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Some things remain relevant to both film/emulsion/paper photography and electronic wizardry.
I hope that exponents of both systems might find some things of interest in what follows.

So I confidently did I write that, some time ago, about  the turn of the century I think, and I resisted digital (read - 'Couldn't afford what I wanted') until 2009. By then I thought I knew enough about that 'electronic wizardry' to take the plunge and move seamlessly into the digital age.

About 3 months later I know enough to know that I was very wrong.


I eventually purchased a Sony Alpha350 body only, mainly because its swivelling LCD screen would allow me to get a low view point for shooting flowers without having to lay prone on the ground to try to see through an eyepiece and also because it had a few more than the common 10 mega-pixels in the image capture device that has now replaced the film.

I rejected the standard lens after reading that it was poor quality 'bottle glass' with yesterday's or even last week's technology and opted for a Carl Zeiss 16-80mm zoom lens. This piece of extravagance cost me as much as the A350 Sony body itself - and I began to realise that there would be no plausible excuses for crook images.

Had I made a mistake by rejecting a lens that might have given me an excuse for bad results?

I soon realised that I needed more than a D-grade lens as an excuse for some of the rubbish I began to produce.

Let me warn all digital aspirants that it is a different age of photography and all I am equipped to write about it is too embarrassing to set down in print and I do not intend to do so in the foreseeable future. I have a whole new world to learn about.


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 another 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.

                                                   ~ o 0 O 0 o ~
Dear Michael,

I 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
diameter 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 Bali holiday.
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 t
han 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
, particularly on 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 become fuzzy

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 really important. 
I try to use a small aperture (f22 or f16) and shutter speeds of
1/60th of a second or less - even down to 4 or 8 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 photos
which 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 polarising filter.

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
Home Page.  


                                                                     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 -
Kodak Australia - (and look for the 'Taking Great
                                   Pictures' link towards the bottom on the right side.)
Links to Photography Tips -
Photo101atPhotographyReview -
Masters of Photography -


                                                    ~ o 0 O 0 o ~


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.
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 anti-shake device.


                                                                    Jimbaran Beach sunset.

Another thing 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.

Digital is 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.

There are more pictures, stories and information about Bali on our Home Page.




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