The appearance of our Bali Story 2000 on the Bali Travel Forum brought
so many flattering responses that I was persuaded to put together our
web pages where the story could be illustrated with some of the
photographs we took.
This brought even more flattering reactions and a number of E-mails, one from Michael,
asking about the photos, the techniques I used, the films and where they
were processed, the equipment and a
host of others queries.
Over a period of time I began to copy the previous answer and add the
new things that
person was asking about. The following is the result and I
record it here, not as a gospel of photographic excellence from a
professional but as some advice to help the ordinary snap shooter take
the next step.
Please bear in mind that my photography began many years ago when a
Kodak employee visited my secondary school for a lunch time club and I
still remember with fondness his insights, his skills and enthusiasm and
my then ability to learn new things with ease.
At the time the most important matter for debate was the intensity of
the black in the prints, colour was a thing I was not to experience for
some 15 or 20 years later. Consequently, in this age of digital
magic some of what follows is of academic interest only, and if I think
it is not even that then I have removed it.
Sunset at the Balihai Resort in Tuban, taken from the Pool Bar. What
more could you want?
Well, in 2007 having just returned from Bali and the search for an
alternative hotel in which I feel comfortable, what I would like is for
the old Holiday Inn, renamed the Bail Hai, to reopen. It has been closed
now for some months and there is no reliable news of it reopening.
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hope the information below is not too much for you.
I've tried to give all the detail you might want, but if you only use a
bit of it I hope you are still happy with your results.
The camera I use is a Pentax MZ-5 with Sigma lenses: either a wonderful 28-200 mm
zoom with a big 72mm
object lens, or for some recent shots I've used a newer 28-80 mm zoom with
macro and a 55 mm diameter object lens which I bought Duty Free for the
The big lens is an old friend now (well 4 years old) but I think I'm
beginning to like the new one also, particularly the macro option.
I also have a close up filter for the big zoom but I don't use it much
now since I've got the macro feature in the smaller lens.
The camera and lenses are really quite ordinary, better than a cheap
disposable I suppose, but not in the high class - high price bracket.
I use circular polarising filters on both lenses to put a bit of
contrast in the sky when it needs it, and to take the glare off things a
bit. They just screw onto the front of the normal lens. These things are
not too expensive (well, I suppose that depends on the size of your
wallet) but they do magical things to tropical skies, making the bright
pale blue a much
darker colour and make clouds really stand out.
They are also good lens protectors, absorbing cleaning damage, salt
water spray and grit much better than the coated lenses. If you have to
replace anything damaged in some unfortunate accident it's much cheaper
to get a new filter than
it is to get a new lens.
They are adjustable for effect, like the old original advertisements
for polarised sun glasses - if you're old enough to remember - one lens
held in front of the other and slowly turned 90 degrees, the light
coming thro' them going from almost full brightness to almost black as
they are turned, so you can darken the sky and lighten the clouds just the
amount you want. I think that this adjustment makes them much better
than the cheaper linear polarising lenses which are not too good
on auto-focus lenses.
I also have a Cokin filter attachment for each lens and have just begun
to collect some coloured and special effects filters for these. If you
think that the colours in some of my photos are unbelievable - you're
right. It's the coloured filters at work.
Most importantly I think, I use a heavy tripod and electronic shutter
release whenever I can. If I don't have to worry too much about camera
shake from the old hands,
long zoom shots,
I have the courage to use very slow shutter speeds and small diaphragm
openings and slow films.
(I now have an alternative if you're not into this business of lugging aluminium tripods
around and looking a little mad. See the very end of this file.)
This alone improves the image quality so much that it has made it
possible to greatly enlarge 35 mm negatives and still have a reasonably
sharp image from the front of the scene right into the distance.
We have a quite a collection of these enlargements throughout our
kitchen/living/dining area that constantly reminds us of the great times
we've had in Bali.
I'm not too fussy about film, Kodak Gold, Agfa or Fuji Superia or
anything else really does the job for me on most occasions. However, if
you think that a special holiday deserves special film (and some films
will give you denser colours and sharper images that are much better for
enlargements) then try more expensive films.
The only constant thing is that I use only film with an ASA speed rating
of 100, occasionally 200 but never 400 and above. I think that the
slower films (100) have finer light-sensitive particles in them and this
gives sharper edges in the photo so they will enlarge more before they
Because I use a tripod I can more easily use this slower film, with
longer shutter speeds, but still not get any camera shake. This is
I try to use a small aperture (f22 or f16) and shutter speeds of
of a second or less - even down to 4
seconds for dawn and sunset shots. All of this makes the negatives (and
the photos) very sharp, even when they are enlarged quite a bit.
I only take 'snap shots' with the camera in my hands - never serious
they are all done on the tripod.
If you decide to spend some money on camera gear your photo shop
proprietor should be happy to talk to you about using each piece. I
think I've maybe put these things in the wrong order. If I was going to
get only one thing it would be the tripod and shutter release. The
tripod cost me about Aus$120 and the shutter release was about $50.
If this is too much for you now then the second best would be the
Hope I've answered your query without rambling on too much. If
I've missed anything you're curious about just let me know and I'll try
to help. There's an E-mail contact link on the
Water Lily, Ubud.
If you're interested in looking at some good web sites
that freely help shooters to progress towards photography, try a search
for these sites -
Agfa Online Photo Course - www.agfaphoto.com/library/photocourse/
Kodak Australia - www.kodak.com.au (and look for the 'Taking Great
Pictures' link towards the bottom on
the right side.)
Links to Photography Tips - www.photosecrets.com/links.tips.html
Masters of Photography -
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Post scripts -
A piece of advice I can now offer is the use of those very small
and cheap tripods with springy wire legs that will fit fairly
comfortably into a 'bum bag' if you don't have a camera bag. Would you
believe that the smallest and cheapest of these that I have found is
called 'Springy Legs' (I am not kidding you) and is about 4 inches (100
mm/10 cm) long. It is quite adequate and retails here for about A$10. A
slightly more sophisticated version, a little longer (maybe 5 inches)
with a few more features is the Vanguard VS-52 at about A$25.
I firmly believe
that the now common availability of small digital pocket cameras with zoom
lenses are responsible for more bad photos than anything else. These are
the cameras that benefit most from the use of small tripods.
can be screwed onto the bottom of most small cameras and the legs spread
to rest the camera on a car bonnet or a wall or fencepost or up-turned
box, anything that will keep the camera steady. (Do make sure that the
car engine is turned off if you're using the bonnet, and that the kids
are not about to jump in and have a fight.)
Adjust the bend of the legs to point the thing in the required direction
and use the delayed shutter release mode of the camera (you know, the
one that lets you press the button and then gives you time to run around
the front and get into the picture yourself) to take the shot without
any risk of the camera shaking in your hands as you press the button.
Without doubt this finger generated camera movement causes the ruination of most shots,
and the new crop of small pocket cameras with zoom lenses do, of course,
greatly emphasise the smallest of shakes.
NEVER copy those wankers who think they can take a photograph when
they're holding the camera in one hand and don't think you're
bullet-proof because you've got a very new model with an inbuilt
Jimbaran Beach sunset.
I've learnt (2003) is that there are now far too many film processing photo shops in Bali.
Since the fall
off in the number of tourists after the Kuta bombing there is not enough
work for all of them and their equipment is not regularly cleaned, their
chemical solutions are not replenished when they should be and they will
turn on their machines and try to develop and print your irreplaceable
memories before the temperatures are correct and stable. If you see a
sign advertising 'Print and Develop in 20m minutes' then run as fast as
you can in the other direction.
another matter, but I find that I still take prints back or refuse to
pay for them if I'm not satisfied that their 'standard' machine printing
is first class.
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