We’ve just had our first big swell of 2011–last Wednesday kicked it off and things didn’t get quiet until today (Tuesday).
My New Year’s resolution this year is to put down the surf board more often and pick up the camera instead. Last year I didn’t get out to shoot enough when the waves were really nice.
Anyways, after getting one of the worst beatings of my life at Uluwatu on Thursday afternoon, I figured it was a sign to get in the water and shoot some photos / video. Agus from Bingin told me the waves would be nice on Saturday afternoon so I got over there for low tide and some perfect, head-high barrels.
Still getting the hang of working with video, so if anyone has any suggestions for improvement, could you leave them in the comments?
And if you like the music, it’s by ‘Baaba Seth’, one of my favorite bands–just click here to buy the cd (thanks again to Dirk for letting me include ‘Forward’ in the video!).
Last week I did a fun short interview with the guys from the ‘Surfing in Jeans’ website about surf photography and life in Bali. If you want to check out the interview, just click here now.
We covered everything from the occasional shark sighting in Bali to surfing injuries and why Bali is one of the best places on earth to learn to surf.
‘Surfing in Jeans’ is a great new website dedicated to gear and style for the urban surfer.
This is a question I receive from readers fairly often, so I’m going to try to do my best to answer it. The only problem is that there wasn’t any single adventure or experience that topped all of the amazing, crazy, and incredible things that happened during more than twenty-seven months of Peace Corps service and three months of training in the Philippine Islands.
So instead of having to make one choice, I’m going to be easy on myself and choose five! From getting up on provincial capital stage to play in front of more than 5,000 people with Frying Nemo to seeing a tiger shark swimming across the pristine Tubbataha reef in Palawan, these five experiences and adventures are the ones that helped make Peace Corps Philippines one of the most life-changing experiences of my life.*
We played our first gig at Hayahay in July 2005. Just five months later we were playing in front of more than 5,000 people at the Buglasan Festival on the Provincial Capital Stage in Dumagueute. Playing on stage with Raul, Kerwin, Kekerd, Ramon, Nowell, Jude, Harold, Paul, Steve, and many other friends who jammed with us over the years is one of the best experiences of my entire time in the Philippines.
In April 2006 I was invited by Angelique Songco to join a documentary expedition to Palawan’s most famous UNESCO World Heritage site: Tubbataha reef. In the week that we spent diving and photographing the spectacular coral reef at Tubbataha I saw more big fish (including a tiger shark) in a few days than I had seen in the previous several months.
Kuta Beach has to be one of the best places on earth to learn to surf. With some of the most consistent waves anywhere in the world and more surf instructors per capita than Hawaii or Southern California, finding someone to help you learn to ride won’t be a problem.
However, choosing a surf school in Bali can be a challenge. There’s a wide range of prices and teaching styles to choose from, making it difficult to know which will get you to your goal quickly and without spending too much money.
On the high end, you can splurge on one of the name brands like Rip Curl (which will run you about $65 for the first lesson). Budget travelers often choose to learn from a local, which can be as cheap as $5-7 an hour, but you could come out of it without making much progress towards tube riding glory.
What’s the best route?
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Did you skip the section about ‘White Balance’ in your digital SLR’s manual when you bought it?
I definitely did, but I want to show you how an understanding of white balance can make a huge difference in the way your digital photos turn out.
I’ll use the photo above as an example. This shot was taken at one of the most beautiful lagoons I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. My friends and I were on a sea kayaking trip in Palawan and we stopped here for lunch and to do a bit of snorkeling.
As Kristen and Kris (pictured above) were swimming around in the sapphire-blue water, I was trying to capture the scene. I thought the shots had turned out great until I got them home to my computer. The colors just didn’t match the brilliance of what I remembered from being there. At the time, I thought it was because I was using a relatively inexpensive digital SLR (the Canon Rebel XT).
In fact, the problem was white balance, but I didn’t take the time to learn about it for another two years. Luckily for me, everything I shot during that time with my Canon Rebel XT was captured in the camera RAW format, and I was able to go back to all those photos and correct the white balance as if I was still standing there in the lagoon with Kris and Kristen.
Then I could see what a huge difference white balance can make. When you compare the two versions, the original (shot with the camera’s auto white balance setting) looks like it has a layer of sickly yellow cellophane over it. The white-balanced version captures the amazing colors of the gin-clear water and the cobalt sky.
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Do you need to go to photography school to become a professional photographer?
I received a nice e-mail from a reader recently asking this question:
“My dilemma is either use all my funds to go to a 10 month photography school in Massachusetts, have no money and job security at the end of the school year and having to start over with nothing but my newly acquired skills OR use the funds I have to start another business- which my family and friends believe is the safer bet between the two.”
She asked what I thought about this plan, and also to help her to have a better picture of what the day to day life of a photographer looks like. This is what I think:
An advanced degree in a creative field like photography is a bad idea.
Photography editors will judge you on the quality of your portfolio, not on the degree hanging on your wall. Focus your efforts on putting together a group of fifty top-notch images and I can guarantee you that you will be well on your way to getting published.
But skipping photography school doesn’t mean you don’t have a lot to learn, it just means you need to teach yourself. Better to take the money you planned to use for photography school and invest it in a top-notch lens or two and perhaps a better camera body. Then get out there and learn by doing.
Here’s my advice for getting started:
Getting inside was the easy part, I’m holding the aspiring Buddhist’s equivalent of a backstage pass.
The monk at the entrance to the Dalai Lama’s Tsuglagkhang Temple takes one look at the little saffron-colored book with the title “Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva” stenciled in silver lettering on the cover and wordlessly waves me through the gates. Inside the temple, diffused morning sunlight streams through large windows giving the room a peaceful glow. I pause at the entrance to try and figure out what to do next. Buddhist followers shuffle solemnly past me and take their places on folded yoga mats or small cushions scattered on the red carpet around the large room. Everyone is holding a copy of the little yellow book.
The Dalai Lama’s ornately-carved throne in the middle of the Temple exerts a sort of gravity on everything within sight of it and I find myself walking towards the front of the crowd to a cramped patch of open carpet among the other Buddhists sitting lotus-syle on the ground. I squeeze in beside a woman silently studying an ancient text and wait for His Holiness to arrive and begin lecturing about the Thirty-Seven Practices of a Bodhisattva.
The crowd keeps growing and now the little gaps between the people already seated on the floor are filled by new arrivals like bricks being added to a wall. Realizing that things are about to get a whole lot less roomy, I pull my feet in even tighter to make more room on the floor for somebody else.
With my feet now almost directly beneath my nose, I notice a familiar and unwelcome smell. I try to think of the last time I took a shower since I’ve been in India—maybe one or two overnight bus rides ago? » Read More
“Another one,” I thought to myself as a three-legged sea turtle swam lopsidedly past. Its birdlike eyes warily scanned a sunlit expanse of coral garden on Tubbataha’s South Island atoll in the Philippines. The crippled green slowed cautiously as it approached the edge of the reef wall plunging cliff-like into the indigo depths below. This turtle could consider itself lucky—it only lost a leg. For many others the first glimpse of the striped torpedo of a tiger shark barreling out of the deep would have been the last thing they ever saw.
I saw my first Tubbataha tiger yesterday. In the dim light of early morning as the sun edged above the Sulu Sea horizon we spotted a dorsal fin knifing through the mirror-flat water in a scene straight out of “Jaws”. Under the cover of a moonless night only a few hours before, the shark had easily ambushed unsuspecting victims; but in the gathering daylight it sensed its own vulnerability. As we drew closer in the small outboard dingy from WWF reef survey ship Minerva, the tiger vanished into the safety of deep water with a few powerful sweeps of its tail.
But now it’s another moonless night and my legs are dangling helplessly beneath me into the inky black sea where I know the sharks are prowling again. I’m hastily checking my scuba equipment so I can dive beneath the waves with my dive buddies, a visiting Danish photographer couple who are also documenting the amazing biodiversity of Tubbataha Reef on this survey expedition. » Read More