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Travel Photography: An Eastward Eye

At first glance, it's hard to tell when these photos were taken. If you notice the Polaroid border, you're getting warmer — and of course the captions give it away. Martin Westlake has a knack for capturing something timeless.

A photo spread in Audubon Magazine jumped out at me recently. Maybe it was the filmic quality of the scenes: an inundated forest, ancient Angkor temples and other vignettes of Cambodia. The photo byline belonged to Westlake, a name I didn't recognize. A quick email exchange revealed that the photographer has been living and working in Asia for some 20 years and, coincidentally, just published a book of his work this month, titled Eastward.

"My first love is Indonesia, my home for the last 23 years," Westlake writes. "Through my work I've traveled widely throughout Asia. I'm particularly interested in traditions and culture of 'old' Asia, many of which are disappearing fast."

Westlake's interest in travel and photography was sparked in the 1970s on visits to Nigeria, where his father was based as a British Army officer. His first shots were taken with his father's Voigtlander, though over time he took to large format photography: "I'm particularly fond of large format photography as it means that I can slow down, take more time to construct my images ... rather than a reportage "snappy" style travel photography."

These days, it's an increasingly rare breed of photographer that lugs around that kind of camera. In Westlake's work, the extra effort shows.

Westlake's work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure and Travel + Leisure in addition to other publications. See more on his website.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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