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!
View from one of the few hills around
It was time to leave the work "ball and chain" behind and head to the hills. Actually, let me rephrase: head across the Siem Reap province plains towards Battambang. It would be unfair to say that the 170km stretch of National Road #6 and #5 sees no hills but they are very few and far between.
Cambodia's second largest city can be reached in couple of hours - these days thankfully on sealed roads all the way. My first encounter with National Route #6 was in 2004 and this is another story altogether, so watch this space!
Old Pepsi factory, colour co-ordinated
One would hardly guess the population of Battambang to be over 140000, there is a very relaxed feel to the city although in the last few years things have started to happen. Ambitious buildings are appearing where last year there was only abandoned land and tourism is on the rise.
But don't let this deter you from visiting Battambang, even if you are looking for Cambodia of the past. In certain parts time has stood still. This wasn't my first time in the city, nor the last. Having seen the "must sees" (Phnom Banan, Phnom Sampeau, Bamboo Train, Ek Phnom...) on a previous visits, I had a special agenda in mind: old colonial buildings and urban decay.
The weather Gods provided a perfect mood settings for such task, the blue skies of the morning turned in to patchy grey and rain was hanging overhead eventually turning into a drizzle. We headed to the abandoned Pepsi factory which has been left untouched since mid 1970's. Not knowing what to expect, we sneaked in and explored the complex of buildings; rotting concrete and maze of corridors providing living space for number of families, children playing, clothes drying and dogs too lazy to preted to care. Old wooden crates and bottles are still stored the way they were left on the last working day and to a collector's mind they whisper: cobweb covered treasure....secured by a rusty padlock behind old roller doors, ghosts from the past.
Looking for a road...
When the rain has passed we headed out again, into the fields, enjoyin the green open spaces of the surrounding fertile countryside. Getting lost a few times, covered in mud, we eventually found a way back to the city.
Train station, where time stood still
It was a flying visit.
The next morning, rising early with the chanting and ting-a-ling-a-ling wedding music (which follows me everywhere I go) we checked out of our cheap and cheerful hotel, had a quick brekky and were on our way again. Driving along we found another gem: the half restored Railway Station where a giant clock reads 8:00, unsure of the date. I could have spent hours there. Battambang also has a fair share of picturesque pagodas, but time was pressing.
Return journeys always seem to take shorter time than getting there and so, occasionally getting soaked by passing rain - nature's own airconditioning for the motorcyclist - we were back in Siem Reap.
Great weekend adventure with tons of photographs to get through at the end of it. It's a hard life...and I will definitely be heading back to Battambang soon!
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.