Photowalking is the act of walking with a camera for the main purpose of taking pictures of things that the photographer may find interesting.
It is often a communal activity organised by camera clubs, online forums or commercial organisations, sometimes in the form of a walking tour. Often the aim is to practice and improve one's own photography skills rather than a specific focus on documentary photography.
While the camera need not be a digital camera, in practice the low cost of digital photography and the ease of digital photo processing and online photo sharing allow a casual approach in photowalking.
While related to street photography, photowalking is differentiated by its impetus to photograph things of interest rather than people specifically. As with any walking that may go a few miles or kilometers, photowalking can also promote physical fitness.
…. the thing is, there is so much more to Siem Reap than “just” the temples. Trust me, I am a photographer. It doesn't matter if you just arrived or have lived here for half a decade. The lively streets of our little town provide countless source of entertainment – at least for me. How long have I wanted to get a picture of pigs bellies up on the back of a moto? Or other weird and wonderful methods of transportation for that matter.... It's all there, on two, three or more wheels, carrying variable loads and countless passengers. My collection is growing steadily ever since I got inspired by a wonderful book called Carrying Cambodia still for sale today (Monument Books for those who are interested). But it all requires a bit of patience, being in the right place at the right time and being ready with your camera or phone.
People photography can be daunting and so can venturing into a local market armed only with your limited two-word Khmer vocabulary and your camera. There is safety in numbers though and with the right approach and attitude there is a possibility to capture real local gems. From the gory meat section not suitable for vegetarians nor the faint hearted via the fish quarters one can wander past nail and hair salons all the way to the cooked food court and with a bit of courage try some of the items on offer. I always go for the puffy spongy pancakes sold by 10 for just over 50c.
Then we have our colourful pagodas. Local knowledge claims one of them to be at least 400 years old and that is OLD. One would think that after five years in the kingdom of wonder I would be immune to the sight of orange clad monks but no, I'm still clicking away. And the same goes for conical hats bobbing up and down with rice harvest....I can't help it, it just spells Asia.
Now, with our riverfront so nice and green and kept it's actually a pleasure to stroll in the early morning hours when the temperature is still relatively cool and local happenings are in full swing. Taking photographs in a new, exotic place is almost always easy – everything is new and photo-worthy. But what if I was to drag you out of your snuggly bed on a Sunday morning and take you on a short photo walk through the town you have called home for some time? Would you come? Come on, you know you want to! No big bulky equipment is necessary, your phone or pocket compact camera will do a perfectly good job - wait a minute, YOU will do a good job of it. With a few hints and tips on composition and possibly discovering what all these buttons do, you can create amazing images.
My photo walks will run on selected Sundays through the streets of Siem Reap with variable routes and topics. Next one will be Siem Reap in monochrome. In the pipelines I also have some evening walks focusing on low light photography, use of tripod, playing with shutter speed and all that jazz. Locals and visitors alike are welcome so I'm looking forward to seeing you there!
Cambodian weddings….obnoxiously loud (and colourful) affairs and as good a reason as any to leave my house in pursuit of hearing recovery and this week’s topic – the perfect monochrome. (I do manage to find an opportunity to mention my hate affair with wedding music in almost every blog post... yes, I know)
I am leaving the thumping wedding marquee atop my street behind, turning my colour receptors off and cycling to a favourite spot of mine – Wat Preah Encosai otherwise known as the Upper Pagoda (Wat Leu). In early morning hours an undeniable source of noise this time of day the grounds are quiet apart from the murmur from a nearby school where knowledge is being repeated by countless voices and occasionally laughter rings through the air. I have a small window of opportunity to shoot in peace before the curious and cheeky Cambodian youth are "released into the wild".
Pagodas are by their very nature colourful buildings, walls richly decorated with bright colours and interiors boasting murals depicting religious motifs on every available square inch including the pillars and ceiling. Quite the sensory overload. So why come here for a black and white challenge, has she gone mad? ….. Well yes and no.
A quick read-up on how to see the world in black and white reveals the simple truth – shapes, patterns, contrast, simplicity and texture to name the few key elements. Luckily pagodas have these too aside from being a technicolour dream… There are lines and arches, mosaic floors, rusty old gates, peeling paint on wooden doors and window frames, dirty handprints on walls and an old man who has the keys to the forgotten treasures inside. Occasionally a bright flash of monk’s robe catches the eye adding to the authenticity of the place.
But the week is only in its first half and who knows what other colourless opportunities I run into!
So I keep on looking and I come across images that would please the judges (I hope) if our theme was abstract – IF only! I will have to find other visual pleasers down the line but when I am shooting a promotional material for one of the hotels in the area I come across an interesting image which definitely benefits from monochrome and it ends up being my final choice.
I grew up with black and white photography, negatives drying throughout the apartment, the smell of chemicals in the air and bathroom inaccessible for hours on end. My father is a self-taught enthusiast with his own dismountable infrared kingdom which even now, in the digital age, gets the occasional airing and home-made monochrome images are produced.
There is something undeniably nostalgic in black and white photography but it’s also the “new cool” – whatever it means to you, it’s certain that it’s not going anywhere, it’s here to stay and we shall be creative in both colour and monochrome because we can! So here's to black and white!
anna bella betts
Never still, always on the move, looking for the perfect capture... Cambodia is currently my home, presenting endless opportunities....
In this blog you will find no profound wisdom.
Just accounts of daily life, sometimes about photography, often about wine, occasionally about travel adventures and sometimes about nothing at all.