Monthly Archives: June 2012

Portraits of Bali, random acts of smilenness

I do not like to take my camera to the beach the sand frightens me way more than ever getting smashed by an oversize wave. Sand seems to get everywhere and camera equipment is no exception. Well I was emailed a link to some portraits that a photographer Lee Turner from Bali Dream Weddings magazine took on his travels and it inspired me to take take my camera out with me on my bicycle to Kuta Beach yesterday.

Bali is all about Kuta Beach for so many people here. It faces perfectly west and has a sunset of sorts nearly every evening at 6am. It is full of characters from all the corners of the world. So I took my 50mm lens down the beach the first portrait on the way was when I stopped and  spoke to the blind beggar who is always sat on the side of the road. He was actually really happy when I asked if I could take his photo and then repositioned himself and sat straight for the shot. Everybody accelerates past him every day, being blind would possibly be the worst thing for me as a photographer. Today stopping for that moment with him realigned my attitudes to what I should be thankful for. Yes sure I gave him some money but wouldn’t you rather give someone back their eyesight. Well I guess that is where we differ from Jesus, who can do that bit.

The other shots are from the people I see daily at the beach, the surf instructors, the woman selling bracelets, the men selling Coca Cola and Bintang beer. The big smiles are from the man selling his paintings on his shoulder. The young girls come down to do promotional work for Sky garden Nightclub. They like to pose with the heads tilted sideways and a fish pout. Standard issue photo pose here amongst young local girls. The couple laughing and smiling are great, this woman has made me food and coffee daily whenever I am in Bali for a few years total now. Her husband has a crooked eyed and he is teaching me to play a local instrument called gamelan, like a bamboo xylophone. In return I am helping him with some physical exercises to get his belly down.

The Woman with the fruit bowl on her head is one of the most beautiful people you could randomly meet on the beach. A collection of hats given to her by travellers on their holidays are her trademark. Her smile radiates a natural beauty and kindness unrivalled by many. Today with my camera she mentioned she often sees the students take a photo jumping and didn’t know how to get one herself. So I said “jump” and she said “how high?” and take a look at that smile! Then not to forget Nyoman with the cigarette he has worked at Mekar Jaya hotel as long as far longer than the 4 year span over which I have stayed there. Then there are the women from Sumatra who work at Smiles Warung  Jl Patimura. Kina in the Yellow and her mother and sisters feed me most evenings. So what you see below is what you would see too if you spent a few hours in Kuta. People want you to give them money here but when you pay someone attention what you really end up paying for is a smile… and that is priceless.

Ali, Fernando, Tony, Rune, Erin

These are my friends in Bali, Ali is from Australia and spent time all over running a resort living in Fiji and then living in the UK in Brighton, she is a writer and works and lives in Bali, Alison writes for food and villa magazines and can organize free meals in the most amazing places, thanks again Alison. Rune with the shaved head and his girlfriend Erin, Rune is a skater and surfer from Norway, he works in Norway and travels to Bali regularly. He surfs hard and rips a concrete bowl apart at mach speeds. His girlfriend Erin surfs well and is now learning to skate, she is originally from the jungle in Jawa and has stories that will make your hair stand on end and give you goosebumps listening,..Erin speaks English far better than the average Indonesian and is educated in so many ways that only the life she has lived could teach a person.

Fernando is the handsome man with big smile and the model looks, he is from Brazil and is living the steps towards of his imagination in Bali, now surfing every day, he has been here since I last visited and has now agreed to work towards the wingsuit flying dream with me. Tony with the dreds is a skateboarder and very talented involved in film sound engineering from Majorca now surfing and staying in Bali between projects..Tony is one of the funniest people on the planet absolutely hilarious, he presently has a small surf infection (think pimple) on one of his legs  and he is taking antibiotics for it. However he would like far more sympathy than we are able to give him looking at how small it is, but he assures us it is very painful.

Anyway during the banter over the course of the evening, the topics of relationships, love and meeting women in Bali was discussed and this little gem of wisdom arose from amongst the boys and I will never forget it,..”  “On a night out partying and drinking the women that you meet and are not interested at 10pm, become the ones that you will be chasing at midnight and then paying for at 2am” Well In Bali there has never been a truer word said…The girls walk around wearing t shirts stating “no money no honey” Anyway we all know better, (at least for now)  Anyway If I had a ship this would be my crew…

Skateboarding Sanur Bowl Bali, Julien Bergougnoux, Rune Lagaide

Skateboarding Sanur Bowl Bali, Julien Bergougnoux, Rune Lagaide. This is Julien, he has lived in Bali 14 years. Originally from France he now skates and surfs each day in the warmth of a tropical climate. Julien rips this bowl hard. He knows it  better than anyone as he built it in his back yard under the palm trees. Julian is 37 and is a real inspiration, Surfers are pretty selfish people on the whole and surfing in a crowd you will understand what I mean, Skateboarders who surf are different, Julien is generous and kind enough to let anyone skate or ride his bowl..Julien with some frontside transfers and Rune with some frontside nosebones in the deep end.

This is Julien in his bowl

Paddy fields and palm trees and mountains on the horizon

Just some of the views when you decide to ride a bicycle or moped off the beaten track


Upacara Ceremony Batu Balong Bali

Joss Ash, Reubyn Ash and Billabong Pro Surf team, surfing Canggu

The Billabong Pro team are in Bali at the moment and Reubyn Ash being one of them was there alongside his brother Joss and their mum and dad. I know them pretty well and they were playing on the waves at Canggu, same moves as last year and still surfing to a super high standard, However there was two other Brazillian pros who’s names I forgot and the team manager, they were all surfing in their element and destroying the small but powerful waves that Canggu has rolling in..However for 20 people sat in the sea these two Brazilian pros took almost every single wave between them. Without sharing so much as a ripple with the other surfers sat out there.

Reubyn above is presently trying to land an alleyoop backflip 540 double grab on this trip and get it on film. He made the mistake of claiming it and naming it the “Reubyo” online last year without actually landing it standing and riding away cleanly. This annoyed a lot of people in the surf community so now Reubyn is trying to get a clean one on film.. I guess if it was porn this would be Reubyn’s money shot and good luck to him he deserves it.

Surfing and Skateboard Culture; The differences I see here.

The big difference that I can see clearly between surfing and skateboarding culture is most people do not actually ride away from 80% of their ariels. Ruebyn is one of the rare characters who usually does. When you punt a big air on a skateboard and bail just for the camera this is called a “bullshit air” and is done as a joke. In surfing this is the norm, yes sure the waves are moving and surfing is difficult but surfers are not like skateboarders or moto x riders or bmxers for that matter. They like to huck and chuck, landing in a pile in the white water, this is seen as progression of their sport and It takes a skilled surfer to do it so I guess it is. I surf and I can not do what they do. However these bullshit airs do make for good photos and unfortunately are what are used in the Surfing magazines and media to the unknowing public., sure occasionally someone rides one away.. However only one of the pictures above that I took of this whole session of air attempts was ridden away, slowly in the mush. This is the difference between skateboarding, surfing, Bmx and Freestyle motocross; Truth is on a Bmx, motorbike or skateboard you can not bullshit an air in a concrete bowl, or upside down backflipping on a motor bike over a 75ft jump and get away with it. Not even for the photo..This is the difference between other extreme sports and surfing. Surfers are a different breed to skaters and bike riders. They like to session with each other and share their terrain. In surfing it seems to be the fashion that so many selfish aggressive, idiots are hogging every wave in the sea not letting anyone else even get a look in if they are not to the same ability level. It seems in Bali more than most places that many surfers will try and get away with whatever they can even if it is all bullshit..You do not find these people in big heavy waves though. It seems they get scared when the waves become aggressive. Surfing is not the soul sport I always imagined to be with spiritual people in tune with the ocean. It is more often than not, a battle of big egos and limited waves being fought over day in and day out. Maybe its differnt elsewhere but believe me their is no shortage of it in Bali..

Upacara Seminyak

Bali is a destination of such diversity and contrast. These are man made offerings to the gods and the peaceful ceremony was taking place in a brightly decorated holy temple where the men wore traditional white costume and the women beautiful Balines lace. All this whilst the cockfighting and gambling was taking place next door..This is Bali; Light and dark in the same place. Just like the rules of photography, the brightest lights cast the darkest shadows beside them.

Cock Fights and gambling Seminyak Bali

Cockfighting is a tradition in Bali, owners spend a lot of time and money breeding aggressive fighting cocks. It takes place in a covered yet dusty arena surrounded by men in traditional costume with a cold glaze in their stare. I too attended in a surrong and headdress as I watched up close as razor sharp knife blades were tied and bound securely to the prize cocks ankles with string. The two owners then squat face to face holding the cocks by the neck pulling there feathers really hard as they thrust their beaks and faces into each other. When they have aggravated and agitated the cocks enough, it is then that the betting starts. Eager punters flash their cash at the people taking the bets and giving the odds. Once the betting has finished the two cocks are literally thrown together  as they frantically flap and kick until one of them manages to strike a deadly blow to a chest or head area with the blade. The fight lasts about 5 minutes until one of the cocks finally collapses in a  heap of blood drenched feathers on the dust. Winnings and losings are calculated as the dead cock is prepared for dinner that day. Then it all starts again as another cock is taken from a hanging bag or basket at the side of the dusty arena…Animal rights activists from the UK would have a field day here and would be pleased to know that occasionally a cock will sometimes jump a little higher than expected and will send the knife blade into the owners neck and as a result the injuries are fatal as the owner becomes first to meet his maker. Karma or not people like cockfighting here and the tradition is a firm one,..If I had known how truly dangerous this tradition is maybe I would not have gotten so close with my camera and fish eye lens.. Just maybe

Meka Jaya Bungalows Bali

I am staying Back in Mekar Jaya bungalows, to be fair the staff are great the gardens are amazing and the breakfast is always welcome. However on a realistic note the price is increasing each time I return and the rooms are getting grubby, the mattresses close to un-sleepable in whilst sober with bed bugs and back ache. But coming from the Uk the gardens are still worth the trade off, The staff are super friendly, it is also very secure and at 9 US dollars a night including breakfast its still not gonna break the bank.