Friday, November 22, 2013

Photo Essay from Angkor Wat: How to take unique and cool travel photos

"Have you been to Angkor Wat yet?" she asked me, as I pulled up a chair with my breakfast.

"I biked around it yesterday..." I answered, proudly. Keeping to myself the part where I ran out of water, took a wrong turn which took me 6km out of the way (a path I later had to retrace), and also the part where I rode back to the hostel without a map, in the dark. And the part where I almost cried when I made it back to the hostel, grateful to somehow have navigated the dark streets back to my home for the night. I hope she didn't notice my abnormally generous breakfast portions - I didn't even eat dinner the night before, as I was so tired.

"Wow, I didn't know you could do that! Some French guys and I are just going to hire a tuk tuk driver to take us around today. I guess you don't want to go again, do you?"

I'd bought a 3-day pass when I entered the grounds, and only visited for the one day, so it would be free for me to go again today. I'd also have a chance to take some more photos since I spent most of the first day biking.

"Sure I'd love to go again."

With that simple exchange, minutes later I was in a tuk tuk introducing myself in French to two Parisians and a woman from Switzerland. This was my chance, I thought, to take all the crazy creative photos I had wanted to take yesterday. We arranged to have our driver take us around the grounds for the day for twenty bucks. 5 bucks each.

When you visit somewhere as famous as Angkor Wat, it can be a challenge to make your photos stand out among the crowd. I hope you enjoy the shots I have collected below, and get inspired to take less than ordinary photos on your next trip. Enjoy!

Day one: How many faces can you find? (I see five)

Photos of signs break up the monotony of photos, and sometimes offer humour and insight into the culture you are visiting. I love that rust has peeled most of the important letters right off of this sign.

"Get out of my photo!" is what you want to yell. Either that, or stand there and wait 10 minutes for everyone to clear out, then you get your postcard photo... but to me, people are fascinating. Visiting Angkor Wat is a shared experience, so I like to involve strangers in my photos. All of these people are looking at something, seeing something, experiencing something, just like me.

I was initially very surprised when I heard Korean spoken in Angkor Wat. I wanted to introduce myself to the group I saw, but then after a moment it became clear that I would be hearing a lot more Korean that day. There were tour group upon tour group of Koreans making their way through the ruins, (with me tagging along to try to get some history without anyone knowing I could understand them). I wanted to take a photo of the Korean tour buses to remind myself of that moment. (Fun fact! I was hired by Hana Tour in 2011 to make videos of a luxury tour they offer in the Southern regions of South Korea. Click here to watch that video).

Including this lone biker in my shot here gives scale to the photo.

Giant crumbs.

Selfie at the top of Pre Rup temple, awaiting the sunset. If only I could have told myself that I had 10 more hours of biking ahead of me.

Sunlit temple guests, all hungry for a glimpse at the sunset.

Silhouetted sunset. I remember feeling really happy about this photo.

Day two: Our tuk tuk driver took us to a conveniently located "shopping area" that I hadn't found on my own the day before.

A welcome break from the sun.

Small souvenirs that may or may not be made in China.

Peeking out in between the rungs. The straight angles give a nice perspective. After I took this photo, a few other tourists took the same one.

Getting off the path and onto the grass lets you get closer to the ruins. Also, crouching down a bit gives a more intimate perspective.

Just pretending this is my kitchen window.

Dried up desert grass with paths for tourists. Again, I like to include people in my photos.

I wanted my photo with all these strangers in it. It adds so much colour and life to the photo, and also gives a sense of how crowded Angkor Wat really is.

Tuk tuk riding. Photos of the interesting vehicles we ride in when travelling are always interesting to show family and friends.

Monks in saffron robes.

Pretending to see a far-off land.

Backs and faces. Note the almost invisible woman in the right corner.

Another sign photo - I like this one because of the different languages, and the very easily climbable barricade.

This is classic Expatkerri. I love tree photos, and I love looking up photos, so why not look up from the base of a tree?

Okay - so this is not that original. But it's fun nonetheless!

I spy someone snoozing.

Tree vs. temple (I think the tree is winning)

So many details, everywhere. I wonder if there are more carved people than tourists?

A surprising moment of calm in Ta Prohm.

Shadowy sandy crumbs.

Seeing through lines at the end of the day.

I always seem to meet the sweetest Koreans when I am on the road!

I will end with a failed jumping photo. If you've ever tried to take a jumping photo, you probably have a lot of photos that look just like this one.

What do you to create memorable photos? Leave a comment below.

All of these photos were taken using the Toy Camera setting on the Canon ELPH 300HS


  1. Taking creative photos was my weakness. I didn't expect to do much with them besides occasionally see them on a computer, so I didn't bother doing much with them. Next time around I'm going to put more effort into fanciness.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Photos can be more than images on a screen, for sure! I hope you get some cool shots on your next trip. Thanks for reading the blog ^^

  2. I seriously dream of going there . I will eventually but I'd love to be able to afford this trip next year, which won't happen unfortunately!
    Your pictures are great! I also love having people on my pictures sometimes! I wonder on how many pictures of strangers we must be as well ... That's a pretty weird feeling !
    I hope you're doing amazingly good Kerri!

    1. Thanks! I also wonder how many photos I am the "stranger" in :)

  3. I have so many jumping photos like that! Haha maybe I will have to do a post just on failed jumping pics. That would be funny. And so many bad faces in those pictures!
    I love how you have included people in your shots. I usually find them annoying, but you've showed me that they don't have to be. I'm also a sucker for looking up shots, especially of trees - I have a small collection of my own such photos.
    Cool post Kerri, thanks!

    1. Thanks Colleen. And yes you should definitely do a post of failed jump shots! I know I have at least 100 photos like the one above :)

  4. Angkor What?! Oh Angkor Wat.. :) I really like the old and historical structures of this place. It's been my dream to visit Angkor Wat when I saw it in Tomb Raider. Great job for all the good shots.

  5. Wow! I never thought there are so many people visiting the place regularly. What do you think is the best time to visit Angkor Wat? It's been on my travel list but haven't gone in the place yet. By the way, your photos are great. Thanks

  6. Dear Kerri,
    what a beautiful pictures. I especially adore the first one. You are so special girl (sorry, young woman). Not only funny and with interests of nice things (not like the materialistic majority), but also incredibly beautiful, gorgeous.

    I would do anything to know a girl like you one day. At least a half like you.

    Thank you for your sharing with others, you are making a lot of my days better and nicer.



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