Local man at Beng Mealea, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Monday Memories: Greeting the Locals at Beng Mealea

Like I always say, learning a little of the local language goes a long way when asking for a portrait. I like to think that’s how I managed to capture such a generous smile from this guy at Beng Mealea temple in Cambodia.

Literally just a few minutes after I took last week’s Monday Memories photo of children playing in the atmospheric ruins at Beng Mealea, a pleasant drive from Siem Reap, I ran into this man on a trail on the way back to our car.

He was on his way home on his pushbike after picking up a new plant for replanting and ‘borrowing’ a coconut from one of the nearby trees for a drink, as the heat of the day started to take hold.

We exchanged the classic Khmer greetings then I had to sadly default to English. In broken English, he said he lived only five minutes away and was as keen as I was to get home and out of the sun.

I gestured to him if it was okay to make his portrait. He nodded and gave me this smile and I quickly snapped off a couple of frames — from asking him to finish, it took around 30 seconds.

Speed is always of the essence in these situations because often people become a little uncomfortable if you’re playing around with the camera before you shoot.

I can’t stress this enough if you want to get natural portraits when travelling: learn a little of the language and be ready with your camera!

Details: Nikon D700, Nikon 35mm F2.0/D @ F5.6 @ 1/400th second @ ISO800.

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