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Happy Jewish New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Happy Jewish New Year!

Every Jewish New Year is special, but this time it is really special as it will never be repeated on this date again, well not for a long time..

The last time Rosh Hashanah came this early was 1899 and the next time will be 2089.

Knesseth Eli Yahoo Synagogue, Mumbai, India.

Knesseth Eli Yahoo Synagogue, Mumbai, India.

Even more bizarre is that the first day of Hannukah – Thursday, November 28, 2013 – is also Thanksgiving – and that won’t be repeated until the year 79,811!

Knesseth Eli Yahoo Synagogue, Mumbai, India.

Knesseth Eli Yahoo Synagogue, Mumbai, India.

Shana tovah u’metukah, (Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year”).

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Happy Independence Day, Indonesia

Independence Day, Ubud, Bali

Independence Day, Ubud, Bali.

After a long struggle, on 27 December 1949, the Dutch finally recognised Indonesia as an independent state and transferred sovereignty to the Republic of the United States of Indonesia. On 17 August 1950, which was the fifth anniversary of the declaration of Independence, the country was proclaimed the Republic of Indonesia. President Sukarno became the first President of Indonesia and Mohammad Hatta, a highly effective Minangkabau economist from Sumatra, became prime minister.

Indonesia always claimed that the date of independence was 17 August 1945 but the Dutch insisted that the date was 27 December 1949.

In August 2005 the Dutch accepted the 1945 date.

The story of the struggle is told in our book Secrets of Bali, Fresh Light on the Morning of the World, now available as an ebook for immediate downloading.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Friendly Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

bali-ubud-policelady-1

Even the Cops are friendly.

46,000 readers of Conde-Nast Traveler, the world’s premier travel magazine, have just voted Ubud the 9th friendliest city in the World. In 2010 the majority of 25,000 of its readers voted Ubud the “Best City in Asia.”

I’m not sure Ubud is a city, I’m not even sure that it is a town, nevertheless the accolades are very welcome. Only a couple of cities – in Bhutan and Mandalay – beat my home town/city/village in Asia.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Queen Sirikit’s Birthday, Bangkok, Thailand

bangkok-sirikit-birthday-blog

It’s Queen Sirikit’s 81st birthday today. She and King Bhumibol left hospital a few days ago and are celebrating in Hua Hin. The rest of the country is celebrating too and the place is full of posters. It’s also Thailand’s Mother’s Day and a national holiday.

Their story is like a fairy tale. On a trip to Paris Bhumibol met the outstandingly beautiful 17-year old daughter of a Siamese diplomat. He could trace his ancestry back to the early 13th century kingdom of Sukhotai. Sirikit was studying classical music, he loved jazz and they spoke French together.

In October 1948 Bhumibol was involved in a bad pile up and she looked after him. They got engaged in July 1949 and married in 1950.

More details in our forthcoming book on Bangkok.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

The Photographer’s Workflow by Gavin Gough

I read this 130 page 10-step guide from ebook cover to ebook cover. Over the last few years I’ve read everything I could get my hands on – and there’s quite a lot to get your hands on – concerning Lightroom. I can easily say that this latest ebook, The Photographer’s Workflow, by Gavin Gough is the best, in my opinion, by far. He writes in a very personal style; you have the feeling that he’s right there with you, telling you all he knows, as simply as possible, not holding anything back, and eager to pass on his knowledge.

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He’s actually a wonderful photographer and teacher. Not just that, his background as a Systems Analyst, well versed in computers, enables him to explain just enough of the technical side that is necessary to know what you’re doing and why and fortunately not get bogged down with unnecessary detail.

Lightroom is a masterful program and Gavin goes through each step in the process extremely comprehensively and clearly. He leaves no stone unturned. It’s so easy to take hundreds, even thousands, of photographs a week, actually a day, even an hour, that we quickly become overwhelmed. It’s vital to have a well thought-out logical system that can be applied to every photograph from beginning to end. That’s what this book is about, and it’s not just the theory. Gavin generously explains his own personal workflow, honed over a decade of taking photographs for the likes of Lonely Planet and Getty Images, and gives us his own presets for each step, so that we can do exactly as he does. Whether we can take as good photographs at the outset is, of course, another matter. As he says, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

In addition to the text, there are clear video tutorials and photographic examples. The ebook is more or less divided into two parts – the first part deals with data management, the vital need to back up everything, and why, the naming of files and folders, Lightroom’s system of flags, ratings and labels, and colour management. He recommends software that helps – some of which is free. And he explains how to configure Lightroom so that it gives the best service. He describes his own gear and what he takes on an assignment – with a lot of helpful tips, such as carrying superglue and elastic hair bands. He even advises on which way up to  pack your camera.

Then he gets into what to do with the images once they have been taken, importing them into Lightroom, easing the chore of metadata, explaining smart collections (which I’ve never really understood properly and am looking forward to putting into practice), and, to me the best part, actually developing the images. Gavin has some very helpful – and wise – advice concerning lens corrections, perspective corrections and cropping before explaining the controls for exposure, white balance, contrast, hue, saturation, luminance, vignettes, tone curves, sharpening and noise reduction. He kindly provides presets for all of these, as well as several brush presets. Brush presets are used when you just want to alter part of the image and not the whole.

Finally, there is a chapter on exporting the image – which could be to a hard disk, CD, DVD, blog, Facebook, email, or web site. He explains what the appropriate image size and resolution should be.

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I have no doubt that whether you are starting out with Lightroom or an experienced professional you will find this ebook highly useful. I wish it had been available when I started out myself using Lightroom. You will enjoy the really clear explanations and diagrams. At less than the price of a pub lunch, a mere US$30, it’s an incredible bargain. And who could not warm to a man who writes,  The time has come to get into the nitty gritty of data management, you lucky sausage.

To buy the ebook and be reading it in under a minute:    Click here to visit Gavin Gough.

Ambling in Amed, East Bali

Last week we went to Amed.

Murni and I were with Southeast Asian textiles’ expert Dr Linda McIntosh and we were on a mission.

The mission was to scout out places to bring a small select group of textile enthusiasts to.

We needed to find interesting weavers and dyers, who were still using and creating natural dyes, and trying to maintain the old traditions, which are in danger of dying out and disappearing.

We got up before sunrise and set off in search of textile producers.

We saw some amazing sights.

‘To learn the magic of light get up before sunrise and watch’ – Ted Grant – and we did.

David Young said, ‘It is the photographing of ordinary things, in extraordinary light, which results in extraordinary photographs.’  We stayed 3 days and the light was different everyday and every minute of everyday. It was all extraordinary.

Mission accomplished, we have launched and invite those interested in textiles and culture to join Murni’s Textile and Cultural Tour at Murni’s Houses.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

A Walk on the Wild Side, Ubud, Bali

It’s easy to get off the beaten track in Ubud.

The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Recently Murni and I took  two of our guests at Murni’s Houses for a walk on the wild side. It only took five minutes to be in the rice paddies and amongst the coconut and palm trees. It’s on our doorstep.

Coconut Tree

Coconut Tree

We got up at 7 am. It was already light and the temperature was wonderfully cool.  Wildlife and humans were stirring.

Snail, Ubud, Bali

Snail, Ubud, Bali

We walked down the slope to the main road, crossed over and we were soon surrounded by a thousand shades of green.

Rice Paddy, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Rice Paddy, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

There were people going to work on their bicycles…

Cyclist, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

and bicycles just waiting for the owners to take them for a spin.

Bicycle, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Bicycle, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

There were geometric shapes:

Banana Tree, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Banana Tree, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

… and if you looked carefully new life was bursting forth.

New Life, Ubud, Bali

New Life, Ubud, Bali

Wildflowers add a touch of colour to the overwhelming green backdrop.

Wildflower, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Wildflower, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Works of art in the shape of rice paddies reflected the sky above and hard labour below, and centuries of it.

Rice Paddy, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

Rice Paddy, The Ridge, Ubud, Bali

After several hours we were back to the modern world of cars and motorbikes, but at least the first motortbike was green.

Motorbike, Ubud, Bali

Motorbike, Ubud, Bali

There’s more about Rice in Secrets of Bali.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Mask Ceremony, Ubud, Bali

Last month the whole community in Ubud attended an unusual ceremony.

Balinese Mask
Balinese Mask.

Balinese masks take many forms and are usually carved from a special,  fine-grained, cream-coloured, light wood called pule (alstonia scholaris), which grows in graveyards. Two of the masks in question came from a pule tree in the graveyard near Murni’s Houses and the other from another graveyard in Peliatan at the other end of Ubud.

Gate to Pura Dalem, Ubud, Bali.
Gate to Pura Dalem, Ubud, Bali.

The tree must be ‘pregnant’, that is to say ready and suitable for carving, evidenced by the bark swelling slightly outwards. The mask maker goes to the tree on an auspicious day, presents his offerings and requests the tree’s permission. He then chops a slab of wood with his axe and takes it back and waits for inspiration.

They are kept in special shrines and receive offerings every full and new moon, on Kajeng-Kliwon, which is every fifteen days, and also when they are used. In addition, they get special offerings on a day known as Tumpek Krulut, which occurs every 210 days.

Pura Dale, Ubud, Bali
Pura Dalem, Ubud, Bali.

The night before the big night the community prayed in Pura Dalem, the temple associated with the dead, and where the masks were kept. In front of them were thousands of offerings.

Sidhakarya Dancer in Pura Dalem, Ubud, Bali.
Sidhakarya Dancer in Pura Dalem, Ubud, Bali.

Outside the main courtyard was a sole dancer. It was Sidhakarya – the same masked dance as one of the three masks that were the subject of the ceremony.

Balinese masks are of ancient origin and act like a lightning rod in the sense that they attract the spirit of the person to be portrayed. They are the vehicles of the gods and are sacred.

White haired Rangda Mask.
White haired Rangda Mask.

There were three masks involved in the ceremony at Pura Dalem. There was Sidhakarya  and two Rangda masks, one white haired and one red-brown haired.

Red-brown haired Rangda Mask.
Red-brown haired Rangda Mask.

Rangda is the Queen of the Witches, tall and has tusks. Some temples have two Rangda masks, one red and the other white. The red one represents the more dangerous Rangda. The white one stresses her royal birth—some say Rangda is based on the 11th century Princess Mahendradatta.

Procession to Pura Gunung, Campuan, Bali
Procession to Pura Gunung Lebah, Campuan, Bali.

The night before the main night the masks were carried down to the sacred Wos river in Campuhan for a purification ceremony at the temple known as Pura Gunung Lebah.

Sidhakarya Mask..
Sidhakarya Mask in Pura Gunung Lebah, Campuan, Bali. 

The main night involved a procession along the main street of Ubud to the temple in Peliatan as the wood for the other mask came from the graveyard in Peliatan and then they went back to the graveyard in Ubud. It was after midnight and dark. The graveyard was packed and the three masks were surrounded by priests. All lights were turned off and the crowd was asked to leave while the priests stayed with the masks waiting for a sign that the gods approved. Such a sign would be lights falling from the sky. There was approval.

There’s more about Balinese Masks, Ceremonies, Sidhakarya and Rangda in Secrets of Bali.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

Balinese Masks are available at Murni’s Warung Shop and on line.

Kuningan in Ubud, Bali

Today is Kuningan in Ubud, Bali, which is the last day of the 10 day holiday beginning on Galungan when the gods descend and are present. Today the gods leave Bali.

Penjor

Penjor at Murni's Houses.

The roads are decorated, shrines are covered in glorious textiles and statues are dressed.

Balinese Guardian Statue dressed in Poleng textile

Balinese Guardian Statue dressed in Poleng textile.

The Balinese pray at their temples and shrines. It’s an  important and happy day.

Balinese Gate at Murni's Houses

Balinese Gate at Murni's Houses.

Murni’s Warung was closed as the Balinese staff are all too busy to work. So I left Murni’s Houses to walk into town for lunch. I looked back at the large Balinese gate and admired the penjor, the large bamboo pole, which is symbolic on many levels, and the offerings stuffed into the niches on either side of the door.

Shop on the main street of Ubud.

Shop on the main street of Ubud.

Walking down the main street I photographed a few shrines and the shop where I’ve often bought udeng, the Balinese headdress for men, from the old lady, who also sells hats. She’s always smiling. She had  a rather nice double shrine.

People going about their business, Ubud., Bali.

People going about their business, Ubud., Bali.

A little further down shop girls were chatting happily as a lady went about her business carrying a plastic container on her head.

Pig Barong,  Ubud, Bali.

Pig Barong, Ubud, Bali.

Throughout this period Barongs parade along the streets, always accompanied by umbrellas and music.

Balinese gamelan music accompanies the Barong.

Balinese gamelan music accompanies the Barong.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there are different types of Barong. This one is the pig Barong.

I decided to follow it and soon it stopped in front of a house and danced bringing good luck to the family who lived there.

Balinese photographer.

Balinese photographer.

I spotted a Balinese girl photographing me. We became friends and she invited me into her home to see her family temple and meet the family. Photography is like that.

The family temple was a beautiful one with magnificently decorated shrines.

But better than that there were several generations of welcoming people.

The Youngest One.

The Youngest One.

The youngest member was intrigued to see a large, ungainly foreigner wander in.

Sister.

Sister.

His sister was  more comfortable with the intruder and slightly bemused.

Aunt.

Aunt.

His aunt had eyes that looked right through you and melted your heart.

Mother.

Mother.

His mother was proud and smiley.

Grandmother.

Grandmother.

His grandmother had a wonderful, wise and kindly face.

Grandmother's friend.

Grandmother's friend.

Her friend was sitting beside her.

There’s more about Galungan, Kuningan and Barongs in Secrets of Bali.

There are more photographs on www.jonathaninbali.com

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