It was my first night in Cambodia, and I was in a restaurant ordering an authentic Cambodian dinner:
“I’ll have the Amok Curry. Which is it better with; fish or beef?”
“Fieef”, the waitress said.
“What was that again?” I said, "fish or beef?".
“Fieeef”, she replied.
“Ok. That sounds good. I’ll have that.” I said.
I like surprises, and Cambodia would be full of them.
Sunset at Phnom Bakheng, Siem Reap. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, Program mode at -1 EV, 1/500 f/11, ISO 800.
One of the big surprises was the Cambodian people. I’d read about how it was not safe to travel at night, and given their war-torn history, I was expecting a crime ridden, battle-hardened, every-man-for-himself culture. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Cambodians are genuinely friendly, honest and have a strong sense of community. If you ask to take a picture of someone, you almost always get a positive response.
I brought my Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR and a 10.5mm Fisheye. While that two-lens combination works well when I need an ultralight setup, I would have been better served with a 12-24mm and 50-150mm combination. I pulled out the 10.5mm Fisheye whenever I needed something wider than 18mm (which was often), but the fisheye look gets old really quickly if you use it too much. The 12-24mm would have been better here, and when I needed more reach, it would have been a quick and easy swap for the Sigma 50-150mm out of my shoulder bag. I might have just thrown the fisheye into the bag as well because a fisheye is just too much fun!
Catch of the Day. Shot just after sunrise at a fishing village near Siem Reap. Nikon D300, 10.5mm Fisheye, Program Mode at -1/3 EV, 1/250 f/3.5, ISO 200, pop-up flash with 1/4 CTO gel at -1 FEV.
I did convert some shots to black and white. My visit to the S21 Tuol Sleng torture prison was a very sobering experience, and I felt that black and white was the way to convey that feeling across.
A visitor examines the prisoners quarters at Tuol Sleng. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, Program Mode at -1/3 EV, 1/50 f/3.5, ISO 1600. B&W conversion done in Lightroom.
I couldn’t have made my Angkor Wat sunrise shot without a tripod. A small tripod is certainly nice to have with you, and I brought along the Slik Sprint Mini with RRS BH-25 Ballhead.
Angkor Wat, in silhouette at Sunrise. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, manually exposed at 1/60 f/8, ISO 200, Slik Sprint Mini Tripod with RRS BH-25 Ballhead, graduated filter applied in post processing.
I've been getting comfortable using high ISOs with my D300. For night shots, I've been cranking up the ISOs. I will use ISO 3200 if the shot needs it, but it is pushing it. ISO 2000 yields very good results, and is my current high ISO 'limit'. Adobe Lightroom does a pretty good job dialing down the color and luminance noise.
MTV Exit Live in Concert at Angkor Wat. Nikon D300, 18-200mm, Aperture Priority at 1/25 f/4.2, ISO 2000.
And in case you were wondering what I was served that first night in Cambodia, it was beef.