4/27/12 - 4/27/12 66 °F
If I had the money and the God-given talent, I would quit my job tomorrow (well, in one month since my contract says I have to give one month's notice) and go back to school to study photography. Since that's really not an option, I've taken to looking for photo tours while traveling. They're great because it's a small commitment to make to improve my skills but also a way to get some really nice pictures at the same time.
I started the planning for my Cambodia trip about two months before I took the trip. For Vietnam, I planned for a full year before I began travelling. In February, when I started thinking about vacations for this year, I knew that several of my friends and colleagues had been to Cambodia and all of them had enjoyed it so I did some research on Cambodia and found out that the rainy season is from May to November. Since a friend and I were already planning a trip in September, I decided that sooner would be better than later.
When it came to booking things, the first reservation I made was for a photo tour, second was the hotel and third was my flights - this should tell you just how much I enjoy taking pictures. I had $250 left over from my trip to Vietnam so I had earmarked that money for a photo tour if I could find an affordable one. I went online (how did people ever plan trips before the internet?) and found a tour led by a professional photographer named Nathan Horton. You can check out his website and samples of his work at www.nathanhortonphotography.com.
His work is incredible and his prices are just right. And when I say "just right," I mean "just right!" The prices have just increased, but when I took his tour it was $150 a day or $250 for two days. (It's still $150 a day, but now $275 for two days.) He actually leads a four day tour, but gives participants the option to decide how many days they want to attend. I decided to only attend the first two days: one, since I had a $250 budget, I wanted to stay within that amount. Two, since the third day of the tour was my last day in Cambodia, I didn't want to be too tired or feel rushed, especially since he led a sunrise excursion that morning and check-out at my hotel was 12 noon. Obviously, the fourth day wasn't even an option since I wasn't in Cambodia by that time.
Nathan gave me some great tips and with his help, I took some pictures that I'm really proud of. They don't approach the level of "wow!" that his do, but they're so much better than I could do on my own. Plus, I got the chance to meet some really nice people who also have a passion for photography (unfortunately, I didn't catch all of their names). It was a pretty international group when I attended (apparently there was a "replacement" for me on the third day, but I don't know if any other new people joined after I left) - Nathan is from the UK but living in Cambodia; there was an Australian woman who's living in America; an Australian man now living in Hong Kong; a Canadian living in Vancouver; a Filipino woman living in the Philippines and a man who answers the "where are you from" question with "I hold a German passport." He currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but apparently has spent the last 20 years living in many places outside of Germany. From his stories, it seems that he's spent time in Madrid, London and even Shanghai! When he found out that's where I'm living, he told me that he'd lived there for two years before going to KL.
The first day of the tour we met for a couple of workshops in the hotel where Nathan (and everyone else except the Filipino woman and I) was staying. First, he went over the "nuts and bolts" of the cameras, a Technical Workshop. After lunch was an Aesthetic Workshop, then later we went to one of the temples, Ta Prohm (also known as the "Lara Croft Temple"). I definitely felt like the kid in the Technical Workshop, but not because I was younger than the others (the woman from the Philippines and I are around the same age, actually). I have previously kiddingly called my camera the "baby DSLR," which turned out to be a very apt term on this trip. Most of the others attending the tour had cameras, lenses, bags and tripods that easily added up to $3000 or $4000 worth of equipment, probably more. When I bought mine last year, the camera body, two lenses, tripod, bag and other assorted items totaled less than $1000. It definitely felt like a situation of the kid playing with the big boys. Fortunately, no one seemed to care what make or model camera other people have - we were all just focused on trying to get great pictures.
I think I'd mentioned earlier that my driver Saren had tried to get me to visit Ta Prohm earlier in the week, but I held off because I knew I would be going on Friday. I have to say, Ta Prohm was definitely my favorite temple so I wouldn't have minded getting to go there twice. I guess I'll have to plan another trip to Cambodia one of these days... The reason Ta Prohm is my favorite is because the other temples show you the talent of the people who built and carved them. They show their incredible attention to detail and planning. Ta Prohm, however, shows the talent, attention to detail and planning of God. And His work is far more impressive than the work of the most talented human being!
It's always seemed interesting to say that this person or that person "discovered" a temple hundreds of years after it was built, so I asked the local guide who accompanied our tour, "how could this temple have been lost?" After all, it's not that far from many of the other temples and the ancient city of Angkor Thom. He told me that it was never truly lost, it was just that Ta Prohm was used by people who practiced one type of Buddhism. When another type became more popular, Ta Prohm was abandoned in favor of other temples. It was stunning and much cooler than the other temples I'd visited. Those late afternoon hours truly are better for photographers, especially when carrying around a lot of gear in a hot climate!
I think it's time for some pictures, don't you?
I still have my last day to publish - maybe tomorrow. It's late and I want to get off the computer for awhile.
By the way, Happy Mother's Day to my mom and all of the other wonderful mothers reading this!