Purple Sunset in Indonesia

Shooting after the Storm

Here is something new that I have accidentally figured out in the last few years.

So, I watch clouds and skies all the time now.  Sometimes, I feel a bit like a shaman, back arched against the sky, watching subtle clues on the horizon for upcoming deltas in the weather.  I’ve become very sensitive to dozens of types of clouds, their layers and elevations in the atmosphere, and the incident angles of the sun in relation to the humidity.

If you are have in one of those late-afternoon storms in one of the tropics, the chances are pretty good for a spectacular sunset.  The “quick storm” is usually a localized cell where the clouds don’t reach to the horizon.  This means that the sun will be able to dip below the clouds and light them from underneath.  Watch for this.

Daily Photo – Purple Sunset in Indonesia

I promised that I would continue my story about the dead body in Indonesia, so here it is.  It doesn’t really go with a pretty sunset, but, well, here we go.  It’s short and not too spectacular, so don’t get your hopes up for a good old-fashioned dead-body story.

While walking through downtown Jogjakarta with Will the crowds were thick.  There were thousands of Indonesians walking around through busy downtown streets.  It was an area without cars, but hundreds of bikes and carts darted in and out of the traffic.  It was not really a commercial district, but it was somewhat third-world in the types of little shack-like stores that fringed the edges.  Food carts rolled around selling hot, steaming mysterious meat-mashes and small ziplocks of coconut juice hung from poles, ready for sale.

After walking through a bit, we approached a curb where we saw some poor soul splayed out across the concrete.  I’ve seen thousands of homeless / passed out / drunk / unfortunates splayed out in the street before, but this was different.  This guy was dead.  You can just tell.  People walked around him and certainly regarded him as an empty shell.  People would kind of step on or trip on bits here or there.  I passed by his legs and didn’t quite know what to do.  There was no one stopping to help, and I didn’t really want to get involved, since I don’t speak the language and didn’t want to get carted off for questioning/shakedown.

So I passed by and Will said, “Do you think that guy was dead?”.  I nodded and we got the hell outta there.

HDR Photo

Templestorm, and the Stunning Results from the HDR Workshop!

The Amazing HDR Workshop Results!

Trey Ratcliff HDR Workshop Group Photo

I told the HDR Workshop class last weekend, very sincerely, that I was quite impressed with their progress. It’s my first workshop, and I love teaching people, but I did not expect them to make so much progress so quickly. Mind you, we already had a few people that were already quite good, but even they picked up a bunch of new stuff. Without further ado, here is a random selection of some of the resulting shots from their newfound skills!

(and yes, we are making an HDR DVD of the workshop for those that could not attend the event!)

Also, a very special thanks to John P from One Man’s Blog (and especially Cali Lewis for the introduction!), Scott Kublin from ScottyCentral, and Alex Suarez, one of the aliens from Galaxy Quest.

Thanks Frederick Van for the Interview!

Hey that was a great interview! Hehe…  I just listened to it and forgot about all the HDR Controversy we addressed therein!  You can listen to it also from Frederick Van’s blog.  Thanks again for all the kind tweets and emails about the interview.  Even though I went out on a limb in many areas, I think they struck a chord… thanks again y’all.  And when I say “Internet” – I mean YOU! :)

Daily Photo – Templestorm

It’s hard to keep up with my students!  I feel they are catching up and surpassing me!  I won’t have it!  Hehe…  no no… my theory is that HDR will begin to splinter into a million different shards.  I can’t wait to see where each of them take the artform.

This is just outside of JogJakarta, Indonesia at an ancient temple called Prambanan.  It was the kind of place that has been sitting there waiting for me to bring my story-telling-machine there.  You have seen a few of my other shots of this place perhaps, just after the storm hit.  As I was leaving, I looked back over my shoulder to see this.  I sometimes forget as I walk away from things to turn around and look back, and I can see things I don’t expect.

Templestorm, and Stunning Results from the HDR Workshop

A Zen Moment Above the Fog

This is from an awesome monument in Indonesia called Borobudur. There are about five ways to spell this temple, at least when I spell it. But, you get the general idea.

I’ve re-mastered this one by using the textures from the Textures Tutorial. This one is actually featured in the video. I have a non-textured version of this which is also interesting… and I think I explain in the video that the use of these textures doesn’t necessarily make something “better”, but what it does do is make something else that is equally satisfying in a different way. So then, at the end, you have two photos, rather than one, each one different and nice in its own way (if that makes sense!).

A Zen Moment above the Fog

The Ruins of Prambanan in Yogyakarta (and two new reviews)

Just outside of Yogyakarta in Indonesia are the ruins of Prambanan. Getting to this place is a long way from home, so we tried to take advantage of everything in and around the city. Prambanan is a Hindu temple that was first built in 850 CE.  It began a painstaking reconstruction in 1918.  I can’t imagine what difficult work that must be.

Actually, it was quite nice to get out of the crowded city.  Will and I had spent a long night walking around down near the markets.  The streets were so crowded in the busy night streets that it was unbelievable.  I had always known that Indonesia had hundreds of millions of people, but when stuck in the throngs, you can really feel it.  Also, that was a disconcerting night because it was the first time I stepped over a dead body.

I have a few new reviews for you too! These were mentioned in the most recent newsletter that went out a few days ago.  Both of these are short and sweet, since they are simple but great products.   The first one is for sharing large files with others and moving files around between computers easily. It’s called DropBox and you can read a short DropBox Review here.

The second tool I’ve been using is for backing my files up onto the Internet (the cloud). This gives me peace of mind in case there is a fire and my local backups are also destroyed. Even if you don’t have a ton of photos and just want to back up your family digital photos, it’s a smart idea. And it’s super-cheap. You can read more at the Backblaze Review page.

The Ruins of Prambanan in Yogyakarta (and two new reviews) (by Stuck in Customs)

The Beating Hearts of the Buddhas

The morning fog coming off the top of the jungle trees was not like anything I had seen before. There was just enough morning light to give everything a twilight blue and paint the mountains in the distance a deeper color.

I tried something a little bit different with this photo. I was holding two flashlights to help me climb the temple in the morning. I think I got there about 5:30 AM when it was still pitch black, so the flashlights helped me find the right footholds and whatnot. Anyway, this was an extremely long exposure, so I used some of that time to “paint” the inside of the bell cages with the beams of my flashlights. Each of those bell cages held a solitary outward-facing Buddha. I’m glad I was there alone, because I’m sure I looked like a loon running around shining the flashlights in patterns to illuminate the Buddhas inside.

The Beating Hearts of the Buddhas (by Stuck in Customs)

Going Outside to Play

Although Indonesia was quite a beautiful place, it was also incredibly poor. Every country has its Hans Rosling (see his amazing TED video here) predictable bell curve of wealth distribution, and Indonesia has so many people in it (almost as many people as the US), that a lot of people end up over on the left-hand side of the curve.

While walking around one of the cities there, I went off-track and ended up in a small settlement underneath a bridge. This family had set up here, found old couches and bits of refuse to build their home. This little girl was outside playing, arranging scraps of trash on the ground in interesting patterns.

I stopped and talked to the family for a short time. They were nice and didn’t mind me taking photos. The mom seemed a little suspicious but then calmed down when she saw I was good with kids. The dad did not speak a lot of English, and I indicated to him that his house looked pretty sturdy compared to some of the others. He pointed to one across the river, which you can see in the upper part of the photo, an, in broken words, said that part of it had recently washed away. The dad was pretty happy with what he had built. He motioned to the little fence and then motioned to his little girl.

Going Outside to Play

Borobudur in Poetry

One thing we always ask for, as part of the deal, is for the companies to send us a copy of the final product. So we get several of these kinds of things a week, and it is always cool! I get excited and giddy to see my work used in creative ways across many mediums. Here is one we recently got of a poetry book that used on of my Indonesian pics on the cover. I put the orig below, along with a few other shots from that temple.

I end up throwing all of this stuff into these giant boxes in my office. I don’t know what I will do with them! They just kinda pile up… I should have a giveaway some day! :)

Borobudur Book

Buddha in the Jungle Highlands

The Hidden Buddhist Temple of Borobudur at Sunrise

The Dark Temple Corridor in Morning Mist at 4 AM

The pool that taunted me in Jogjakarta

Can you believe that I looked at that pool every day and I never got in? It was there day after day… alluring and perfect… looking warm and fun… I would walk around it, admire it, take photos of it, pass it on the way to the spa… I did just about everything to that pool but get in. I thought about it a lot, for whatever that’s worth (a lot, actually, I have an active imagination). But next time I get there, I’m goin’ in… I think about what those little tiles will feel like slippin’ around under my toes… It’s gonna be great!

The pool that taunted me in Jogjakarta (by Stuck in Customs)

The Dark Temple Corridor in Morning Mist at 4 AM

I arrived at the temple of Borobudur a little after 4 AM. I had a tiny disposable flashlight, and, other than my driver idling about a mile away, I was the only person here. In fact, it was my second day in a row to do this, since I had so much fun the first. I was there with my friend Will, and he decided to sleep in the second day… but I had a few shots in mind I wanted to grab before the sun came up.

There were these strange argon lights around the temple to light up areas of excavation. They cast a gloomy and surreal light on the Buddhist reliefs that make concentric circles up to the top. I was able to get about 45 minutes of nice darkness with unexpected light until the sun started to appear over the nearby volcanoes and jungle mist.

The Dark Temple Corridor in Morning Mist at 4 AM (by Stuck in Customs)

The Mysteries and Adventures of the New Year

I look forward to many more adventures with you this year and in coming years. We have a lot of things to do, don’t we? Mais oui!

Change and tumult and highs and lows will come and go with the winds, but I will always be here, ready to take you on fun new adventures with unexpected discoveries. This year has had a lot of unexpected things happen in all corners of life, and I don’t expect the next to be any different. In the end, I’ll do my best to keep pushing forward and exploring the world and the world of ideas with you.

If life gets kind of confusing or you get down, come visit to take your mind where it would rather be anyway. At best, it will be a deep experience, and at worst, it will be a pleasant distraction. I’ll take the worst if that’s the best I can get!

For the last photo of the year, I hope I have selected a great one to set the tone for the next year. I’ve been in artful concert with this one for what seems like ages. This happenstance scene is from a remote Hindu temple in the Indonesian jungle. It was a horribly stormy day and I could have easily found myself quite miserable… but I had seen this before, seen these patterns, and I knew I’d have the chance to see the sun again. Just for a few moments, the sun appeared there, and it was timeless. I didn’t think about the future, I just sat there, unconsciously moving around the temple and capturing the moment forever.

Okay, so… moving into left-brain mode now (getting practical logistical things done…), there have been a number of changes to the site!

1) I updated my HDR Tutorial ! It has become almost completely revamped… I have a few minor things to fix – let me know if you see any typos, because, as you know, I am horrible at catching my own… (anyone want to be my editor out there?)

2) A new Header Photo and CSS Background! Hit Refresh on your browser in case you don’t see it

3) A new “Reviews” section. You can see that over on the right.

4) A new “Popular Articles” section to catch some of the cool stuff that is now buried deep in the blog

5) Minor fixes: Comment font sizes, Comment entry box streamlining, Safari problem where the fonts were huge for single posts…

6) Enabled comments on “Pages” – things like the “About Me” and “Camera Equipment” pages did not allow comments before

The Mysteries and Adventures of the New Year

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