Opening hours: 7.30am – 5.30pm
Preah Khan in the authors favorite temple to photograph within the Angkor complex due to it’s many hidden treasures and forever changing lighting with the seasons. Every tour seems to produce something new. The temple lies east west with ever lasting chambers, a delight for the photographer.
Tour groups mostly enter from the east and exit at the west or visa versa, so expect the central corridor to be busy. Patients is the key. Tours come and go in waves, so there will be opportunities to grab your shot between groups. It’s a lesser visited temple than Angkor, Bayon and Ta Phrom, thus far more relaxing. Early morning and late afternoon sees less visitors, however, even during peak hours, it’s always possible to find solitude in this unique place.
Entering from east, the baray with it’s mirror surface can make for a great shot, especial during rainy season when the water is high. Entering over the cause way, make use of the gods and demons either side, especially in the morning when the sun brings these to life. You can also explore the outer wall with it’s many Garuda craved into the stonework.
Head straight, and before the inner wall you will be met with one of the best preserved fire shrines to your right. This is quite a pretty building from the outside, however, from the inside, a reasonably long exposure with a wide angle lens can reveal the details of the stone and glowing soft light in the windows any time of day.
As you approach the east gate, check the two tree roots to the left, difficult to miss. The one in front of you is perhaps the most photographed within this temple. Play with angles & maybe use the lion guarding the gate to add interest. Pop in the gate and look up for a unique view of the tree framed by the archway of the temple. Beyond the gate check out the tree roots to the right, locally called elephant root due to it’s unique shape. The colours here are fantastic, natural red’s & greens with the root giving a golden glow.
Back to the center, entering the east gate, we are met with the hall of dancers. All of preah khan’s main chambers are good to photograph with the ever lasting door ways. The Hall of dancers in no exception, with the exquisite apsara reliefs enhanced by great natural colours. The sunlight can cause harsh shadows, so if there are clouds about, wait until one comes over to help with uniform exposure.
To the north is a late rebuild of a wooden granary. This can look good early morning when the sun is rising. Shooting into the sun with a touch of over exposure silhouetting the building can create a haunting image.
Back to the center past the hall of dancers you will often fine one of the most photogenic nuns on the whole complex. She has a cense of humor and loves to be photographed. For a small fee, have her give you a blessing, give your camera to someone to capture this memorable experience.
Deep inside the halls to the north, you can fine figures representing the spirits of Jaratajadevi and Indradevi, two sisters who were married to the king. While the photographs may not will awards, the carvings are special to the Khmer. Take your time here and sooner or later a Cambodian will be along to make offerings and prey, & with great shafts of light and incense burning, it’s not a bad spot to be for a spot of culture.
Further along the main chamber we meet the central chamber, with a colorful stupa. Pick your angel as you wish. Place your camera so the sky light coming through holes in the arch align with the top of the stupa for an interesting effect. Here, as with most of the interiors of Angkor, I like to shoot in HDR to enhance all the details & colours.
From the central chamber you can heading south reveals a large yoni with vivid greens in the rainy season, a great spot, giving a subject in the foreground and the ever repeating door ways to draw your eye, best shot with a wide angle lens. You can always stitch a panorama together in post if your lens is not wide enough.
Continue south the the gate where a pair of guardians, great in the early morning light. Continue straight through a jungle track until you reach the outer gate. The causeway is in a state of decay but the Garuda on the outer walls are splendid. There is no entry / exit here and tourists are seldom seen. Perhaps not the best for photography, but a truly peaceful spot for a rest.
Back to the central chamber, you can head north, revealing some buddha statues or continue east. Here again we have a nice hall, again good with HDR, with the soft light entering the windows. Further is the east gate, with a single yoni acting as a foreground subject. Again, a wide lens is good here, the wider the better, but 24mm on full frame will do. I again use HDR to extract as much detail as possible from this gate. Position your camera so as not to have any bright sunlight in the frame to making for better exposure. Make use of the soft light from the windows criss crossing this hall. Exit via the causeway, but don’t forget to look behind you as theres a magnificent reflection of the temple in the moat.
Preah Khan is all good. As much of it is inside, you can visit any time of the day for photography. Early morning and late afternoon are always good times as there will be less tourists. The staff are helpful here. They love getting you to pose in the central chamber for a picture with the glowing light. I have spent many hours exploring all it’s nooks and crannies, yet seen to discover something new with each visit. After the main three temples, Angkor, Bayon & Ta Phrom, I’d say Preah Kkan should be next on your list.
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You may also be interested in Angkor Wat survival guide for photographers.