Discovering the Light of Bali
Bali, The Island of the Gods. People have been drawn to this island for a multitude of reasons over the years. The people, the art, the food, the natural beauty, the mystical mix of Buddhism and Hinduism. But in the early 1970's something completely new started bringing an entirely different group of folks to the island. That group was surfers, and what lured them was the nascent discovery of perfect Indian Ocean surf.
Bali has long been known for the quality of its light, but I was in awe when I saw it for myself. It was pure and golden, seemingly no matter what the time of day, and that was something I'd never experienced before. And there were pictures everywhere I looked, and I remember thinking I had better learn to control my shooting, lest I run out of my preferred film with no place to replenish it.
One of the photos I shot on that trip remains one of my favorites to this day. We were on our way to Ubud, a cosmic village in the hills, when we stopped in a small town to take in a performance put on by a local dance troupe.
The combination of the incredible sounds of the gamelan orchestra, the multi-colored costumes, and the amazing natural backlight filtering into the scene made the Barong dance absolutely breathtaking.
As the dance went on, the light remained beautiful, but it wasn't strong enough to supply me with a safe shutter speed to capture the action on stage. Remember, this was before digital, and when you loaded your camera with a certain film you were stuck with that film throughout the roll. I was using Fujichrome Velvia, a wonderful, but very slow film.
A particular dancer caught my eye early on, and I began focusing on her towards the end of the dance. I was shooting with a 300mm lens at 1/60 of a second, which is a recipe for disaster photographically speaking, as you're almost guaranteed to get a blurry image.
I didn't expect much from those images when I finally got my film processed after returning to Florida a month later, but I'd somehow managed to get a few good frames, this being my favorite. I can only guess perhaps the gods on the Island of the Gods were smiling on me that day.