography, the best pictures are generally taken after sunrise or before sunset at the so called golden hour.

For indoor pictures hours are a bit more flexible but following the light as well is a good advice.

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The Philippine archipelago, famous worldwide  for  its many beautiful beaches, if it was not for Vigan  would be unknown for its colonial architecture.  Many century old houses are scattered today in many regions of Philippines, restoration work was often started by  private funding.

This blog post will give you a taste of these old houses which can be found in Cebu (Negros Oriental) and in Silay few kilometers away from  Bacolod (Negros Oriental).

Yap Sadiengo ancestral house, Cebu Location: Mabini Street, Cebu city.

GPS: 10.299410, 123.903958. Opening hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance fees: 50 PHP  per person.

Yap Sadiengo ancestral house,  allegedly built in the  17th century (around 1680), escaped the bombings of WWII and the earthquake in 2013.  It is said that it is possibly the oldest Chinese house outside China. The house  is in a very good condition with thick coral stone walls and its roof made of wood and terracota. It is under the care of the Sadiengo family and they make point to sleep there every week. The house is on two-stories and filled with ancient and modern artwork, statues and furnitures

 

Jesuit House, Cebu Location: Zulieta street, Cebu city. GPS: 10.2987, 123.90399. Opening hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance fees: 50 PHP  per person.

A short walk from  Yap Sandiego house, behind a busy metal workshop you can find The Jesuit house. A relief plaque  Ano 1730 above the main entrance of the house. Historians say that Jesuits occupied this house until 1768 until they were expelled from the Philippines.

The city of  Silay, few kilometers west of Bacolod, became a prosperous  town at the  turn of the 20th century thanks to its sugar cane plantations and mills. The Don and Donas (also called hacenderos) became quite wealthy and constructed beautiful houses  at the beginning  of the 20 th century.

About 30 of them are still standing in the heritage portion and three of them have been changed into museums.

Balay Negrense, Silay Location: Cinco de Noviembre street, Silay. GPS: 10.7996695,122.9745508. Opening hours: 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance fees: 60 PHP  per person.

Balay Negrense,  built in 1897  by  the sugar baron  Victor Gaston. His father Yves Leopold Germain Gaston from France is credited to have built the first sugar mill in 1846 that started  sugar cane cultivation in a commercial scale in the region.

Interior of one of the six bedrooms  of Balay Negrense mansion

Kitchen of Balay Negrense mansion with one of the first  Electrolux refrigerator

Access to the second floor of Balay Negrense

Interior of one of the six bedrooms  of Balay Negrense mansion

Bernardino Jalandoni Museum, Silay Location: Rizal street, Silay. GPS: 10.8019506, 122.97734 Opening hours: from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. Entrance fees: 60 PHP per person.

Bernardino Jalandoni Museum also known as the pink house is another well preserved two-stories ancestral mansion worth visiting in Silay which according to the resident guide is 90% in its original state. The  house shares similar  features  with Balay Negrense:  high ceilings and  many openings above the bedrooms on the second floor. Many decorations were imported from Germany including a 100 years old Steinway piano. In the kitchen, no fridge but an  wooden ice box where ice blocks  were shipped from USA which can tell about the opulent live in these mansions back then.

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If you looked online about Angkor Wat tickets, you probably found many conflicting information. Your guide book might be outdated as well:( This page provides you with up-to-date  information about why, where and how to buy your pass to visit the temples of Angkor.

Why do  I need an  Angkor pass?

 
Nowadays many check points are scattered around the Angkor archeological park. Even if you do not plan to visit any temples, and for example looking to do a biking tour  you need a ticket….
Few years ago,  it was possible to visit some remote temples without a ticket, but no more…. In addition to the checkpoints, you will always find someone checking for your pass even in temples with less than 5 visitors  a day, believe it or not…

Only Beng Mealea, Koh Ker, Preah Vihear, Preah Khan of Kampong Svay, Banteay Chhmar temples have a different ticket and therefore you will not need your Angkor pass there. Same thing applies if you want to visit Phnom Kulen mountain.

How much  does it cost?

In february 2017, there was an significant Angkor Wat ticket price increase. The new prices are:

  • USD 37 for the one-day pass
  • USD 62 for the 3-day pass
  • USD 72 for the 7-day pass

There is no group discount. For children under 12 the entrance is free, however do need forget to present a  passport at the ticket counter and carry it in the temples as well as no ticket will be delivered in this case.

How long can I use my 3-day and 7-day tickets?

The 3-day pass is valid for 10 days  and for three  non consecutive days whereas the 7-day pass  is valid for a month  and for seven  non consecutive days. Every time you enter the park  a  hole will be punched on your ticket at the different checkpoints.

Where  can I buy my ticket(s)?

Unfortunately there is only one official place to buy your tickets. In April 2016, the ticket counters have been relocated close to the panorama museum, so if your travel book  lists an address on  Charles de Gaulle road it is the old one !

You can find below the correct  location below (click to enlarge). You can as well type Angkor Wat Ticket Office on Google Map.

It is a 4 Km ride from siem reap city center. Either ask your hotel or use the PassApp Taxi app or Grab remorque to get there by tuk-tuk without the hassle of negotiating the price.

Can I buy my  ticket(s) online ?

In March 2018, was announced a new  e-ticketing platform with the possibility to upload your ID picture and therefore avoid the long trip and the queue  to the ticket counters. However no dates was mentioned about an official launch.

How can I pay for my ticket(s) ?

You can pay cash in US dollars and if it is more convenient for you by credit card. The main credits cards are now accepted since September 2017  (Visa, Mastercard, Union Pay, JCB, Discover, Diners Club International).

What are the opening hours of the park?

Angkor Archeological park is open between 5 am and 7 am. However most of the temples are only open between  7.30 am and  5.30 pm. The only exceptions are Angkor Wat, Pre Rup, Phnom Bakheng temples and Srah Srang water reservoir which are opened between 5 am and 7 pm.

If you scan the QR code  of the back of your ticket you will be redirected to the website of the Angkor Enterprise where you can take a survey about your stay at the temples. However at the  time of writing (April 2018)  Last time I checked an error message was displayed after the survey so probably was not received.

What are the Angkor Wat ticket office opening hours?

The main ticket office opens at 5 am to 5.30 pm everyday but it is sometime possible  to buy your ticket before 5 am.

What happen if I lost my ticket?

Unfortunately you will have to go back to the ticket counters and buy a new one:(

JOIN OUR PHOTO TOURS

Angkor Complete

Capture Angkor Wat sunrise, marvel at the sprawling trees of Ta Prohm and at the 216 stones faces of Bayon.

Countryside Sunrise

This tour is all about the fascinating colors of sunrise above an Angkorian reservoir built by the Kings of Angkor during the 11th century.

Countryside and sunset

Beautiful landscapes, many opportunities for portrait photography, see the real Cambodia, meet with locals.

Angkor Sunrise

If you are on a tight schedule during your stay in Siem Reap, Angkor Sunrise tour is the best option to maximize your time.

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Preah Khan of Angkor, not to be mistaken with Preah  Khan of Kompong Svay,  is my favorite temple and probably the most underrated of the Angkor archaeological park. Although Angkor Wat is the most impressive in term of architecture and symmetry it lacks of atmosphere as many people are there,  Preah Khan temple is more fun to explore and photograph and when wandering within its narrow corridors, courtyards  and  hidden chambers you will feel like an explorer.

Preah Khan, commissioned in 1191, is a Hindu-Buddhist temple built during the reign of Jayavarman VII, one of the most charismatic Khmer king who commissioned many temples during the 12th, including the most famous of them i.e Ta Prohm and Bayon. Preah khanknown also as the temple of the sword,  was dedicated to the  father of Jayavarman VII (divinity Jayavarmesvara). Preah Khan was built as a monastic city dedicated to teaching and was also of course a place of devotion.

Layout

Preak Khan temple is oriented east to west, but most tourists enter via the west entrance through. Preah Khan is a vast complex spread on 56 hectares square kilometers with 4 concentric  enclosures. It has 72 garudas (mythical bird-man) holding two nagas all  around the outer wall. The  40 meters wide moat is full of water all year around although some sections goes dry during the  hot months of April and May.

Map of Preah Khan temple (from Maurice Glaize)

Conservation work

It was started by  Henri Marchal  from the EFEO between 1927 and 1932. The  first conservation work after the civil war was sponsored by the  WMF (Word Monument Fund) with a series in  missions in 1991,1992, 1993 and 1994. In the 90’s,  Preah Khan was described as a partial  ruin deep in the jungle. The role of these missions was also to train Khmer people in conservation.  Currently, the only major conservation work is carried out on the east entrance  by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Highlights

Preah Khan has many locations to explore, you should plan a  1 h 1/2 to 2 h to cross the temple from West to East especially when taking pictures.  Among the highlights are the stupa at the central sanctuary, a linga with its yoni, the biggest strangler fig in Angkor beside the east gopura, the 2-story pavilion, the baray on the east  leading to Neak Pean and Ta Som. If you want to see the secret chambers it is recommended to hire a guide as they are difficult to find.

Narrow passage between two chapels in Preah Khan temple

Elderly nun ready to give blessing, she is a long time resident of the temple and she is 79 years old.

Central sanctuary in Preah khan temple

Group of monks in Preah Khan temple with the  double stories pavilion in the background

A two stories pavilion unique in Angkor

Devata in a narrow corridor

Demon pulling a snake on the west causeway

strangler fig growing on a wall

Gopura with a giant guardian  in the jungle

Apsara dancer carvings in Preah Khan temple

Hidden Devata in Preah Khan temple representing Queen Indradevi

Crumbling Asura headless statue

Hidden Devata in Preah Khan temple representing Queen Jayarajadevi

Hidden Devata in Preah Khan temple representing Queen Jayarajadevi

monk exiting a secret chamber in Preah Khan temple

Buddha carving covered in moss in Preah Khan temple

Hidden guardian with flowers offering

The baray, called Jayatataka, east of Preah Khan temple

One of the standing lion in the east gopura of Preah Khan

Nature and sandstone intertwined

Beams of light of the forest of Preah Khan

Hidden Devata in Preah Khan temple

The biggest tree in Preah Khan, view from the west

The biggest tree in Preah Khan, view from the east

JOIN OUR PHOTO TOURS

Angkor Complete

Capture Angkor Wat sunrise, marvel at the sprawling trees of Ta Prohm and at the 216 stones faces of Bayon.

Countryside Sunrise

This tour is all about the fascinating colors of sunrise above an Angkorian reservoir built by the Kings of Angkor during the 11th century.

Countryside and sunset

Beautiful landscapes, many opportunities for portrait photography, see the real Cambodia, meet with monks and locals.

Angkor Sunrise

If you are on a tight schedule during your stay in Siem Reap, Angkor Sunrise tour is the best option to maximize your time.

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Nowadays, photography tours are available all around the globe from Iceland to Antarctica, from New York to Paris. Because they are focused on photography, they are getting more and  popular among enthusiastic photographers but also beginners  as they combine discovery and learning.

A photography tour is an unique opportunity  to discover a new place in depth, explore locations out of the beaten path, capture beautiful pictures and learn more about your camera.

Photography tours are available in many  destinations in South-East Asia such as Siem Reap, gateway of the temples of Angkor (Cambodia), Hoi An, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi  (Vietnam), Yangon (Myanmar), Bali (Indonesia).

For this post,  we came up with  8 good reasons to why you should consider taking part in  a photography tour during your  next holidays in South-East Asia

1.Improve your photography skills

Even seasoned  sport or wedding photographers are likely to improve their photography skills in a photo tour. As South East Asia locations are diverse, many opportunities will arise and some of them outside your comfort zone: it can be either capturing paddy field landscapes, ancient temples or  busy food markets in the morning light.

Rice harvest at sunset in Hoi An Vietnam

Local market in the morning in Siem Reap Cambodia

2. Enjoy people photography

When living  in South-East Asia we often take for granted that people photography is  easy to do. In the West, due to privacy issues it is almost impossible except  during big public events. In  Asia,  people  play the game and even sometime  ask you to take pictures of them:)

Cute elderly couple in Hoi An Vietnam

Worker taking a break in a knife workshop in Siem Reap Cambodia

Two Cambodian women selling betel leaves in a local market in Siem Reap Cambodia

 

3- Discover  a country with a different angle

During  a photo tour , you will be guided by a photographer who is always looking for new places and has been living in the area for many months or many years. This considerable asset  will allow  you to have access to some locations out of the beaten path which often are not available during  a “normal” tour. Often,  the photographer has develop some relations with locals, speak some of the language and this will be valuable in people photography. You might have access also to remote locations with tribes or be the witness some local Buddhist ceremonies.

Kids plating in paddy fieds in Siem Reap Cambodia

Buddhist ceremony in a local monastery

Face-tattooed women in a remote village of Myanmar

4- Test the limits of your photography equipment

Sometime, at the end of a tour, it happens that some  guests decide to upgrade their camera system or buy new lenses.   If you have a old camera system or a entry level camera, you will test the limit of your equipment: shooting a low lights with moving subjects during  some festivals or in markets with dimmed lights. You might no get also the nice bokeh you were expecting in your portraits.   Common purchases are wide angle lenses to do architecture shots or a portrait lense.

Khmer family going around the main tower of Angkor Wat temple

Angkor Wat under thousand of stars

5- Meet like-minded people

If you take part in a photography tour  with a small group of people especially for few days,  it is likely that you will a blast together, keep in touch and maybe even do another trip together in the future. For many people,  a photo tour remains the highlight of their trip in Asia.

6- For beginners,  a  quick way to improve your photography

Many people start learning  photography by taking theoretical courses in a classroom with little or no practice. During a photography tour, a lot of  the time is spent on hands-on practice and because of on many different situations encountered during the  day (sunrise/sunset, low light, portraits,architecture shots), you are most likely to make long lasting improvement on your photography. You will look after very differently at the triangle of exposure:)

Silk farm in Siem Reap Cambodia

Bamboo forest with shining sun in Siem Reap Cambodia

7- Get to the best locations  with the best light

Photography is all about light and when exploring a  new place, knowing  the best photographic  spots with the best light  is very difficult even after some prior  extensive research online.  Depending on the destination (cities, archeological parks, national parks), it can take months to know the best shooting locations and the best angles. Even if seasons are not marked so much in South-East Asia, there is an impact  photography.  In Angkor Wat temple for example, the path of the sun is drastically different between June and December making  shots very different depending on the season.

During the monsoon,   your photography leader will  guide you around the locations  to get those nice reflection shots.

Panoramic view of Bayon temple in Angkor Thom Cambodia with water reflection. Bayon temple was built late 12th century by Jayavarman VII.

Beautiful devatas carvings in the temple of Angkor Wat Siem Reap Cambodia at sunrise

8- Go back home with great pictures

Because you have being in the right locations  with the best  light, and had guidance during your shots, you will be sure  to go  back home with  the best pictures of your holidays. Why not make a coffee table book of your best pictures to show your friends and plan together your next photographic adventures?

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