The sunrise scrum at Angkor Wat to get the best position for a photo of the iconic (in the true sense of the word) temple is worth battling. However, many of the rich rewards of visiting Siem Reap come with early morning explorations of lesser visited temples in Cambodia such as Beng Mealea.

First built as a Hindu temple but with carvings featuring Buddhist motifs, Being Mealea is a tumble-down set of ruins, but in many ways is one of the most enchanting to visit.

Usually when we arrive every living creature is stifling a yawn as the day comes to life. Workers at the ruins slowly sweep the paths, roosters half-heartedly crow, and the local children rub sleep from their eyes.

By the time we’d finished our visit on the particular day this photo was taken, the kids had come to life and were laughing and teasing each other as they enthusiastically played Cambodian hopscotch.

They paid no attention to me at all because they were so involved in their game. I quickly snapped off a few photos and this one grabbed my attention because of the movement and the look of anticipation on the other children’s faces.

I shot this using my portrait lens, which is an 85mm f/1.4D Nikkor, which doesn’t have the fastest focus in the business, but I didn’t have time to swap lenses.

What I do love about using a longer than ‘standard’ lens (standard conventionally being 55mm), is that it ‘compresses’ the background making it appear nearer to the object in focus.

Using a relatively shallow f2.8 aperture means that while the subject is in sharp focus, the background, although it still seems close to the subject, is out of focus, making the photo more dramatic.

While I do love going to Angkor Wat for dawn to shoot the architecture (we were just there again last weekend and it is magnificent), I also really enjoy capturing these scenes of everyday life at the ruins, especially at the lesser visited sites like atmospheric Beng Mealea.

Details: Nikon D700, 85mm f/1.4D Nikkor @ F2.8 @ 1/3200th second @ ISO800.

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