As I walked across the moat which once guarded the commanding and impressive temples of Angkor Wat, I caught myself giddily dreaming of the grand images I would capture. Iconic wide-angled images from Steve McCurry excited my senses. I was about to see one of the seven wonders of the world, one that has been near the top of my bucket list for some years now. What grand images I would encounter; orange-clad monks silently hovering through doorways and across narrow bridgeways. This was to be a personal do-or-die experience for me. I knew what kind of images were available inside and hoped that such moments would reveal themselves to me.
The outer courtyards were awe-inspiring enough but I knew the real treats lay within. A slight anxiety worked its way throughout my body as I noticed how late in the morning it was getting and the magical light slipping further and further away. I passed up perfectly good picture content, moving passed old wooden boats moored on humble docks within the moat. The light is gone and the harsh reality that is mid-day sun is becoming painfully obvious. I know what you're thinking...why wouldn't I head out at sunrise like any other half -brained photographer? Well my opportunity wasn't entirely up to me. I originally wasn't even supposed to go up to Siem Riep as the main purpose of my visit to Cambodia lay within the slums and plank cities hidden inside Phnom Pehn. A slightly last minute reprieve came from Sarah, the leader of our occupation, as she kindly allowed me to head up with some 20 others for an overnight trip to the temples of Angkor. I knew I wouldn't get the good light from the start; you just don't when you're traveling with a large group; but all in all I needed to see it all the same.
Once inside the outer courts, the iconic symbol you are familiar with as Angkor Wat comes perfectly into view. Lush fields and grass lay on each side, with a few horses grazing here and there. I walked down the row amid hundreds of other brightly collaged tourists, and off to the left saw the familiar waters of the reflecting pools that many a photographer has made good use of. Today though, the haze of the mid-day sun along with a slight breeze erased any hope for a reflection shot of my own.
I knew she wasn't going to hand me any gimme shots today; all those iconic images I'd seen were not going to happen. I stood poolside, staring at the hordes of tourists flocking into every nook and cranny, polluting every conceivable shot. I was becoming mentally over stimulated and needed some much needed solitude. So I grabbed my earbuds and began to zone out; thank heavens for Jonsi! I let the meditative droning music overtake me and walked in silent vigil throughout each corridor searching for inspiration.
I started to see light, pure and simple. I forgot about the grandiose pictures I had longed for earlier and started feasting on these slivers of light that found their way through the jumbled mass of stones and foliage. I had finally found my voice amongst those intimate and isolated details, and the deeper I got into my solitude the more light I saw.
The follow images were made from that day, in silence and in solitude.