Sunrise Photo Shoot at Angkor Wat

To photograph the sun rise behind Angkor Wat, we woke up early to set up our cameras and tripods by 5:00 am at the reflecting pool in front of the temple. Getting up at 4:00 am isn’t what we had in mind for our vacation, but we were glad for the early start when we arrived at Angkor Wat and discovered people already there.

We were still able to stake out a spot on the edge of the reflecting pool, where no one would get in front of us. After setting up the tripod and camera by the light of a headlamp, I took a test shot, and the photo was completely black. 😦 I checked the exposure, aperture, ISO, and focus, and they were right. Then I felt for the lens cap — it was still on the lens! I normally set focus through the lens, but it was so dark that we focused at infinity. Removing the lens cap solved the problem.

Shown above, this photo using a 30-second exposure was taken well before dawn, and the pool with flowers is visible. It was too dark to see the flowers with the naked eye, so I was surprised when I saw the flowers in the image on the camera LCD.

At 5:15 am, stars are visible. 30-second exposure at f/4 and 3200 ISO. By taking a photo and reviewing it, I was able to point the camera and adjust the focal length to capture the sky, Angor Wat, and its reflection in the pool.

Angkor Wat, 5:15 am (click to enlarge)
Angkor Wat, 5:15 am (click to enlarge)

At 5:30, the sky has taken on a reddish tone, the stars are still visible, and features of the temple are emerging. The camera settings are the same as before.

Angkor Wat, 5:30 am (click to enlarge)
Angkor Wat, 5:30 am (click to enlarge)

At 5:45, the sky is rosy, and Angkor Wat is in silhouette. The aperture is stopped down to f/14, and the ISO is decreased to 800 to increase the depth of field and image quality.

Angkor Wat 5:45 am (click to enlarge)
Angkor Wat 5:45 am (click to enlarge)

After that, the sky fades as the sun comes up. At 7:00, the sun rises over a tower. I stopped down the aperture to f/22 to capture a star pattern from the yellow sun over the tower.

Angkor Wat, 7:00 am (click to enlarge)
Angkor Wat, 7:00 am (click to enlarge)

We’re at Angkor Wat, and the day has just begun.


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I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

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