I spent two weeks in Lombok Island in Indonesia at the end of September. I wasn’t there on assignment or anything work related. After a hectic two-months of almost non-stop shooting, I’d decided I needed a break and Indo was the place for me to drop off the Internet grid and go in search of some perfect waves.
Before I left I seriously considered not taking a single camera. Not sure what I was thinking, but in the end I settled on taking just one Nikon SLR body, one Nikon lens and all my memory cards. The result was a carry on bag that I could easily throw over my shoulder and my surfboard bag, which is 6 feet 9 inches long, weighed 10 kg and had to be checked. It has been years since I’ve travelled so light.
Photographically I didn’t shoot much compared to what I’d normally capture when on a photo taking trip. When I did take photographs, they tended to be more of the people I encountered. The outtakes below are the result.
I enjoy encounters with total strangers and the exchange of conversation that happens. Meeting new people, learning about them and their lives – even briefly – is what travel portraits are about for me. The act of taking a travel portrait is ultimately that person’s gift to me and something I’m always thankful for.
To put my brief relationship with each person below in context, I’ve included some background information on each photo.
Left: Scott Clark, Surf Guide. The first thing I noticed about Scott were his eyes and the intensity they held. I knew I wanted to take his portrait the moment I met him. Towards the end of my week long stay at the Surf Camp I was at, he gave me permission.
Right: Dive Instructor. I’d asked the owner of the Gili Dive shop if I could tag along on a scuba diving trip to take some general travel photos, to which he agreed. The first person I noticed was this Dive Instructor, who had a strong physical presence and a really laid back personality. On the boat trip back I asked if I could take his portrait. Though reluctant, he agreed. The back lighting was terrible, so I just blew it out with the exposure.
Left: I met this local fisherman and his wife (in the right hand photo), one afternoon while walking through Gerupak village. Gerupak is a tiny fishing village located at the end of a road in south-east Lombok with access to some great surfing breaks.
The fisherman was having problems with his two-stroke engines, so I offered to help him try and diagnose the problem (I’ve spent quite a bit of time maintaining two-stroke boating engines). We eventually isolated the problem to the engine’s carburetor, something he would need to replace. After about 45-minutes I asked if I could take his portrait on the beach about 30 feet from his house. Grabbing the wooden paddle from his boat, I had him stand in the shallows for the series of portraits I took.
The lighting was pretty flat, but travel portraiture is like that. You find a great subject and the lighting isn’t that good. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
Right: I came back next day to chat with my new friend. This time his wife asked me to taker her photo with their child. I love it when that happens. While this was the portrait that I wanted, I also took a portrait of them together and some baby only photos, all of which I will be posting to them as prints.
Left: This Indonesian man worked at the three bungalow guest house I was staying at in the Gili Islands. Though we could hardly communicate, he was a friendly man and towards the end of my 5 night stay I indicated that I’d like to take his portrait as he was watering the garden. With an indifferent shrug of the shoulders he gave me permission.
Right: I was resting in the shade drinking a can of Sprite, when this young guy stopped to have a chat with me. He asked me the usual things – where I was from; where I was staying; what I did for work. Just before he rode off I popped the portrait question, positioned him a little better in relation to the background and took this shot.
Left: A chance encounter one afternoon led me to an impromptu game of soccer. Three against three. These two guys were my team mates and we thrashed the other side 4-1. After the game I threw the Australian branded soccer ball (I’m an Aussie), to my younger team mate and asked if I could take a portrait. I didn’t really need to ask as they were both proud to have their photo taken.
Right: I stumbled upon this lone Indonesian surfer while walking around one of the Gili Islands. Being a surfer we connected straight away. Like the boys in the left photo, he was psyched that I’d want to take his portrait. The light being reflected off the white sand behind me, was the perfect reflector for this shot.