Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

Phnom Bakheng is a temple in the Angkor Archaeological Park near Siem Reap, Cambodia. The temple is located on top of a hill, thus from the temple one can get a nice panoramic view of the surroundings, including Angkor Wat not far away from there. This temple is one of the oldest in the area, being built in late 9th to early 10th century. Today it is becoming a popular place to go especially around sunset time. Given its age and the high volume of visitors, it is among the most threatened monuments in Angkor.

We went to visit Phnom Bakheng right after finishing our tour in Angkor Wat. It was a pretty short distance to go from Angkor Wat to the base of the hill where Phnom Bakheng was located. From there, we joined hundreds of other visitors hiking up the hill (about a mile or so) towards the temple. When we get to the base of the temple, our tour guide Vanna told us that he would wait there while Kristi and I climb up to the temple. He’s been there many times, and there were so many people going up there that he said it’s better for him to just wait there while we go up and enjoy the panoramic view.

The steps to climb up to the temple were quite steep; we had to go up very very carefully. Once we got up there, we saw so many people already waiting for the sun to go down. We followed suit and just waited, and took photos around the sunset time just like everyone else. I lost my directional bearing while up there and couldn’t really locate where Angkor Wat was, as I was hoping to be able to see Angkor Wat complex from higher elevation. Only later on after I got back to my hotel and looked at the area map that I realized most people were so focusing on the sunset in the west, that not many people were really looking at Angkor Wat that was located southeast of Phnom Bakheng.

After the sunset was done, we continued with a careful stepping down to the base of the temple. Again, it was quite steep, and with many people trying to go down around the same time (before it gets too dark), it was quite an interesting experience. I understood then why Vanna didn’t want to go up there…

The photo below was taken around sunset time when everyone was enjoying the view of a beautiful sky and the sun setting in the distance. I decided to take the photo to include the people around me taking photos. It was impossible to get just the photo of the temple and the sunset without the crowd; having them as part of the photo actually gave it a ‘sense of place’ that helps tell the story about the experience up there with other folks at sunset time.

Sunset at Phnom Bakheng

Grand Canyon

One national park in the United States that is among the most well-known is the Grand Canyon National Park. Located in Northern Arizona, it is a canyon carved by the Colorado River since over 17 million years ago, exposing layers of rock that tell the earth’s geological history from over two billion years ago. The Grand Canyon is 227 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over one mile deep. It is considered as one of the world’s natural wonders.

The first time I visited the Grand Canyon was during the time I was working on a project for a regional hospital in the Navajo Indian Reservation about one hour north east of the Grand Canyon. One day I decided to leave work early and on my way back to Phoenix, I took a detour into the park. I remembered the first time I saw the canyon after driving on flat lands for a while. I’ve seen photos and TV programs on Grand Canyon before, but nothing compared to seeing it with my own eyes. It’s one of those sights that just took my breath away and all I could say was ‘wow.’ Since then, I’ve been back to the Grand Canyon National Park several times, and it’s still awesome to see the sights and observer other visitors’ reaction in seeing the canyon for the first time. But that first visit was one that I always remember.

The photo below was taken during one of my return visits to the Grand Canyon. It’s a photo of the canyon from the South Rim during the sunset. One of the lessons I learned from visiting the Grand Canyon is that the best time to take photographs of the canyon is either at sunrise or at sunset, when the sun light is soft and not as harsh as in the middle of the day. During the day in the bright day light, your photos of the rocks would look washed out.

Sunset at Grand Canyon

Saguaro

Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, Arizona. It comprises two areas (called districts), the West District at the west suburb of the city of Tucson, and the East District at the east suburb of the city. The park gets its name from the saguaro cactus that grow abundantly in the park area. The saguaro cactus is native to the Sonoran desert, and it’s known for its large size (it can grow anywhere from 15 to 50 feet) and long life (some can live for more than 150 years). Whenever you think of the ‘wild west’ the picture wouldn’t be complete without saguaro cacti as part of the scenery.

I visited Saguaro for the first time when I was working on a project in Scottsdale, Arizona. While I was there, I did a road trip to visit the park in Tucson. You can drive your car on both the paved and gravel roads inside the park. There are also walking paths where you can walk among the tall saguaro cacti. And a trip to the Saguaro National Park wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the nearby Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a living museum that showcases the native vegetations and animals.

The photo below was taken at the West District of the Saguaro National Park on my second visit to the park, during a road trip I took with my cousins on the way to Phoenix, Arizona. We arrived in Tucson close to the sunset time, in time to catch one of those amazing moments of the day in the Southwest United States when the sky lights up as the sun sets in the west. The silhouette of the saguaro cacti added interesting details to the scenery; the cacti with their arms looked like human beings standing around.

Sunset at Saguaro National Park

Bass Harbor Light House

One of the famous landmarks in Maine is the Bass Harbor Head Light House near Acadia National Park. It’s one of the most photographed lighthouses in New England, which means that if you go there to take the iconic photos at sunset, it’s very likely that you will not be the only one with that great idea. I arrived at the location about a couple of hours before the estimated sunset time, enough time to look for the spot to take the iconic shot of the lighthouse. There were already a couple of other photographers getting set up, so I found a spot on the rocks to get my tripod and camera ready for taking the shots. I thought all was great, until more and more people arrived as we got closer to the sunset time. Some were respectful of the photographers who were already there, and picked spots on the side that would not interfere with the view of the other photographers. But there were only limited room to ‘spread out’ so before long people started jockeying for positions to take photos, even if that meant obstructing others’ view. Somewhat annoying, especially for those who had come earlier to find good spots to set up. After some positional adjustments and using a zoom lens to limit the view to only the lighthouse, I was able to get some shots of the lighthouse. But then I thought of an interesting point of view — rather than ‘fighting’ the other photographers, why not capturing that very experience of having photographers taking photos of the landmark. So I took few steps back, changed my zoom level, and shot the photo below.

Bass Harbor Head Light House