How to take PERFECT images of Angkor temples

First of all, I’m not a huge fan of “how to” articles and blog spots. I’m simply not, but after one week of waking up at 4:30 AM to beat the crowds and getting through more than 20 temples around Siem Reap, I feel like I have a few insider tips that a first-time visitor to the Angkor area might find very useful. I’ve also included a few images I captured there, so you can see whether my advice is actually worth anything to you or not. The temples of Angkor are incredible and you won’t see anything like them in the world. However, trust me, crowds will be the main thing standing between you and a lovely image. Here are a few hints of mine.

1) Wake up early
Yeah, this one should be kind of obvious, right? The majority of temples open their gates officially at 7:30 AM, but sometimes they open at 7:31. On the majority of days, they open between 7:20 and 7:25. At the most famous temples (Ta Prohm, Bayon), wait by the entrance at 7:15 and be prepared to run when the gate opens—if you want crowd-free images, that is. You will have a few minutes to do your work and get your shots, but only a few.

2) Think outside the box
The largest crowd will be watching the sunrise in front of Angkor Wat in the early morning. It’s a smart idea to start your day at a lesser-known temple. At 7:30, there will be NO people of any kind. Use your time in Angkor wisely!

3) Use a photo guide service
Imagine that you have five or seven days to spend in Angkor. Wouldn’t it be nice to know of some interesting hidden gems from your very first day? Small Buddhist temples, side entrances that no one knows about or spots where you can take some wonderful pictures of water reflections? There are a few photo guide services in Siem Reap. Personally, I have used the help of Angkor Travel Photography and would recommend it, especially for beginners and less advanced photographers.

4) Find a reliable tuk-tuk driver ASAP
A lot of people ask whether they should hire a tuk-tuk or an A/C car. Personally, I have enjoyed every single one of my rides in tuk-tuks and honestly don’t think that you need a car with air conditioning. More importantly, you don’t need to be afraid of lens fogging, which could be an issue while in Angkor. You will save a few minutes in terms of the speed of your vehicle, but it isn’t really worth the extra charge. When you arrive at Siem Reap, go around the city a bit and chat to a few tuk-tuk drivers. Try to find one that speaks good English (it is important for them to properly understand what you want, such as the names of specific temples) and find out their price for a half-day/full-day trip. Make sure that water is included. In less than two hours, you should be able to find one that you will be happy with. There are plenty of them around. Talk to them and ask them questions. Don’t be afraid to haggle!

5) Get your ticket in advance
Do you plan to watch the sunrise above Angkor Wat on your first full day in Siem Reap? Great, but buy your ticket one day in advance so you don’t have to wait in a long line in the early morning hours. Sometimes it takes only two minutes, but at other times, usually when you arrive after a large Chinese group, it could take twenty minutes or more. Buy your ticket in the late afternoon on the day before and you’ll pass the checkpoint in the morning like a king. Also, keep in mind that tickets became more expensive in 2017. A daily ticket now costs 37 USD, which seems quite steep, as compared to a weekly pass for only 72 USD.

6) Even policemen can be guides
It may sound strange, but your cheapest and best photo guide might be one of the policemen guarding the place. They spend every single day there, so they know the temples better than anyone else. They know all the angles and sometimes even the best lighting conditions. One policeman offered to show me the best spots at Ta Prohm temple. Honestly, he got me through all the highlights and even showed me two or three spots where I would have been afraid to go alone. We had a nice chat, spent some 30-35 minutes together, and I gave him a 5 USD note for his help. Everybody wins.

7) Golden Hour useful for more than just the light
Try to be in the temples at closing time. Two dollars can often do the trick and you may be able to stay there without ANY other people for 5 or 15 more minutes. I would say it’s “priceless,” but the price is pretty much always two bucks.

8) Leave the Angkor region for a day
It may sound like a strange photo trick to leave the Angkor altogether, but trust me—there are many photogenic temples outside of Angkor with far fewer tourists! In the Beng Mealea temple, I was totally alone for some 40 minutes when I arrived there shortly before 7 AM. The same thing happened in Banteay Srei. There are no opportunities like that in Angkor anymore.

9) Take the right lens with you
The first thing I would recommend to bring with you is an ultra-wide lens. You will surely find some use for a macro lens and a telephoto lens when shooting detailed shots and trying to avoid getting crowds in your pictures. I have used my tripod only 3 or 4 times in Angkor, but I’m usually a tripod shooter. Angkor, unfortunately, really isn’t a tripod-friendly environment most of the time…

10) Don’t waste your lunchtime
Yes, it’s not easy to take perfect images in the very bright sun of midday, but the temples do tend to be a bit less crowded during lunchtime. If you’re aware that some playing with light and shadows can actually get nice results, you’ll be more willing to wait on your lunch until 2 PM when the crowds tend to return.

La Griteria Day in Nicaragua

It is exactly one year since I’ve had probably my strongest travel experience in my life. I have made it to Nicaraguan city of León and joined local people on La Griteria night which is part of a La Purísima festivity (more about it here). Sky was full of fireworks on these days, people were superfriendly and it was quite fascinating to watch people from churches handing out small gifts to all the people who came there.  It was without any exaggeration quite a miracle that I had a chance to experience it. I was supposed to be on Costa Rican coast on this very date but as the weather was quite unstable after hurricane Otto, I decided to catch a plane to Nicaragua and visit cities of León and Granada for some 5 or 6 days and then come back to “Pura Vida country”.

Just a small advice: Don’t stick to your plans at all costs. Don’t be afraid to improvise a bit - sometimes it can lead you to even something much better that you have planned yourself. I didn’t know anything about La Purísma until this very night. Now I will never get it out of my head. It has been 365 days since I’ve experienced it but it still feels like it happened just yesterday. Happy La Griteria Nicaragua!

Sweet dreams Las Vegas Club

Las Vegas is a city which is still evolving. Every year there are a plenty of new hotels, restaurants, clubs and casinos. For some it is part of a great success story but for some… dreams finish in debris. Some gamblers win and most of them lose. Some hotels are now shinier than ever before and other are being demolished. But Las Vegas Club isn’t just one of the hotels. It is THE hotel.

Las Vegas Club opened its doors in 1930. If you had seen my photos, you probably do realise that the neon sign is really huge. But what you probably don’t know is the fact that it was historically the very second neon casino sign in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Club moved to another part of Fremont Street in 1949 and stayed there ever since.

In April 2013 Las Vegas Club closed its hotel tower which left only the casino open. At midnight on 19th of August 2015, Las Vegas Club shut its doors completely. During this year is Las Vegas Club being demolished and during my visit in October there was not much left except the wall with the famous neon sign. I hope we will be able to see it in the Las Vegas Neon Museum in near future. And for those curious about my photos - images were taken from the room located in new tower of the Golden Nugget Hotel.

Farewell Las Vegas Club.

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