Tips for Best Sunrise Capture in Angkor Wat, Cambodia
Photography of Angkor Wat Temple during sunrise is a must do activity if you are a travel photographer.
It is a photographer’s dream to get the best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat Temple, framing it in its full glory. Light plays a crucial role to get that perfect capture and light is different on different days and months. No two days can have similar scene; each new day is a new spectacular scene. A good deal of planning and loads of luck is needed for a very colourful frame. The month of the year, the weather that day and your location – all these decides how good a capture you will get. I have categorized main factors that one has to keep in mind to plan for a good shot of this great Hindu Temple.
What time of the year
Sun rises everyday, so what time of the year is the best to frame it?
During the 12 months of the year sun takes different positions in the horizon to rise. Sun moves from south to north during the months March to September and back to south from north during the months September to March. Twice during this period, in the equinox dates of March and September, the sun rises directly above the main tower. So if you wish to get that ball of fire resting on the sharp spire these equinox dates of March and September are ideal.
Also during Jan to April, the sky is usually cloudless. The chances of getting dramatic colored clouds during Jan to April is slim.
As monsoon sets in, clouds float in and chances of getting dramatic captures are more. Since my travel dates had to coincide with my children’s vacations I had to forget all such plans. In the month of May sun is still at south and in all my photographs I got it at one extreme end of the complex. Luckily there were some clouds and on my second attempt I did get some red skies.
Best location for best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat
There are several locations inside and outside the temple complex to frame Angkor Wat temple with rising sun. Go for that location where you are able to frame the temple, its reflection and the rising sun behind it. The water bodies around the temple give ample opportunities to frame the temple with its reflections in water. I initially positioned myself outside the temple across the moat, later moved inside and got the temple with its reflection in a small pond which is to the right of the path to the temple.
The best position to capture Angkor Wat in its full glory is at the extreme corner of the pool in the left side of the path to the temple. I have marked it X in the picture. That place is the one which gets fully occupied by tripods. I found the pond with lots of lily pads.
The next most sought after place for best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat is the pond in the right side of the path. This one didn’t have any lily pads growing in it. Finally the place beyond the moat is filled up. You will get the reflection of the main gate to the temple and also the temple with its 4 spires from here, though the sight of newly constructed foot bridge is an eye sore.
Proper gear for that perfect capture
The night life at Pub Street of Siem Reap is interesting but you have to resist all that temptation and hit the bed early. Best location gets crowded very fast; it is first come first get so you have to rise early to capture that place. As per Angkor Wat standards, a 4AM riser can be assured of that coveted space. I learned this the hard way. Arrive much before the actual sunrise time. It is then you will get the entire drama of changing tones, colors and hues in the sky.
Take a tripod with you for that perfect undisturbed capture. A click on camera too brings that unavoidable shake to the picture. Remote control for camera also is advisable.
Shoot in RAW mode
Manual mode, if not comfortable in that try Av mode that way you can lock the aperture
low ISO with a tripod, around 100 or 200
Some composition tips
Too much symmetry can be boring
Allow dramatic clouds to occupy two thirds of the picture
Remain longer at the place; there are chances of getting many interesting elements in frame
Try different settings, different exposure times
Try different locations, plenty of water bodies around the temple.
Good luck for that great shot
Remember that 90 to 95% of all that wow pics you see of Angkor Wat Temple at sunrise are photo-shopped. So don’t be disappointed if your pics are not anything similar. You can always enhance your captures to enlarge and frame them up for your wall. Good luck that to get those dramatic skies to get the best sunrise capture in Angkor Wat!