Bali: Back to Basics

It’s not easy lugging gear around on what is essentially a family vacation. But when you get a chance to go to someplace as exotic and photogenic as Bali, it would be crazy not to take advantage of the photo (and video) ops that abound on this beautiful island.

And so, when I planned my kit for a recent trip to this Indonesian island with my two sons and my brother, a trip that was essentially going to be a boogie boarding safari, I knew that the pounding Balinese surf wouldn’t be the only thing I’d be shooting.

Every two or three years, my brother and my sons try to make a trip to someplace exotic and interesting. It’s a carpe diem, male-bonding kind of thing that we initiated not too long after losing my youngest boy Jonathan,  in a car accident. We usually head for someplace that our wives/girlfriends may not want to go (although everybody wanted to go to Bali!), we have an adventure, and we raise many glasses to Jonny.

But our main objective was to try to take our Jersey Shore boogie boarding skills up a notch by taking some lessons from the good dudes at Bali Bodyboarding. Truth be told, the winds were high, and the surf was relatively huge, and while the boys did fine, my brother and I decided that, since we were three or four decades older than all the other students, discretion was the better part of valor, and so, after catching a wave or two and managing not to die, we usually hung out on the beach while the boys did battle with the surf under the tutelage of our teacher Graham.

Son Brian in the curl. Shot with RX10 in "Clear Image" zoom mode, which makes the effective focal length 400mm
Son Brian in the curl. Shot with RX10 in “Clear Image” zoom mode, which makes the effective focal length 400mm

After about four days on the beach, we had another four or five planned for more cultural undertakings up in the highlands. And so we moved from our coastal digs to a hotel up in Ubud, I broke out my small kit of gear, seen here:

My travel kit for Bali (left to right) a Sony RX10 with its built-in equivalent 24-200mm f/2.8 Zeiss, a 35mm f1.8 Sony prime, a Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 E, and a Sony A6000 mounted with a Sony 10-18mm ultrawide zoom.
My travel kit for Bali (left to right) a Sony RX10 with its built-in equivalent 24-200mm f/2.8 Zeiss, a 35mm f1.8 Sony prime, a Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 E, and a Sony A6000 mounted with a Sony 10-18mm ultrawide zoom. While the RX10 has a built-in ND filter, the A6000 doesn’t, so those three lenses are each fitted with a Variable ND filter.

This proved to be a perfect little kit to cover the temples, festivals, craftspeople, dancers,  and even a huge cremation ceremony that we encountered.  The RX10 (which, btw, has become an even better camera just in the last day or two thanks to a firmware update that enables it to shoot Sony’s new 50mbps codec called XAVC  S.  This is a fantastic upgrade in that this newer codec allows for a higher quality video image and easier color grading. ) is the perfect all around camera. You could conceivably shoot an entire trip with just this body.

But there are a couple of things it can’t do. With its smaller, 1″chip, it’s harder to get that really soft bokeh in the background of shots, and above about 1600, the noise levels start to get a bit high. So carrying a larger chip camera, like the A6000, makes sense.

Wearing a sarong is not a usual fashion choice for me, thank goodness,, it's worn as a sign of respect while covering the cremation ceremony of a village priest.
Wearing a sarong is not a common fashion choice for me (thank goodness!), but it’s worn here as a sign of respect while covering the cremation ceremony of a village priest.

And while 24mm is wide, I like a lot of ultrawide, so I carry the Sony 10-18mm, which on the A6000 body with its APS C sized chip, is equivalent to a 15-28mm zoom. The 35mm f/1.8 is the equivalent of a 50mm f/1.8 on this chip and was perfect for shooting low light situations, like the dancers putting on their makeup before a performance.

The smooth, sharp Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 is the equivalent to a 24-105mm in full frame terms, and is another great walk around lens; you can even get good bokeh effects with this lens, even though it’s an f/4.

And all three of these lenses feature Optical Steadyshot, which is great for run and gun shooting.

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Enjoying a cup of Luwak coffee, the beans of which pass through the alimentary canal of a civet….it tastes a lot better than it sounds!

I rounded out the kit with a small Gitzo Traveler tripod, a smaller tabletop tripod, and a small shotgun mic from Smartmyk.. And bingo, that was it. When it comes to gear, the Old Man in Motion is all about being smaller, lighter, and faster. And best of all, with the exception of the tripod, which goes in the checked duffle bag, all of this gear, along with my 11″ Macbook Air, backup drives, battery chargers, etc. fit in one carry on size backpack…first time I’ve gone out with a single carry on since, well, probably since ever!

It was refreshing to travel so lightly.and yet not find myself wanting for anything…except, perhaps, to be a few decades younger so I could have done justice to that crashing Balinese surf!

 

5 thoughts on “Bali: Back to Basics

  1. Sounded like an amazing trip, Bob. You got some great shots! I’d love to meet up with you for a drink and catch up if you are around Philly.

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