Bali Photography Workshop – David Metcalf Day Tour – Part 1


Sun rises over the rice paddies, with Mount Batur in the background

A few months ago I was in Bali, Indonesia and decided to splash out on a photography workshop with David Metcalf Photography, found at Taksu Gallery in the artist hub city of Ubud. Ubud is near the centre of the island, and although it’s swarming with tourists and the streets are jammed with traffic, it has a lovely surrounding area of terraced green rice fields, farming villages and volcano views. I’ve finally had time to review the tour on Trip Advisor and sort through the photos, so I thought I would share them here too.


Group leader Suki shares a photo with lady in the village market

I’ve done a few photography workshops on my travels. The reason I like them, despite their price tag, is because you not only get some great photo opportunities, but you get to experience local culture and usually get off the beaten track a bit. You usually get to meet and photograph the locals whilst you pick up a few photography tips. Obviously I can only take credit for the actual compositions and market shots in these photos, because the rest of the hard work was already taken care of, like location and lighting and local interaction and we were able to get advice from our teacher throughout. In fact for the landscapes, I’m sure you can see very similar images on the tour’s reviews and from other group members on the day.

Our day began crushingly early for my tastes, at about 5am to catch the sunrise. I am really not a morning person, photography is one of the only things that will get me up that early. Swaying around in a zombie-like state, in awe of the locals already emerging to start their day, I was picked up from the centre of Ubud and whisked away to the countryside. We picked up the rest of our small group along the way. Our tutor for the day was filling in for their normal group leader as he was sick (probably of westerners). We got lucky though, as the replacement was an awesome photographer in his own right, a chap called Suki (Sebastian Belaustegui) who does amazing portraits and has worked for publications like National Geographic and Time. This was an unexpected bonus, though I hear that the usual tour leaders are also very good.


The rising mist from the rice paddies made awesome sun rays come through the trees.

We began at some rice field terraces overlooking the volcano and got lucky with a great sunrise. Tripods were available but it wasn’t long before they became un-necessary as the glaring tropical sun peeked out from the volcano. The air became misty as the sun heated the water-laden rice fields creating some beautiful sun rays through the trees. We wandered around the fields as locals puttered by on their mopeds or set out to work in the fields. There were also a lot of joggers, even at 4am in this country you can see people starting their day with a hearty run in the dark, when in my country the only running going on at that time is to the toilet after a particularly heavy night out.


This spot was great for silhouettes

I didn’t require too much instruction and just concentrated on getting photos, experimenting with my camera settings. With the sunrise, changing exposure changed the mood a lot – sacrificing brightness had the benefit of revealing the cool sun-rays but at the expense of a darker tone overall. Most of the photos you see here have only minor processing – mainly in exposure or temperature, with some boosted contrast. The highlight of this part was of course me falling backwards into a rice paddy, after mistaking some grassy ground for being solid, when in fact it was more like a swamp. A typical Alan Fail. So I ended up with a muddy back and bum, luckily the camera survived a dunking but was splattered in mud. Thankfully I now use high quality clear filters to protect my lens, so I just removed that and I was good to go.


This friendly lady was the coffee stall owner

Now the sun was up we were driven to a local village market. We pottered around and got some of our own photo opportunities, and I got chatting to some of the stall owners who were very friendly and spoke some English. Trying to explain where I was from was a little tricky, as no-one seemed to know Scotland, forcing me to bring out the dreaded art “skills” and try to draw an awful world map. We got there in the end, although they probably think the UK is the shape of a deformed sausage now.


She’ll never know the true shape of Scotland 🙁

We delved into a covered maze-like market full of all kinds of goods, from meat to clothes and stopped at a coffee booth manned by a friendly old lady who didn’t speak English but was happy to get her photo taken. Tucking into some local food and some strong Bali coffee – I soon felt more human. I chatted to our driver Ketut who explained to me about village life and his family. I also learned that although these village markets open really early, the stall owners are already well into their day. They go to large night wholesale markets which open around 2am, to buy perishables like food, and then re-sell at their local market. What a lifestyle!


Another friendly shop owner

Part 2 of the day is coming soon, here’s a gallery of some other images from the sunrise and market. Enjoy.

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