Postcard Intellect

Travel photography for the uninitiated….



Farewell Bali

After many days of sun, fun and photos, it was time to wrap up our trip of Bali.  We closed out our last days with an early morning trip to Lovina Beach, in the northern part of the island.  Now Lovina is famous for being a great location to watch dolphins.  You get on these cutters and go out on the water at sunrise, and if you believe the hype there are scores of beautiful dolphins around.  We decided to give it a spin.  Dolphins are beautiful animals, and it’s not often that you get the opportunity to see many of them in the water with you.

Man what a bust.  This is the one pic that I got of a dolphin off Lovina beach.  So you can see it’s definitely not a sure thing.  However I will say that we ran into other people that went on other days and really had a great experience.  So it’s really luck of the draw (or the dolphin’s decision, depending on how you look at it).

After the lacklustre performance at Lovina we drove to a temple, called Brahma Vihara Arama.  It’s actually a Buddhist temple with some Hindu elements, and it was impressive.  I took the HDR photo below because the sun was so harsh, I’m pleased with the way it turned out.

The picture below is of the two statues at the entrance; I put the focus on the latter statue in an effort to draw the eye into the picture a little more.

We left Brahma Vihara Arama and drove into the mountains on our way home; this is where we saw yet another of Bali’s famous temples, known as Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.  It’s sitting in one of the mountain lakes and is probably tied with Tanah Lot for being one of the more iconic images of Bali.  This is one of the those places where I just took way too many pictures.  The temple is so incredibly photogenic and on the day we were there the sun was coming in and out behind the clouds to really change the lighting every few minutes.  I think my favorite version of this picture is above but I like the two below as well.

And across the street from this temple was another one.  This one was relatively small and “quiet” looking, and I’m sorry I don’t know the name of it.  But there was absolutely no one around and it was yet another opportunity to capture the essence of the island. 

I also created a map so you get some clarity on where all these temples are and maybe it will help you understand your trip if you get to Bali and want to take some pictures of the temples.  I hope you find it useful.

Ladies and gents, this concludes our week in Bali!  If you ever get the opportunity to visit I would highly recommend it.  For those of you looking for simple peace and quiet you may occasionally be frustrated.  The island is busy, it’s developed in many areas and it may not give you the seclusion that you’re looking for.  But it’s a great place to visit, the temples are incredibly photo worthy and the people are wonderful.  Highly recommended!

Finally, I leave you with a brief video of our journey, we didn’t get much footage while in Bali but I figured I’d post it anyway.  It’s worth watching just for the video of me trying to impersonate Zoolander – “Water is the essence of wetness!”

Enjoy and thanks for reading!


Tanah Lot and Monkey Temple – More pictures from Bali

On our way home from Besakih temple we had lunch at a really cool place called the Lotus Temple in Ubud.  The weather was just starting to turn and you could see the storm clouds approaching behind the temple.  I took the picture above after lunch; I love the bright colors of the temple against the ominous background of the clouds.

After lunch we drove down to Monkey Temple, sometimes known as the Sacred Monkey Forest.  It was a bit crazy – there are macaques everywhere, and they’re not afraid of humans so it creates a bit of a chaotic situation.  You have people walking around taking pictures, then suddenly there’s a fit of chaos as a monkey grabs the sunglasses off a woman’s head or jumps on top of a child who’s holding a banana.  People give a nervous chuckle but in reality most people are pretty much terrified the whole time they walk through the area.

I did take a few pictures of course, I’m particularly fond of the three below.  The first I like because it looks like the monkey is staring at the statue in the foreground, almost like it’s protecting it’s young from the frightening monster.  The second picture of the young one holding the fruit just gives that sense that every child is thinking but maybe not quite capable of saying.  “This is mine and you can’t have any.”

And finally the last one I like because….well he looks like me.  And you, to be honest (and not meaning any offense).  It’s really amazing to watch a primate and think about the way evolution works, and how it came to be, over millions of years, that I was there taking pictures of them while they were staring at me wondering if they could eat my camera.

The temple itself isn’t much to speak of – the main draw is definitely the monkeys and they sell some bananas, etc. that you can purchase to feed them.  Quite a few people do this, including this guy who made a new friend.

There are some idols and statues worth taking pictures of, and the environment is dark, humid and definitely has that Indiana Jones feel to it.

After we left the temple our driver was more than willing to bounce around, and I wanted to get some pictures of the farmers in their rice paddies.  This is another iconic thing that Bali is known for and I had seen images in Flickr that blew me away.  Unfortunately we didn’t really get to the interesting areas where the rice terraces are really profound, but that didn’t stop us from getting some good pictures of local life, and an appreciation for the staple food that a lot of Asia relies on.

In the latter part of the day we made the drive down to Tanah Lot.  This was THE place I wanted to go while in Bali, so I was ready to go (and ready to drive my wife crazy in the process).  Tanah Lot is one of the more famous temples in Bali – it’s in the southern part of the island and is absolutely beautiful.  The temple is on an island that is just off the beach, and when combined with the sunset can make for an absolutely beautiful scene.  As we walked down I was paranoid about making the sunset (we were there in plenty of time).  I first took this picture, from the right hand side as you’re walking to the water.  It captures the temple and the water very well.

From where this picture was taken if you were to look to the right there’s a short peninsula/overlook that goes out probably 50 meters.  It may be a better vantage point if you’re planning to get that “Postcard shot” but you need to get there early.  When I was there the place was mobbed and I knew this was my one chance, so I stuck with my position.  Below you can see a picture of what the setup looked like.  I was mainly using my 17-40 wide angle lens with an ND filter so I could get a longer exposure time (which I find also helps to enhance the light around sunset).

Finally for the winning shot.  As I was there taking a gazillion pictures waiting for the light to really change, Adriana finally said – we should go over to the other side – the view will be better, there’s a place to sit down, the sun’s not in a good place yet, etc.  My wife is usually right about these sorts of things and I figured after 150 shots of the above I was ready to go.

Well it was the right decision.  If you’re coming down to the temple and go to the left of the temple (while facing the water) there’s a series of markets which leads into a few restaurants / cafes that sit over a cliff where you get an incredible view of the temple.  This was where I knew I was going to get the shot I had really been after.  I used my 17-40 again with the filter and took a series of photos until I settled on this one.

If you’d like to view large click here.  I love the colors in this shot, made possible with the filter that allowed this picture to be exposed for a total of 10 seconds (at f/22 – remember that thing called aperture?  Setting the camera to f/22 with an ND filter let me take a long exposure, even with the receding sunlight).

The drive out of Tanah Lot after sunset is pretty rough – we went back home and prepped for a few days of pool-side relaxation and an awesome New Years Eve party at Ku De Ta.

We’re getting near to the end of our tour of Bali.  I’ll wrap this post up and when I get the chance will close out with my final images of Pura Ulun Danu Bratan and who knows, maybe even a video!

Photography in Bali – Besakih Temple

I’m finally finding the time to write about my trip to Bali, where my wife and I finished 2011 in style by spending just under a week enjoying the island.  We stayed in Seminyak, an area in the south and home to some great restaurants, spas, and resorts.  We arrived late in the evening and spent our first day lounging at the pool to figure out what where we wanted to go, but after that passed we were soon out and about taking pictures of the beautiful island.

We knew that we wanted to see several temples, and on our second day we hired a driver who took us up north to the large temple of Pura Besakih, sometimes known as the Mother Temple.  We paid a small entry fee and had a guide take us around, as there are certain areas of the temple that you’re not allowed to enter.

I started out trying to get some general shots of the overall temple structure as we approached, and it’s large.  The entire temple structure consists of over 18 temples and there are areas that were initially constructed as early as the 11th century.  The mountain in the background is known as Mt. Agung and creates an imposing backdrop for the image.  Here’s an image from part way up the temple looking out; quite a view!

When I take pictures at temples like these I like to try and get some detail shots as well.  While the overall structure is incredible, there’s a lot of opportunity to get some great images of the statues and idols that are all around the temple.  I took the photo below with a very traditional composition; the statue to the right is looking right at you while the white statue in the back left is slightly blurred out (due to the aperture setting).

The picture above is similar but with a slightly different look; the statue in the back is in focus and the blur is on the statue towards the front (which is also facing to the right, looking out of the frame).  There are so many different compositional options in a temple like this – it’s honestly a photographer’s playground.  I like to spend a lot of time walking around and trying different options until I get some images I’m happy with.

Further inside the temple I took some additional pictures of the temple towers; in the first one I liked the pattern that the squares created on the ground.  In the second one I framed one of the temple towers amongst some of the other temples.

The clouds on the day were a bit overcast and quickly changing.  I took many of the photos knowing that I would convert them to HDR pictures in post processing.  I particularly like some of these images below as we got closer to the main temple area and the stairs that form the center piece of the temple complex.

While on the stairs I took a picture of the view looking down as well.

And at the bottom of the stairs I took this picture of some of the statues and idols.

We spent a few hours at the temple.  If you’re not taking pictures it’s probably something you could do in an hour, but both my wife and I really enjoy taking our time and doing our best to capture the feeling and lock in the memory of being there.  When we were finished we jumped back in the car and went off to Monkey Temple near the town of Ubud, and then eventually ended up at Tanah Lot temple on the southern coast, but I’ll write about that journey in another post.

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