Lens Artists Challenge: Morning in Bali

For this week’s Lens Artists Challenge#93 Ann-Christine asks us to share photos of a special Morning.

Although I had plans of spectacular photos of me brewing coffee and burning toast, I thought that maybe I could find something else in my archives.  Thumbing through, I came across an old post about an early morning shoot in Bali, Indonesia. The photos were so-so but on that trip, I learned a little about human nature and the universality of tribal conflict, even in one of the most beautiful places on this earth.

Grab a coffee and join me on this trip.

Our photo guide, Yande was a taciturn man. On the first day of our photo shoot, we met in the 5am dark by the hotel’s entrance. He quietly greeted us, stowed our cameras in the car trunk and silently drove into the brooding night.

Initially, I welcomed his silence. However, in the ensuing four hours of travel we exchanged less than ten words per hour. Forty words. Barely enough for a story stanza, hardly enough for a short story.

That day we had a sunrise shoot on Sanur beach with a local fisherman. It was either his first time as a model or a repeat of many similar times. Either way he was as stiff as a board. He wore a conical straw hat with a neatly pressed golf shirt. He posed awkwardly against a glorious morning sky. He held his fishing net with his arm stuck out, roughly  perpendicular to his body. It was the perfect silhouette of a one legged mail post.

As the sun lightened up, we beckoned him on shore for close-up portraits. With a stare reminiscent of mug shots and do-not-smile passport photos, he looked blankly into the camera.

On a whim, I took a break from shooting and showed him the pictures on my camera’s LED screen.

“Beautiful,” I said.

In my next shot I noted a gradual easing of his cheek. The slight, almost imperceptible crinkle at his eyes. It was the beginning of a potential for a smile.


Later I told Yande that one of my better pictures was this closeup of the fisherman.

“What’s his name?” I asked.

“Bugis,” Yande said.


On our second day, Yande took us to the hills to greet the sunrise at Ulun Danu.  As we drove through the villages I was impressed by the many gates guarding private residences.

Gates are a big thing in Bali. Large stone structures, they are ornately carved portals looming over eight meters high. Yande said that the gates are built in the image of the Balinese mountains.

“All life comes from the hills,” he said.”Fresh water flows from the mountains and crops grow with the seasons. True Balinese people are farmers. They work the land and harvest the crops –  three times, sometimes four times a year.

Balinese are not like the Bugis who live near the sea. Bugis are lazy and have no patience. Give a Bugis some seeds and three months and they don’t know what to do. They prefer the easy life of the sea. They cast their nets and draw their catch.”

“Bugis,” he said with disdain “are not loyal to the land. They take their boats and scatter far away. Bugis are everywhere.  In Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines. Even Singapore! They plunder the sea and live anywhere.”


On our last day in Bali, my husband and I  walked along Jimbalan beach and watched the fishermen bring in their catch.

It was scarcely 9 am but most of the boats had been docked and unloaded for the morning market. Wiry and burnt brown from the sun, the men cleaned their catamarans and untangled their fishing nets. When a late coming boat approached, everyone dropped their work and hurried to bring in the vessel.

Lining up on either side, they hoisted the heavy boat onto a barrow trolley and pulled. With the waves bashing against the fully loaded hull, it took twelve men and nearly one hour of heaving to bring the boat ashore.

This was hard, back-breaking work.   To my mind, nothing looked easy about harvesting from the sea.

Bugis fishermen on Jimbalan beach

After my trip I learned that the Bugis people are an ethnic group, originally from Salawesi, the third largest island in Indonesia.  They are an important seafaring people in Southeast Asia, known for their fierce character and sense of honour.  Historically, the Buginese were farmers but took to the sea when the Dutch colonized their homeland in the 18th century. They have a colorful history in trading and piracy. According the books, they have largely assimilated into the populations of Indonesia and Malaysia.  Clearly though, differences still exist, indiscernible to the casual eye but lurking below the surface, hundreds of years later.

Photos taken in Bali, Indonesia, 2015


  1. This is so interesting Sandy, I’m glad you pointed me towards it. A shame your guide was so taciturn. We had one similarly so on a walk in Periyar NP in Kerala (I must post about that one day) – he was so monosyllabic that we didn’t even realise he was our guide at first!

    I can see why my post reminded you of this – in both places people seem to have too little respect for the fishermen and the challenges they face. But you certainly got some great photos, especially the opening shot here and the one of the fisherman with the sun on his face. I’m pleased you were able to showcase him in this way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is brilliant, that first example of what one sentence can do. Your two photos and those few words and how you did it – the perfect offering. Just look at the man after. 🙂 And I appreciate the continuation with more info as well. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for saying so Ann Christine! Although it was lovely, this was my only trip to Bali. I’m glad to have also visited Jakarta on the big island of Java. While Bali was an island paradise, Jakarta was a typical rough and tumble, populous and busy city. Both are interesting places and I’m glad I had a chance to visit them at least once.


        1. If and when I do go travelling again, I want to visit more of Europe. I’ve only been a handful of countries there and would love to explore some more. Have a good week Ann Christine 🙂


  3. I have trouble taking part in photo challenges these days but you definitely master the capacity to make us travel far away with this morning story. Beautiful portrait. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Keep us posted on your levain! Amanda is also building her first on her site Home by the Sea.
          We are going in opposite directions – I shuttered my food website because it was too much work and too little feedback. Unlike you, I dont take very good pictures of food 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating story to accompany mesmerizing shots, Sandy. I like the way we learned about the culture, lifestyle and people. I enjoyed your descriptive imagery and could easily imagine what it was like from your words. Keep sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those tribal issues will probably be with us right up to the moment we disappear off the face of the Earth. Might even be the reason for it. And I like the photos, nothing so-so about them.

    Liked by 2 people

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