The central massif with its five towers of Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The world's largest religious monument and an architectural masterpiece, Angkor Wat in Cambodia is the apogee of classical Khmer style. Built between 1113 and 1150 by King Suryavarman II, it was both city and temple, the capital of the Empire and the State Temple dedicated to the god Vishnu. Surrounded by a broad moat, it covers 200 hectares (1.5 km by 1.3 km) and faces west. The five central towers, seen here from nearby Bakheng hill, represent the peaks of the mythological Mount Meru, and the entire temple is a microcosm of the Hindu universe...Manfrotto.To visit Angkor in 1989 was to capture something of the experience of the nineteenth-century travelers who had re-discovered it for the West. Nineteen years had gone by since the war had reached the temples, and a decade since the end of the Khmer Rouge regime. In this time, the forest had made a good start at reclaiming a number of the temples. Preah Khan, Banteay Kdei, Ta Prohm, Ta Keo and some smaller ones were covered in a mantle of green, Angkor Wat alone had been kept fairly tidy, but hordes of bats were now the only residents. Twice a week a small aircraft would arrive from Phnom Penh with a handful of tourists or official visitors. They would make a quick tour for a couple of hours, return to the Grand for lunch before flying back to the capital. Apart from that, all was rural quiet. Birds chitter from the treetops. Peasants drive by in oxcarts, and I’m the only foreigner in the entire province, let alone the temple area...I don’t recall ever having such a perfectly arranged schedule. All I needed to do was to inform the military which temple and at what time the following day, and a couple of guards would show up...On my second trip, in December of 1989, it was the dry season, the light sparkling and clear. The first morning after arriving, I left before sunrise with my guide and a soldier for Angkor Wat. In particular, I needed a cover shot for the book I’d been commissioned to do - this was to be the first in color on the temples in two decades. As usual, we were alone. We walked around the south side of the second terrace and waited in the still courtyard for the sun to strike the central towers. I was shooting all the main images on 4x5 transparency, using a Sinar Handy (47mm lens, no bellows but a rising front). The slide holders were all loaded the night before, but I carried more film and a large tent-like changing bag. It took several minutes to set up the camera on the tripod, and with such a wide angle (more or less the equivalent of a 20mm lens on a full-frame DSLR) I always used two spirit levels attached to the camera. A fraction off and verticals would lean or converge, and in pre-digital days this was an unrecoverable sin...We waited, in silence. The sun caught the top of the tower, and gradually worked its way down, the shadows clearing away. At the moment you see here below, it was where I wanted it to be, with the foreground still in shadow. I pulled the darkslide out and held the cable release - it would be a half-second exposure. Then, just before I pressed, I saw the bubble in the spirit level tremble. A shiver ran through the camera, followed by a bass thud that echoed around the stone galleries. The sound, and the tremor, repeated a few seconds later. And again. It was an artillery engagement somewhere to the north of us: government troops attacking Khmer Rouge positions. It turned out later that this was some five miles away, towards Banteay Srei, where the week before the KR had rocketed an APC convoy on the road. For me it meant timing my shots to the intervals between artillery rounds. Of course, it looks serene......
Photo ID: 10386_02v2_AngkorWat
Author: Michael Freeman
File state: Final
Photo size: 34.8 Mpixels (99.5 MB uncompressed) - 6592x5276 pixels (21.9x17.5 in / 55.8x44.7 cm at 300 ppi)