We were sad to leave Pemuteran. It had been a relaxing four days, but it was time to move on to our next location, Munduk, high in the central mountains of Bali. It's a tiny village surrounded by clove and coffee plantations with rice terraces cut into the side of the hills. The journey from Pemuteran took a little less than an hour and a half, and after we left the town of Seririt we seemed to be constantly rising in twisting roads. The landscape is so green and there is so much water. It's incredibly fertile land and so much grows here.
We checked into our hotel, Puri Lumbing, which has lovely bungalows scattered across the side of the hill. There are rice paddies right outside the door, and streams of water flowing all around. We sat on the porch taking in the amazing view of pretty much the whole of the north west coast of Bali, which was where we'd come from earlier that day. As the sun got lower I was able to shoot sunset without moving from my chair! The sun was hidden behind thick cloud but was casting beams down onto the landscape, and there was mist and haze separating the silhouettes of the different hills. With a telephoto lens to compress the perspective and a two stop graduated neutral density filter to control the brightness of the top half of the image I shot the scene in changing light and even had the time to do a time lapse, something that is so easy on a Fuji X-T1 with its intervalometer.
The following morning we were up at 5am to head to nearby Tamblingan Lake to photograph sunrise. I'd done some research before and it looked like a great location, but when we arrived I saw that the lake levels were really low, meaning I couldn't photograph the temple with the wooden dugout canoes as a foreground as the edge of the lake was much further out and the canoes had been moved away from the temple. I made do with photographing the misty lake and canoes as the sun came up.
I tried to get some shots of the temple in the dawn mist, but couldn't really make the composition work with either a wide angle or a telephoto lens.
Another thing I hadn't predicted was the popularity of the lake as a location for pre-wedding shoots. While I was the only landscape photographer there, there were three separate couples having their photographs taken in the misty dawn. One couple were rowed out to this floating platform and then left there as they were filmed by a drone, from a circling boat and from the shore. I couldn't resist taking their photo.
We went back to our hotel for lunch and a rest before heading out hiking around the local area in the afternoon. There were lots of paths heading out into the trees or across the rice fields and we decided to head for a local waterfall a few kilometers away. It was a lovely walk and on the way we kept stopping to look at the local flora and fauna.
When we arrived at the waterfall we were a little disappointed as the low water levels left a lot of the stream bottom revealed and there were a lot of concrete steps around which detracted from the beautiful natural surroundings. I spent some time composing images that would exclude the less attractive parts and shot exposures of around a second to blur the water. Any longer was impossible because of the amount of spray that ended up on the lens.
We made our way back home and once again I spent sunset lazily shooting the view from our balcony.
Munduk is the kind of place that inspires you to take it easy and on this trip I'd decided I wanted to spend less time chasing photos and more time relaxing and taking in the trip than I've sometimes done in the past. Since arriving in Bali, entire days had passed without me touching the camera and Munduk was no exception to this. However, one location that was in my list was the iconic Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple on Lake Bratan. It's a large temple complex next to a lake, and on two tiny islands close to the shore are a couple of temples. I wanted to shoot them at sunrise but there was some confusion when I was trying to arrange a taxi at the hotel whether I would be able to get in the temple as it only opens at 7am and sunrise is a little after 6. I took the risk, and on arriving at the car park at around 5h15 I spoke with the guy on the gate who said I could enter for sunrise if I bought a 30000 rph (around 2 euros) ticket. I'm not sure how "official" this was as I was never given an actual ticket, but nevertheless I was allowed in and had the temple to myself. Sadly though the water levels of the lake were so low that the islands were no longer islands and were surrounded by dry, grassy lake bed. I knew we were visiting in the dry season, but it lasts till December so I was surprised to see the water levels so low already.
It was a problem as the image just doesn't work when there's no water. It's just messy!
So I decided to make the best of it, and see if there was anything else I could shoot. As it was still very dark my first thought was to try a star shot, but the front temple was very brightly lit and it was impossible. So I walked down some steps to the lake bed and around the main temple to the smaller temple at the back. It was a little darker here away from the spot lights so I had a go at shooting the star sky's with that temple below. This was didn't really work out very well though, as the denser constellations weren't in the right place in the sky to photograph with the temple, and even there was so much light pollution around from the temple spotlights that it was hard to pick up the stars.
As it got lighter I had a wander around the site, there still wasn't a soul there, and tried to find a few places where I could shoot, like a pier with pleasure boats or looking back across the water at the temple as the sun got higher.
All in all though I'd have to say I was disappointed that after managing to get in at sunrise I was thwarted by a lack of water. Still, I've had lots of luck photographically on this trip so I don't think I can really complain too much.
Later that afternoon I headed to Laangan waterfall, a few kilometers from the hotel. It's a pleasant walk there, down lots of steps though the terraces full of clove and coffee trees until you eventually arrive at the falls. These falls were quite a bit prettier than the one we'd visited a few days earlier, there was a lot less concrete and man made crap surrounding them, and it was also possible to climb down into the steam to use the cascades at the bottom of the falls as a foreground. The water wasn't particularly cold or deep and it was a lot of fun paddling around looking for compositions and doing long exposures to blur the flow of the water. I also pretty much had the place to myself.
For some of these shots the camera was only a couple of centimeters above to rushing water so it was a good test of the X-T1s water resistance...although I was a little concerned as the camera isn't actually mine and was kindly lent to me by Fujifilm Portugal. There were no problems though, the camera has more than proved itself to be pretty rugged on this trip. I quickly packed up then headed back up the steep climb back to our hotel just in time for another lovely sunset from the balcony which I photographed and shot as a timelapse (which I'll be including in a video I'm making of the trip).
The following morning we left the central mountains behind and headed to Ubud in the eastern part of the island. On our way we stopped off at the stunning rice terraces of Jatiluwih. Arriving there it seems as though the whole east side of the mountain has been carved into terraces and considering their age, they really are a marvel of natural engineering. It's a popular tourist spot, and there are well cut paths through the terraces, but all of the terraces near the path were pretty dry and it always seemed as though the best views are not really available from the path.
I tried to isolate some parts of the landscape with the telephoto lens but there was always some trees or bushes cluttering up the composition.
After a while we decided to leave the path and made our own way across the terraces using the smaller paths that the farmers use. We had to jump across a stream, but pretty soon we found ourselves in a great position amongst the freshly planted terraces with some great unobstructed views down across the levels. Unfortunately it was the middle of the day and the light wasn't great but some heavy cloud was creating some contrast and I managed to get a few images that captured the location.
It was getting pretty hot and humid so after an hour or so wandering through the fields we headed back to the car and off to Ubud, the last stop on our trip to Indonesia.