After much deliberating I finally handed my credit card over to the smiling Cambodian man. I'd been summing him up as much as I had the camera: both I decided I liked. My opinions weren't founded on anything particularly solid, he was a good man, I'd ascertained, because he'd got a picture of his family in his wallet and he'd polished his shoes. The camera I'd researched slightly more thoroughly, but when I saw how it could capture the journey to the ground of a piece of cling film thrown into the air by taking 60 images in 1 second, I wiped a tear from my eye and exclaimed, “I'll take it!”
I tried not to think about the fact that cling film was certainly not what a new camera would have been wrapped up in in England or the tiny matter of the no warranty. And so, $570 later, I was walking out of the shop with my new purchase safely inside a fake Sony bag.
Little did I realise that I'd just bought myself into a whole new world of photographic warfare…
Two days later, at Angkor Wat, I left the smartphone users behind and skipped over to the thousands of 'professionals' awaiting sunrise.
I took my camera bag out of my rucksack and, in my peripheral vision, became aware of several sideways glances. As I revealed my new camera with a flourish, raised eyebrows communicated wordlessly, some said, 'Nice choice!' others, 'Call that a zoom?' I quickly extended the zoom to reveal its full potential and did my best smug face.
Immersed in a frenzied storm of clicking, I became aware of an unspoken hierarchy in the world of photography. Up until now I've always just taken pictures on my iPhone unaware of the complexities of photographic etiquette.
So, in case you too are oblivious, let's begin at the bottom of this hierarchy with the Smartphone and Tablet Users. Often, with no care for symmetry or lighting, they carelessly hold their devices above their heads and take a succession of ill-planned snaps that they'll Instagram later. They frequently enjoy taking selfies and are always, always, ALWAYS in the way.
Next up, The Typical Holiday Photographer, whose cameras are often the shape of a bar of soap and able to be held with one hand. This group obviously splash out a couple of hundred dollars, but become extremely panicked when the situation demands a Setting they can't find. “But, darling, what do I do, it's got a sunset mode but no sunrise?” They also enjoy a distinct overkill of panoramas.
The More Money than Sense Photographer. Sometimes male, slightly overweight and proudly swanning around in revealing spandex. Their camera screams: 'Too little research … Too much money'. Equally, it may be a girl with huge hair, wearing inappropriately short hot pants with Ugg boots (regardless of the weather) and parading the camera like a giant necklace.
The Hippy Photographer, you might see them dancing around in baggy elephant print trousers doing the occasional yoga stance between snaps, their feet will be bare apart from a toe ring or an anklet. While everyone else is trying to capture Angkor Wat, they'll be facing the other way trying to capture its reflection in the eyes of a small sparrow.
Moving on to, The Extreme Photographer, sliding to the front of the crowd on a skateboard between people's legs donning full camouflage, throwing themselves into the lake for the sake of symmetry or climbing up the side of a building to achieve optimal lighting. The protective cover on their Go Pro enables it to be dropped from extreme heights and bounce back, they can also raise it above the crowds on a handy extendable arm. Moving silently, apart from the jingling of an excessive amount of karabiners, you can expect to see them face down in a swamp or swinging from a tree. They more often than not wear shoes like these:
Or, because they were up at 3am packing a suitcase with 15kg of lenses, spare batteries and tripods which they then lugged up the crumbling steps of Angkor before doing a full survey of the environment in order to locate the perfect angle, which is now being infringed upon by some hippy dancing around in the morning dew.
OR, because for the last 2 hours they've been fruitlessly blocking out the mindless babbling of holiday makers discussing which setting to use. Zooms from self conscious bridge camera users are whizzing around them like a swarm of irritating wasps. People are sliding around on skateboards and knocking their tripods out of alignment or inappropriately parading themselves in spandex.
AND NOW…. AT LAST! It's the moment they've been waiting for: the light is perfect, the sun momentarily in an optimal position, they could wait years and never experience these conditions again. They breathe out, finger poised over the button, about to capture an award winning image… and then out of nowhere, 50 Chinese tourists in bright yellow caps following a man waving a flag walk straight into the shot. Thoughtlessly, they take out their Samsung phones, raise them above their heads and without even knowing what they're doing manage to effortlessly take a superb photograph of epic proportions, which they'll never look at again.
And that my friends, is just the start of the complexities of taking a good photograph around here!
A few images to highlight my points, I'll keep adding to these…
Ps The instructions for my camera are in Cambodian… any tips on how the hell it works would be gratefully received! Much love, Laura x