Honeymoon in Bali

As this year winds down, I look back on what was one of the busiest and most important times in my life so far. No doubt the biggest thing that happened to me is that I got married to the love of my life! We were able to plan and hold our wedding just 6 months after getting engaged. Despite the craziness of the wedding time and subsequent move to our new home, we thought it would be best to go immediately after our wedding to our honeymoon destination.

We decided on Bali for a number of reasons. We wanted somewhere that was out of the country, warm, had a good mix of relaxation and adventure, and was somewhere neither of us had been to. It also helped that Bali was featured in Yaminee’s favorite book, “Eat, Pray, Love”. So, we quickly decided that Bali was the place to go.

Just two days after our wedding, we were at the airport. After a fiasco at the ticket counter (a combo of inclement weather and limited alternative flights) that nearly entirely canceled our trip, we were on our 24+ hour journey.

We spent our first few days in the southern part of the island, where we could just relax and soak up the sun. After months of wedding planning and running around, this was exactly what we needed. Our hotel, the Conrad Bali, also had easy access to many ocean activities, including parasailing and jetskiing. For just $8 USD, they quickly harnessed us in and whisked us away into the sky and onto the water. The view from above and on the water was great — but unfortunately not safe for a dSLR:

Yaminee and me on our jet ski!

Yaminee and me on our jet ski!

One of the draws of Bali is its rich marine life. Yaminee has always loved dolphins, so one of the first outings I had planned for us was to see them up close. After taking a boat just 5 minutes off of the coast, we stopped at a small wooden station that the company set up to attract wild dolphins. Using regular food as bait, the dolphins come back every day to interact with guests, learn and perform tricks, and then get on their merry way. It was a pretty cool experience meeting and petting our dolphin, Feta. His skin felt like smooth rubber:

Playing with Dolphins in Bali

Chillin’ with Feta, the dolphin

The island of Bali is also legendary for its unique Hindu culture. It is unlike anywhere else in Indonesia or anywhere in the “capital” of Hinduism, India. While the gods that many Hindus know are the same, the images and stories are slightly different.

The Balinese use a type of performance called Kecak to portray Hindu mythology. I was first introduced to this when I watched the amazing, graphic documentary, Baraka. The performance includes men chanting (in a way that sounds like the name, “Ke-Chuck”) while dancers act out the story. During one of our first evenings, we watched this unique illustration of the familiar Hindu story, Ramayana:

Kecak chanting

Kecak men chanting

Kecak is a beautifully choreographed dance and ritual

Kecak is a beautifully choreographed dance and ritual

As a landscape photographer, I constantly plan my whereabouts and actions on the conditions and subjects I hope to photograph. Much of this went out the window on our trip to Bali, for obvious reasons. I knew this was not a “photography” trip and therefore didn’t expect to get all the shots, but instead experience the island with my new life partner. It’s a win either way. However, I did want to shoot some scenes and Yaminee was more than supportive in urging me to bring back some quality shots.

Our first location to find those shots was Uluwatu Temple, on the southwest coast of the island. A massive cliffside of limestone, this location offered a stunning view due west right where the sun sets. This grand vista showed expansive waves stretching horizontally in the length of a half mile or more. As the waves approached the rocky shore, they began rolling up against the shallows in beautiful shapes. The sun began to touch the horizon and shined pink light just above the level of the sea, and onto each roll and smash of the sea:

Uluwatu Waves Crashing

Crash of Color
Pink light dapples on rolling waves as they crash into the limestone cliffs of Uluwatu Temple, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm/2.8 at 140mm, f/11, .3 sec, ISO 50.

One thing I always try to do when photographing (and something I recommend you do too), is to look behind you. You might think that you have a stellar composition and the right shot, but then right behind you is a light show you would only see in dreams. While it is important to stay true to your “planned shot”, it’s also very effective to stay flexible and capture the most interesting, unique, and fleeting mix of elements you can.

That said, while I was shooting the coast and expecting nothing but a drab, blue sunset, I turned around and what an amazing sight. As the sun peeked through the horizon and its wavelengths of light bent towards the high clouds, the entire sky lit with orange and pink. I first tried a horizontal composition to capture the marching cumulus clouds in the distance and their juxtaposition to the limestone cliffs:

Golden Shores of Uluwatu

Golden Shores
Golden sunlight bathes the cliffside and clouds at Uluwatu Temple, Bali
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, ISO 50, two exposures for dynamic range (HDR)

At times like sunrise and sunset, the light is so dynamic that it can look starkly different from moment to moment. As the orange in the sky pulled back, the highest parts of sky showed more blue and revealed a shape that mimicked the water, and accentuated the circular cliff that lined the way up to the temple. This is probably my favorite of the two images:

Uluwatu Waves Crashing

Kindred Spirits
Shapes of the sky and sea converge during a gorgeous sunset at Uluwatu Temple, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 8 sec, ISO 50.

After such an inspiring sunset, I decided to try to keep it up for the next morning. Earlier in the week, Yaminee and I had visited a beach in Nusa Dua that I thought had some pretty good potential for sunrise. The only question was how to get there. With no method of transport, I thought for a second to rent a motorcycle (as we had already done to that point). Though riding the bike was a lot of fun, it seemed a little risky for me to speed on a 150cc bike, taking a side road in a foreign country, in the pitch dark (before sunrise), with a huge camerabag and tripod on my back — Whoa. So, I decided to get a driver to take me in the early mornings to the spots where I needed to go.

When I arrived at the beach, the first thing I noticed was the craggy limestone formations right above the water. I pushed my way through some brush and found an amazing view over these formations — right over a shallow aquamarine lagoon and the rising sun. The climb over the stone was painful to say the least. I was wearing flimsier shoes and light shorts and the spiny limestone I couldn’t see very deep into the lagoon, but given the angle of light, I knew a polarizer would do the trick. The contrast of the lagoon with the amazing shape of the rock was a challenge for me to compose in a photograph. But I used the shape of the rock as a cradle into the lagoon, eventually leading the eye to the far distant clouds and sun peeking through:

Sunrise over Nusa Dua

em>A brilliant sunrise contrasts over limestone cliffs and a shallow lagoon at Nusa Dua, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, polarizer, f/16, ISO 50, 2 images for dynamic range (HDR) and focus.

After our time in the southern shore of the island, we headed inward to Ubud, the cultural center, nearby the rolling rice fields commonly seen in southeast Asia. First things first, though. Check into our honeymoon villa with it’s private pool (and occasional visits from the monkeys of Monkey Forest). I think this choice got me a few brownie points with the missus:
[image_frame align=”left” height=”427″ width=”640″ title=”Royal Kamuela Villa” alt=”Royal Kamuela Villa”]http://navinsarmaphotography.com/wp-content/gallery/places/bali/ubud_hotel_royal_kamuela.jpg

Our amazing villa at Royal Kamuela, Ubud

Speaking of those pesky monkeys, some did steal our water from our outdoor kitchen. Another stole water right out of Yaminee’s hand when we were touring Monkey Forest. Though these guys look cute, they are NOT shy in getting what they want:

Monkey Forest Ubud Bali

Pesky and cute – a mini monkey in Monkey Forest

Another quest to get brownie points was to take Yaminee to see Ketut Liyer. Now anyone who has read or seen “Eat, Pray, Love” knows Ketut, the friendly old Balinese medicine man who accurately predicted Elizabeth Gilbert’s (or Julia Roberts’) future, including her return to Bali and resurgence into love. Ketut still lives in the same traditional Balinese house, but with noticeably more notoriety and most likely, resources. We hoped to get a little more substance out of the nice old man than we did, but it was still an enjoyable and memorable experience. Besides, who could forget a smile like this:

Meet Ketut Liyer, medicine man extraordinare

Meet Ketut Liyer, medicine man extraordinare

Speaking of traditional Balinese houses, one of the sights that our tour guide/driver had us see was such a house. Owned by a large family, these houses contained just the essentials, but all in one place: a kitchen, sleeping quarters, pig and chicken stys, a temple, and a garden amongst more. All of this in a small stone mini-village. Definitely an amazing cultural sight. On our way out, we gave a few rupiah to the patriarch of the household, a weathered, grateful, and humble person it seemed:

Traditional Bali House Patriarch

The Balinese Patriarch

The next couple of mornings, I had our driver take me before sunrise to the rice fields, in the hope to capture them with a view to the large volcanic mountains in the background (Agung and Batur). Both mornings were a fail for my overall goal, but I still tried to come back with a bit of the personality of those serene places.

The first morning, clouds quickly covered the view to the mountains I mentioned. But, as they continued their slow journey across the sky, I found an opportunity to capture a slightly more graphic image than I had in mind:

Sunrise at the Rice Field of Ubud Bali

Passing the Time
Clouds slowly pass over a serene tropical rice field in Ubud, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 123 sec, ISO 50

As we left the rice fields back for the hotel, I was struck by a small rice field valley shrouded by the morning mist. The layers of the landscaping and the greens catching light on the horizon both grabbed my attention:

Sunrise at the Rice Field of Ubud Bali

Misty Fields
em>Mist appears in a valley of rice fields in Ubud, Bali.
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/16, 1/25 sec, ISO 50

The next morning, I went back out to the rice fields, this time in search of an expansive flooded plain that could reflect the mountain and sunrise. Again finding a shrouded sunrise, I was not able to achieve my goal. I stayed around though, and kept looking around for some inspiration. Going back to my initial thought, I directed my attention to the flooded fields and found a small opening of color reflected nicely against a few exposed rice grasses. Though I didn’t get what I really wanted, witnessing this gave me peace and calm — feelings I actively seek when doing photography:

reflection in a rice paddy puddle

em>Finding Peace
A peaceful morning illustrated in a rice field reflection.
Nikon D800, Nikon 70-200mm/2.8, f/14, 1/40 sec, ISO 50

My last photo adventure on our honeymoon was a visit to Tanah Lot temple. This temple is situated IN not NEXT TO a violent shore on the western part of the island. Hugging the top of a limestone formation, this temple definitely looks like it could get swept away at any time. We descended onto the beach and I knew exactly where I wanted to shoot — right in the thick of things. As most visitors watched from the shorelines, I ran right into the water, constantly pushing further out as the waves fought me back.

And really, those waves did fight me back. What started out as a small trickle on my feet ended up being a forceful smash on my quads. I figured I was already wet so what the hell, let’s go all the way. Waves continued pounding up to my stomach, when I then decided to start swinging my system (camera, tripod and all) into the air to avoid any water damage. Every so often, a monster wave would come and I would have to retreat slightly so I wouldn’t get smacked in the chin. This wouldn’t have been so bad if the rock face I was scaling wasn’t covered with moss.

After about 150 exposures, many shaking because of the moving sand beneath the tripod and others covered with droplets of water, I found one I was pretty happy with. As the sun set, it slinked behind Tanah Lot. I moved slightly to the left to position the sun right in the crevice of the rock where it would look best. While the scene lacked color (also because it lacked clouds), the sun illuminated the crashing waves brilliantly in this nicely shaped swell headed for me:

Sunset Tanah Lot

Sight of Worship
Furious seaside conditions and a view to the setting sun bring reverence to Tanah Lot Temple, Bali
Nikon D800, Nikon 14-24mm/2.8, f/22, 1/15 sec, ISO 50

I hope you have enjoyed this view into our trip. As you can see, we had a great time exploring the island of Bali, and I had a great time capturing it in my camera. But, in the end this was a trip for us — to celebrate our love and our new lives together. While neither of us really knows what this means and where we will end up, we do know that we will explore our world together, as we did on our honeymoon in Bali.


Flowing Together

Flowing Together

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