May 6th, 2010. Pre dawn.
4:00 AM. I dragged myself out of the warm bed and stood under the cold shower for 15 minutes. Bath IS futile. The heat and humidity of Cambodia ensures the first trickle of sweat within a single digit minute of setting a foot outside. I have been changing my clothes more often than a bride at an Indian wedding.
The sky was turning red even as we ground the gravel at the Srah Srang. As I setup my tripod, a hot cup of Khmer coffee appeared by my side. From that point on, I just needed to ensure I did not dial anything extreme into my new 300s. It was one of those days when you cannot take a wrong shot.
A crowd of about 20-30 had gathered. They were standing further down the steps from where the (stone) lion is (in the photo above). A young lassie leaned delicately against the lion, bang in the middle of my shot. She was a bit miffed when I politely asked her to get out of my frame though she got curious and followed me to my setup. When she saw what I was framing, she jabbered to her friends down below and soon I had a 20 odd people on their tummies with the lion as their foreground. While Srah Srang means Royal Bath, a 10th century inscription reads, “water has been stored for the benefit of all creatures” Clearly.
As the sun cleared the horizon, I noticed a young boy string a couple of bullocks into the water. I picked my paraphernalia and ran along the bank to find a spot so that I could silhouette them. I shot some 50 frames and later had massive trouble picking just one from the clutch as THE shot.
Then I noticed Khmer women lead their kids for a morning bath. This was turning out to be quite an epic. Their smiles stayed 1000W. Little did they know that all I was framing against the brilliant sunlight was their outline.
Just as I was ready to pack up, the Khmer papa drove his jalopy into view. The design of the Khmer ox cart has not changed in the last 800 years and even today exactly as depicted in the bas reliefs of the temple.
After that shot, I am truly done. And my watch shows its just 6:30 AM.