Back In Bali – looking with new eyes

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This short blog post is about our recent trip back to Bali. We (my loving partner Kim and I), try and get up to Bali at least once a year – it’s close (about a 5 1/2 flight from Sydney), cheap (roughly a third the cost of Sydney living), warm, safe, comfortable and familiar – which is what you want for a pure R&R break.

From a photography point of view this annual trip gives me a chance to see if my photographic style and technique has improved – to try and shoot many of the same things but with different eyes.

As you’ll see some of the shots of done some pretty heavy processing, others I’ve just converted to black and white and some I haven’t had to do a thing.

Bali Accommodation

This time we’re staying in a villa up at Legian, Pondok Ernita – we arrive at around 10PM – the last hour and a bit at the brand new airport they’ve rushed to have ready for the APEC conference.  There’s still a few bugs at the airport to work out!

The villa is nice, big, private and we’re close to the beach, restaurants, bars and shops (important for my Kim).  The cost difference is neglible when you consider the savings of not having to eat and drink out every day. There are basically two villas with a shared pool. My only complaint would be the small television – which is just a minor complaint – honestly I’d be just as happy without a TV on holidays but there are also times when you just want to relax and watch tele after a day of too much sun.  The lovely Marti is our house keeper and keeps everything ship shape while her husband Wyan the gardens and pool beautiful.   We’ve also good wi-fi which is probably the most critical requirement in today’s tech mad world – sad but true.

Bali Beach Dogs

The Bali beach dogs are still here and they are a lot healthier than they were thirty years ago.  Dog lovers like Franci from I Love Bali Dogs feed the pups each day (with the kind support of donations), find them homes (sometimes overseas) and work with sympathetic beach boys and local vets.  The Government is cracking down on beach dogs making sure they have rabies shots.


For many the Bali experience is about the beach, golden sunsets and a cold Bintang. It was the long big tubes of Uluwatu/ Padang Padang that started the initial Aussie surfer invasion way back in the late sixties and seventies.  Today surfing is as much mainstream as is Bali – from the young Aussie grommets on their first overseas surf trip; g-string wearing Euro blokes and babes at “Surf Schools” to grandpa hippies in search of the lost years.


Shooting iconic landmark Tanah Lot is like photographing the Sydney Opera House, Bondi Beach or The Bridge.  The challenge is how do you shoot so it’s different and striking.  I opted for some long exposures and HDR’s (which nearly got me washed away by a large rogue wave).



The new 12.5 km tollway connects Nusa Dua with the new airport and Sanur cutting travel time my more than 70%

Man time and Women Shopping

I’d drop Kim off at a street full of shops then head down to the nearest beach bar to write.  Several hours later she’d call to be picked up.

Note: If you ever need a bike, car or driver in Bali then highly recommend my friend Forrest at Bali Sriti Car Rental (Facebook link)


Born Under The Southern Cross – Sydney Panoroma

Inspired by Ken Duncan, a highly acclaimed Australian landscape photographer and with Australia Day coming up on the 26th January I thought I would try to create a panoroma to share with fellow Aussies and International lovers of our beautiful country.

Yes, I know Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge are cliche shots but as a photographer this is one just one of those shots you just keep shooting to try and get better at – it’s that process of constant learning and improvement.


It’s 9:30PM in the Sydney suburbs and we’re just chilling out watching tele.  The easy thing to do is go to bed and read for a bit but it’s such a lovely Summer night – I quickly grab the camera and head off towards the City – it’s hard to say what the motivation is – it’s that restless energy mind thing that goes on – my partner thinks I’m mad – she’s right.

It’s also school holidays, a lot of people are away so there’s very little traffic heading in and there’s no hassles finding parking.  I make my way to Kirrabilli, on the northern side of the harbour, find a spot just down from the wharf and set up – except for the occasional tourist taking a quick snap and some guys fishing there’s barely a soul around – the harbour’s a lot cleaner than our parents days but I’m still not real sure about eating the fish.  

Oh yeah, there are big bats in the Moreton Bay figs just behind me – I hope those are sprinkles of rain on my head.

I fire my first frame off at 9:54PM.  The photography technique I’m experimenting with is HDR Panoramas – basically you shoot a series of several different exposures and stitch the photos together to create the panorama.  The alternative would be to buy an expensive fish eye lens which I can’t justify yet.  It seems you’re always buying new camera gizmos – a new lens; a new bit of software, some type of modifier.   

When shooting these types of panoromic images there’s a few basic things I’ve learnt so far.

  1. Use a strong sturdy tripod and make sure that it’s level through the entire arc of what you’ll be shooting – otherwise you can lose a lot of potential image real estate when cropping.
  2. For night shoots – find the brightest area to get a baseline for your exposure settings.  For this shoot 24mm (1.6x crop sensor), ISO 400, f/22, 30 seconds.
  3. Switch to B “bulb” mode – gives the ability longer exposure times.
  4. Focus on the key object and switch off automatic focus and image stabilisers.
  5. Get a remote trigger – this reduces the chance of camera shake or bump.
  6. Shoot in an ordered left to right arc.  With an 180 degree panaroma and allowing for around a 20% image overlap (for later stitching) I’ll need 6 sections. You also need to make sure you’re getting good horizontal coverage as well – I’ll shoot another series but angled up 20 degrees – again about 20% overlay to the right and bottom for stitching.

I don’t want to be here all night so I’m only going to shoot three exposures per section, +/- 2 stops from the baseline.   Using my Photobuddy Iphone App I calculate exposure times at 7 seconds (-2 stops); 30 seconds (baseline); 120 seconds (+2 stops) = about five minutes per section.  The stopwatch function in the app is great.  Total – 36 images/  frames.

I shoot RAW format woth (typo for my Kiwi mates) neutral colour profile to try and keep the original file as clean as possible and easier ability to edit in post production.

An hour later my last frame is shot at 10:44PM.  I head home.  

Contact Sheet showing three exposures per segment

Lightroom IMG 8296.dng and 35 others 

Post Production

11:45PM Import photos from camera into Adobe Lightroom and remove a few shots that had ferry’s streaking light across the expsoure and had to be reshot  – result three shots per segment (2 stops under; baseline; 2 stops over).  In hindsight this may have been the best time to remove noise from the images.

12:10AM Batch process each segments exposure stacj using Photomatix – (apply preferred toning) and export combined exposure image  as TIF format.  Result – 12 HDR images.

12:30AM Import TIFs into Hugin Panoromic Software, stitch and export (TIF).  I had a lot of trouble with the HDR imports and subsequent HDR exports so droppped to TIF format).  Result – 1 image.

1:00AM Open up stitched image in Photoshop; clean up and make adjustments (some noise reduction; sharpening; saturation). 

2:30AM – Bed

8:30AM – 11:00AM I was just going to post to Flickr and Facebook but realised there’s more than just the image to share so this blog on the creation process.  Plus this website blog needed some love.

Note to self – explore these panoramic backdrops with my green screen photography and video at some point in the future.

In summary – with today’s super featured camera’s you get a pretty good panoromic result just by point and clicking – I could also buy a cake from the supermarket but that’s not half as much enjoyment as making it yourself to share.

Other recent panaromas (tests)

Kurnell Sunrise HDR PanoramoPhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia

SunrisePhoto by Scott Maxworthymaxymedia