Making of 40 Photographs #23

This is #23 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. I spent just over two weeks in Cambodia based in Siem Reap, just outside the Angkor Wat temple complex. As much as I like to tell folk to explore the immediate landscape whilst on a shoot, I’m not one for doing a whistle stop tour of a country.

I think one of he biggest mistakes a new photographer can make is to keep moving and not spend enough time in one location.

Mother and son, Siem Reap rice fields

It’s very tempting to think that because you’ve been down a street once, that it will not hold any further surprises on a repeat visit. It simply isn’t true!

I like to base myself in one location, or a few concentrated spots for a long period of time because I feel I will get to know the geography and the people a bit better and as I’ve already said throughout this series - each day always holds its own new surprises for me - even in a familiar environment.

This picture is one such example. Each day after the monsoon had hit, Deap, my motto driver would take me out to his little village just outside of the town. It was always a fascinating adventure and the quality of the light at this time of day was just superb. Overcast skies with dark thunderous clouds would hang in the air and cast a beautiful soft light over the landscape and the people within it.

We were traveling along the road which had now become a mud slurry, when I saw this woman and her son depart from the edge of the road and down into the paddy fields. I could already see the image in my mind - a shot of them walking into the distance. So I was quick to tap Deap on the shoulder and hop off the back of the bike.

There’s no time for manual metering or changing lenses - I was lucky that I had my longest lens on - a 150mm medium format lens (equiv to 75mm) and also I had a two stop hard grad in my pocket too.

I ran back to where they had just left the side of the road and felt that I was too late. But I know from previous shoots that you should still take the image - I’m always fighting what my vision wants and what reality presents to me. So I took it anyway, and for the rest of the trip wondered just what I’d managed to capture.

I used the line of the waterway as a device to lead the viewers eye in. I don’t often think of this in a conscious way - I guess I just know from experience what works (most of the time!).

Timing is often critical at these moments.  I was aware of DOF issues and settled on an aperture I felt would work and focused between mother and son.

It feels like a shot about dislocation. She’s also looking wistfully away to the side, while we’re right behind him, and he’s obviously looking towards his mother. 

But the point about this shot is that I went down this road each day after monsoon and never saw this image before or after I took it. repeatability is important (and there’s been plenty of that in what I’ve been telling you over this series too). The light also helped. I’d planned to come here during monsoon because the light would be less harsh and more forgiving.