Sunset at Tonle Sap lake

Sunset at Tonle Sap lake

Angkor Wat Photography Workshops and Tours is not only doing tours to the temples, we also visit some other great places around Siem Reap. One of my recent tours brought me, again, to the great Tonle Sap lake. Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in South East Asia and it is extremely rich in fish (god knows how for how long). The main attraction when doing this tour is of course the village of Kampong Phluk, the village on stilts. We used a boat to reach the village and the scenery is really really great. But there is another main attraction the it comes to my Tonle Sap tour. And that is the sunset. The photography tour to the lake starts usually with a 3 hour workshop in the studio where we discuss camera settings and the post production workflow (picture editing). I know it would be better to discuss image editing after the trip, but because the trip takes until sunset, there is simply no way we can do it after the tour.

At around 1PM we took a TukTuk and headed towards the lake. During our drive we stopped at some certain places to practice our photography skills and take landscape pictures. At around 3PM we reached the lake and we boarded the boat. The first thought when you board a boat for the first time is – OH MY GOD! The boats are old, the engine is loud, and the chairs on the boat are actually garden chairs that are in no way bolted to the deck of the boat. In order to get onto the boat you have to step over a couple of other boats. The only help you have is the hand of the boats captain. But once you are on the boat, once you got adapted to the noise and once you find a position in your chair that does not make you fall over, the ride becomes a great adventure. After seeing the village of Kampong Phluk we headed to the open waters of the lake. There we waited for some time until the sun was in the right position and reached the right brightness. The way you take these pictures is very straight forward. Set your camera to Av (Nikon A), put the aperture to something like f10, shoot directly into the sun and make sure your camera settings allow a little bit more color (usually the “Landscape” setting).

The second part of the sunset photography tour is the point, when the sun actually disappears behind the horizon and lights the clouds from below. This great lighting only lasts for a couple of minutes. So you better prepare your camera BEFORE the sun is in the right position. Another tip I can give you is – don’t waste your time on the open lake. See that you leave the lake in time in order to be in the village of Kampong Phluk when the sun is right. The silhouettes have much more power than shooting this scene on open water.

The camera setting I used for these shots is 1/400 sec, f2.8 and ISO 2000. Right, ISO 2000. Now all the photographers reading this blog will say – how can you do this, this is far to high, trade ISO for shutter-speed, and so on and so on. Well, I can guarantee you 1 thing. You don’t want your shutter speed to be much lower because the boat is shaking, the engine is vibrating and other boats passing you with immense speed don’t make it any more stable. Therefore, allow a little higher ISO. A little bit of noise has not killed anyone yet 😉