- Devata, Intro
2nd to Angkor Wat, Cambodias most known and photographed temple, is Bayon at centre of Angkor Thom. The Bayon is known for giant buddha faces, perhaps depict King Jayavarman VII. These faces are not the only characters to appear. Visitors to Angkor will soon notice an abundance of exquisite lady dancers, known as devata or guardian angles, donning the walls of these fabulous Temples. There have been many studies of these sculptures, perhaps the best being ‘The Angkor Women‘ by Kent Davis.
- Devata Photography
For the photographer, these devata make great subjects. Walking the temples on photography workshops, these figures stand out at different times of the day depending on lighting, mostly early and late, they can also work in the harsh mid day sun. These characters also change appearance with the seasons. Monsoon season, peaking in October, brings the best in colours. Use the soft early or late light and reflective light within chambers. Wonder the lesser known temples to discover hidden gems.
- Photography technicals
Previously I shot these with a medium aperture. The header and first image were done like this, notice the fall of in focus on their faces. With the Canon r6ii, the in body stabilisation and focus stacking / high frame rates are game change. I can now shooting multiple rapid focus stacked large aperture images and get a great deal of detail. Auto align and focus stacking in post works wonders. The latter images in this series were shot at multiple focus lengths, f2.8 and hand held. I then choose the images with sharpness on the characters for the final image stack. I tried extension tubes, but this is fiddly, a proper macro lens would work well, however for my macro plant time lapse work I only have manual macro glass. With my old 6D I’d need a tripod, more time and manually adjust focus. Now I have full control of what is and what is not in focus. Judge the results for yourself.
- Devata Locations
Angkor Wat is ladened with fine examples of devata. Head to the central tower for some of the finer and goddesses. For visitors, see if you can fine the two devata showing their teeth, said to be forbidden! (clue: one is near the Vishnu statue at the west entry gate, there is another on the second level of Angkor). The statues at the rear of Angkor are a favourite for Darren, a bit weathered with exquisite Apsara styled hair. Beyond Angkor, the remote over grown temples are great hunting grounds. Check for hidden gems in places like Ta Prohm, Preah Kkan, Ta Som and Banteay Kdei. Here you’ll find more rustic and weathered devata which makes them quite photogenic, especially during the wetter months. Last but not lease, an early morning visit to Banteay Srei (don’t forget your long lens, the main temple is roped off) with it’s pink sandstone carvings offering some of the finest carvings. Don’t limit yourself to these suggestions, there are many areas worth exploring. Enjoy your time, best early or late searching for that magical light.