Hand holding knife and straw shavings
Cambodia,  Friendly Friday,  Laos,  Travel galleries,  Vietnam

Gallery: getting up close and personal

What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.

Aaron Siskind

Like many photographers, I shoot quite a lot of images of flowers and that’s the first thing I think of when asked to showcase macro photography (which technically-speaking I don’t do) or close-up photography (which I do a lot). After that, my next thought will be insects.

But I already have a few posts here on those lines: Beautiful blooms and bees in close up and A selection of summer bugs.

So what to do when Amanda asks for close ups and macros for this week’s Friendly Friday Challenge? Widen the net, I guess, and look for those occasions where I have tried to pick out the details in other subjects. That too I have done previously, while exploring my own local area, so the following photos are all taken from my travel archives, specifically my early 2020 trip to Indochina. In all of them I tried to get closer to the subject and pick out a detail that spoke to me in some way.

If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.

Robert Capa
Tip of a roof ornamented with a dragon

Roof detail of the Fujian Assembly Hall in Hoi An.

Assembly halls were built there by each section of the Chinese community to serve as both place of worship and gathering place. I loved the colours, and the arched back of this little dragon on its roof.

Colourful wooden carving of a bird
Carving detail
Metal grille adorned with birds and bamboo
Detail of door panel

Just a couple of the many appealing details in the Chinese All-Community Assembly Hall in Hoi An.

This hall is also known as Quang Dong or Quang Trieu and was built in 1885 to serve the Cantonese Chinese community.

Card with Oriental writing hanging on a string
Card with Oriental writing hanging on a string

Prayer cards hanging from incense coils in the Cantonese Assembly Hall in Hoi An.

It is evident that as well as a tourist attraction this is still a place of worship.

Terracotta carved with figures and altar

A wall carving detail from the Thien Hau Pagoda in Saigon / Hoh Chi Minh City.

Thien Hau is a sea goddess. It is believed that she can travel over the oceans on a mat and ride the clouds to save people in trouble on the high seas. 

Close-up of star shaped spices

Star anise for sale in Binh Tay Market, Saigon / Hoh Chi Minh City.

The market was constructed by the French in the 1880s and lies in the heart of the city’s Chinatown.

Basket with small offering made of marigold flowers and banana leaves

Marigold offerings at Wat Xieng Thong, one of the largest temples in Luang Prabang.

The offerings are made from cones of banana leaves ornamented with marigold flowers and designed to look like mini stupas.

Gold-painted carving of a claw gripping a fish

Detail of a bannister at Wat Sensoukharam, another of the many temples in Luang Prabang.

This temple’s name means ‘Temple of 100,000 Treasures’, which refers to the story (truth or legend? I’m not sure) that it was built using 100,000 stones from the Mekong River.

Stone relief carving of a tortoise

A carving near the entrance to Tran Quoc Pagoda, on the banks of the West Lake in Hanoi.

The turtle is one of the four animals considered sacred in Vietnam, symbolising protection, longevity and wisdom. In a traditional Vietnamese fairy tale, the turtle had a powerful sword that helped the Vietnamese to win a war against the Chinese. 

Model of bonsai tree with blue leaves

I noticed this pretty little carving of a bonsai tree in an art/coffee shop in old Hanoi.

If it hadn’t looked so delicate and hard to transport I might have been tempted to buy it! As it was, I had to settle for a photograph.

Small figure carved in gold on a red background
Painting of a fierce giant with people in his mouth

These two details are from the Royal Palace in Phnom Penh.

The red and gold carving is on a pillar of the Throne Hall, while the painting is from the frescos around an outer courtyard, hundreds of metres in length. They depict an episode of the Indian epic Ramayana and are the biggest mural frescos in South East Asia. They were damaged by the Khmer Rouge and are only gradually being restored.

Stone relief carving of imposing figure
Detail of stone carving of a flower

Images of Angkor Wat abound. The five towers, the concentric walls, the reflective pools. And I have photos of all of these, which one day, when I can find the right words to sum up our visit, will find their way into this blog.

But for this post I am focusing on a particular aspect of the temple, its stunning carvings. Here are just three examples.

Worn relief carving of monkeys
Blue rosary and cross hanging from a tree

And finally…

A rosary at Choeung Ek (the Killing Fields) in Cambodia.

Of this place too I have many photos, and again I will share them when the time is right. For now this single image sums up for me both the horror of the place and the natural human reaction to what happened there.

This rosary was left by another visitor on the so-called Killing Tree, found on liberation to be smeared with blood, and worse; here babies were killed by having their heads bashed against it before being tossed into a grave with their mothers.

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.

Diane Arbus

I visited Indochina in early 2020, just before the pandemic took its grip on the world


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