In 2019, I traveled to Bali with my wife Lisa to celebrate our birthdays (they are two days apart!) and a rather belated honeymoon. While it may have taken us three years to get around to taking a proper honeymoon, it only took minutes for us to fall in love with the people, landscape and culture.
The beauty of the island was intoxicating, the food delicious and the people charming, and we quickly began brainstorming about how we could share this magical place with others who wanted to learn about and photograph Bali.
It’s funny because as a photographer, I generally have an idea of what I’ll be shooting when I get there, whether it’s the landscape, the food, the temples or the people. But Bali is all of the above and more. The people are so kind and engaging, and they love to talk about their culture and values and how they approach life. Hinduism is Bali’s most prevalent religion, and its gentle, reverent spirit can be witnessed everywhere you look. Multiple times during the day, locals give beautiful offerings made of sewn palm leaves, colorful flowers and sometimes pieces of food or sweets. These eye-catching offerings can be seen along the streets, in doorways to businesses and in front of homes, and is often preceded by the sweet and spicy smell of incense.
Whether you make your way down the busy streets of Ubud or through the tiny residential neighborhoods, you’ll see parades of people in their colorful outfits on their way to various ceremonies. The streets buzz with cars and motorbikes, which are often loaded with entire families, their groceries – and perhaps a live chicken! What sounds like random but incessant beeping is in fact a courtesy communication between vehicles, which use their horns just like turn signals in a chorus of organized chaos. It is crazy and terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.
Donning an Udeng, or Balinese headdress, and a sarong to enter a temple is generally required and definitely makes you feel more connected in the shared experience. While many homes have personal temples, most neighborhoods also have shared temples and even the country’s largest temples are open to visitors for a fee or donation. The most spectacular temples also have some of the most breathtaking backdrops, perched on an oceanside cliff or seemingly floating in serene lakeside settings. Several temples offer performances for visitors, like the Kecak Fire Dance at the Uluwatu Temple, or opportunities to either witness or participate in a purification ritual known as melukat at water temples like Tirta Empul.
To engage in the culture even more, we took a cooking class from a local kitchen which kicked off with a trip to the market, where we shopped for our food and stopped to photograph the bustling vendors and their wares. We then headed back to the outdoor kitchen, where we made multiple traditional dishes including nasi goreng and satay, and enjoyed the company of our fellow Australian classmates, who definitely helped turn our cooking class into a party (easy access to the property’s “help yourself” cooler may have also contributed!).
Our two weeks in Bali went by in a flash. We dipped our toes in the Indian Ocean, photographed sunrise at Sanur Beach, toured numerous temples and neon-green rice paddies, viewed a volcano, ate great food, met amazing people … and I was able to photograph the whole experience.
With the help from a new friend, New Zealand native David Metcalf, who works an international travel photographer and tour operator, we’re heading back to Bali in October. We’re especially looking forward to exploring with David, who promises to lead us deeper into the Balinese culture and has crafted an itinerary that maximizes our opportunity to capture professional quality images while at the same time continuing to experience Bali’s culture even further.
Our focus is diverse but specific to Bali, and will take in the landscape, people and temples while also enjoying great dining experiences. We’ll work on the foundational skills of photography, but we’ll also go beyond the basics for those who are more advanced. Along with sharpening your skills, you’ll learn important photography techniques such as composition, using filters for the best effect, and how to understand and adjust various camera settings for optimum results. This workshop is designed not only to help you learn how to take better photographs, but also to offer a complete immersion into skills while experiencing this harmonious culture.
To make this an even bigger treat, we’re including an optional tour that explores nearby Borneo – the world’s third-largest island – via spectacular river cruise, where opportunities await to photograph the awe-inspiring, orange-furred orangutans, meet with indigenous tribesman and participate in ceremonies in the surrounding rainforest. We hope you’ll join us!