Borobudur: A World Wonder

It’s not every day that you get to visit one of the UNESCO wonders of the world! We were very lucky to have been able to visit the spectacular Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world, on our stop in Semarang. Semarang is on the Indonesian island of Java, on the southern edge of the Java sea. We took the tour to Borobudur because it was quite the trek to get there from Semarang. Not only was it a three-hour bus ride, but the traffic gets so bad there that we had police escort cars the ENTIRE way there and back, with their sirens on and everything. They would stop traffic and lead us on the wrong side of the road when need be, so we were really grateful to have that. If we didn’t, then I’m afraid we’d still be sitting in Java traffic a week later!

As I mentioned before, Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in the world, and it’s quite amazing. Not only is it huge, but the amount of stone carvings on different tiers in the temple complex is staggering. The temple was built around 800 AD and was estimated to have taken some 80 years to complete. It measures 403 feet square and 100 feet high! I had seen photos of Borobudur before, and it was definitely on my list of places to visit and photograph. I love all the Buddha statues build into the walls and inside the bell-shaped structures on the top tiers of the temple. I spent every minute I could shooting there before we had to leave for lunch.

Lunch was at the neighboring hotel and we were treated to a beautiful buffet under a tent with a stage in the middle, on which traditional musicians and dancers entertained the diners. Before heading to the ship, we made one stop to see a shadow puppet show, which was much more elaborate than the kind I’ve seen before!

I hope you’ll enjoy the following images from this amazing place, and do put it on your “to see” list, because it is worth it!

Next stop: Makassar. More to come! …

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Street Photography in Surabaya

After leaving Bali, we sailed west to the Indonesian island of Java and docked in the city of Surabaya. Instead of doing a tour here, we decided to head out and explore on our own. When traveling to different and exotic places, you never really know how people will react to Americans with giant cameras and gear. We realized quickly that the locals weren’t used to seeing Americans walking around, especially the kind toting around cameras that must have looked crazy to them. Before shooting a lot, we try to politely test the waters, getting a feel for people’s reactions and gesturing to our cameras in a way that’s asking if it’s ok to take their photo. To our relief, the locals were not only ok with us taking their photos, they LOVED it. Many of them would even say thank you after we took their picture! We could also tell that many of them were excited to be able to test out some of the English they knew with us. People would slow down in their cars or bikes and say “hello mister!,” and things like that.

As far as the city goes, it was very hot and stuffier than what we’re used to. Many of the streets and buildings were rugged, either from time, weather, people or all of the above. We liked all the weathered textures and vibrant colors, but most of all, the smiling people. We walked around for hours, up until we felt like we would melt, and then returned to the ship to review our images.

From Surabaya, we would travel the short distance to Semarang and visit the spectacular Borobudur. More to come!

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Eastern Islands: Lombok & Bali

Hi gang! In my last post, I left you in Komodo Island, home of the famous dragons. Well, after sailing a short distance west, we found ourselves on Lombok, Bali’s neighboring island. In fact, some people call Lombok the “untouched Bali” because it hasn’t been touched by tourism quite as much. We knew it would be harder to explore on our own here, so we went on a tour titled “Parks, Palaces and Temples.”

Driving through Lombok, we immediately noticed how dramatically different the lifestyle was compared to what we’re used to. It would have felt like we were going back in time, had it not been for the hundreds of motor bikes zipping through the streets in a seemingly unorganized fashion. Of course, there were plenty of horses pulling covered carts on the streets as well. Small homes are built lining a narrow waterway where the villagers bathe and clean household things. We actually read that, while the locals are very conservative, they bathe naked along the streets because they believe they are “invisible when doing so.” Interesting, for sure.

Anyway, our tour took us to a water palace and two temple complexes that housed dozens of temples. We found ourselves running out of time trying to photograph them all! Many of them are so old, covered in “greenage” and have overly unique statues at the entrances.

Here is a visual snippet of what we saw in Lombok:

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After leaving Lombok, we sailed the short distance west to Bali, where we stayed for two days. Karen and I did tours on both days. On the first day, she went to go ride an elephant and visit a bird park, while I went on another temple tour and orchid garden visit. All was beautiful, but I especially liked the “floating temple” we visited that was located on a beach. You actually had to walk through the water if you wanted to enter the temple.

On our second day, we did another tour that visited, you guessed it, more temples! We also visited the Bali Art Museum and had lunch at a place called The Dirty Duck Diner. We later learned that “dirty duck” is actually a type of dish you can order in Indonesia. It was also in Bali that we got to see a traditional dance show, with overly unique music and elaborate costumes and makeup. We were lucky enough to sit in the first row, which made for great photography!

So without further ado, here are some images I shot in Bali:

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Our next stop would be Surabaya, on the island of Java. More to come!

Komodo: Island of Dragons

We were very lucky to visit this port of call, as not many people get to come here and say they’ve seen Komodo Dragons in the wild. There are such rigid restrictions here that you can’t even go ashore unless you are on a tour with one of the local park guides. The entirety of Komodo Island is a national park, and there’s really not much there at all as far as cars and buildings go. In fact I didn’t see either of these when we were there. When you arrive on shore, there is just a covered tent where the guides meet you to take you on a hike through their dragon-filled forest. The other crazy thing is that you’re not allowed on the island if you have any open wounds or if you’re a woman who has her period because the dragons have that keen of a sense of smell. Yikes!

The ship anchored off shore and we took tender boats in to meet our guides. They organized us into smaller groups and led is into the jungle in search of some dragons. During our hike, we saw several Komodo Dragons, and they sure are huge. They can measure up to 11 feel long and weigh up to 300 pounds, making them the largest lizard in the world. They can also run as fast as a dog and have the ability to bite a goat in half. As you can imagine, we stayed behind the guides during this trip!

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After our hike, we had to head right back to the ship, which wasn’t bad because we could enjoy the stunning view of the island from out on the water. After leaving Komodo, we headed toward the Indonesian island of Lombok, which is Bali’s next door neighbor. More to come!

North from Sydney: Cairns & Darwin

Hello, from somewhere in Asia! We’ve been traveling on the lovely Crystal Symphony the past few weeks, as I’m teaching the Digital Filmmaking class to guests on board. In my last post, I left you in Sydney, which is the port where we embarked on this two-month journey. After spending four days exploring Sydney, we boarded the ship and set sail for the ports in Cairns and then Darwin.

Cairns (pronounced “cans”) is located on the north east coast of Australia, and we sailed there just inside of the Great Barrier Reef. We had about a day and a half to explore there, and on the first day, I admit that we went ashore in search of wifi. Karen had some ongoing projects she had to send files for and I needed to do some work-related email. We did, however, have time to walk around town and get a feel for the place. The highlight of the downtown area is the long esplanade that lines the water and ends with a giant man-made lagoon that locals and visitors can wade or swim in any time they like. Considering how hot it gets there (it was in the 90’s and insanely humid during our visit), that lagoon is much appreciated!

On our second day in Cairns, we took a tour up to Kuranda, a small village up the hill from the city. To get there, we took the Kuranda Scenic Railway, which was scenic indeed! It wound its way up the hillside and featured beautiful landscape views. They even poured champagne to enjoy during the ride. After making one stop at a waterfall, we arrived in Kuranda and visited a wildlife park. Karen is an animal nut and her biggest goal for her Australia visit was to cuddle a koala. I suspect that’s why she chose this tour because she did, in fact, get to hold a koala there. Now she “wants one.” Fantastic. Anyway, the wildlife park was interesting in that it was mainly Australian animals there. There were even loads of kangaroos hopping around the park freely. You could go up to them and scratch their heads if you want. (Of course Karen loved this as well.)

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After visiting the animals, we went on a ride in an WWII Army duck vehicle through the Australian rainforest. Our guide informed us it was the oldest rainforest in the world. It started on land and then ended up in the water. Luckily, we didn’t encounter any crocodiles on this trip because there are croc warning signs all over. They say the safest place to swim in the Cairns area is in a swimming pool or in that manmade lagoon!

Back in town, we visited a pretty huge bat colony on one of the main streets. Now not only was the colony huge, but the bats themselves were gigantic too. They’re nicknamed “flying foxes!” The bats made a home out of certain trees there (to many of the locals’ despair) and we went to try to photograph them. After visiting some shops, we returned to our temporary home on water and set sail for Darwin.

Darwin is the northernmost town in Australia and is the area in which Crocodile Dundee was set. We decided to explore on our own here instead of doing a tour so we set out on foot. In hindsight, it is a difficult place to see on foot because everything is so spread out. Needless to say, we got a lot of exercise that day! We started by walking to the marina area to see if we could get on some kind of harbor cruise. That didn’t really work out, so we stopped at a little coffee shop to cool off and then set off for the botanical gardens. The gardens were huge and we didn’t have time to see everything, but we definitely enjoyed what we did see. After that we walked on a trail along the water to the Art and History Museum of the Northern Territories, which contained info about Darwin and other pioneers in the theories of evolution, local animals and the cyclone that completely leveled the town on Christmas day, 1974.

KarSweetheartKaren next to a ginormous crocodile (named Sweetheart) at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territories in Darwin. 

In the end, we didn’t do a lot of shooting in Darwin, but enjoyed exploring anyway. This would be our last stop in Australia before heading into Indonesian waters. Next stop: Komodo Island! More to come…

Hello, from the Land Down Under!

Hello everyone! After six weeks on land in the States, we’re back at sea again. A few days ago, we boarded the beautiful Crystal Symphony ship, where I am teaching the Digital Filmmaking class for guests on board. We embarked in Sydney, but flew out a few days early to explore the city a bit. Karen had never been to Australia, so she especially wanted time to explore.

Over the course of four days, we did a LOT of walking, mostly exploring the city on foot. We explored the Darling Harbour area, The Rocks area, which is home to the the Harbor Bridge and the iconic Opera House, and the Bondi Beach area, an incredibly laid-back beach town with a relaxed, organic feel to it. We also visited the Sydney Chinese Garden, which was beautiful.

Since I’m going to have loads of travel posts coming up, I’m going to keep the text to a minimal and let the photos do the talking. Here is a visual recollection of our stay in Sydney.

More to come!















Playing Catch-up: Barcelona

Hi gang! I’m playing a game of blog catch-up right now, since the schedule has been a little crazy lately. With my recent creativeLIVE event, I haven’t been able to post the last batch of photos from my recent trip. I had one port to go: Barcelona. We were lucky to be able to spend two days in Barcelona, as we were docked there overnight. This was great because there is just so much to see there. Even though we spent all of our time exploring, we still want to return to see more. I think you really need a week in that city to truly take everything in. Barcelona has loads of buildings by the famous architect, Gaudi, who has a crazy and somewhat whimsical style that really stands out from you’re used to seeing. We spent a lot of time visiting his buildings, including the gigantic Sagrada Familia church, which is STILL under construction. We also visited the Poble Espanol museum, which is essentially a traditional Spanish village with restaurants, museums, craftsmen, etc.

Below are a bunch of images from our days in Barcelona. What’s funny is that I’m posting these images as I sit in an internet cafe in Australia. It was only a few weeks after our Spain/Portugal/Morocco cruise that we set off on another adventure, this one starting in Sydney. Over the course of the next two months, we’ll visit 10 countries and 24 ports of call, so stay tuned! The blog schedule will continue to be sporadic due to the equally sporadic internet situation.

For now though, I give you Barcelona:

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This week on creativeLIVE: Photoshop for Photographers

Hi everyone! This is just a reminder that my Photoshop for Photographers: The Essentials online class kicks off tomorrow at 9 am PST and runs for three days. As with all creativeLIVE classes, it’s totally free to watch while it’s live. If you want the class to watch later (and get the bonus material), you can purchase it while it’s live for a discounted price.


So what will you learn? Here’s the class description:

Overwhelmed by Photoshop? Ready to start editing your photos more efficiently? Join creativeLIVE for a three-day course that will give you an in-depth understanding of the Photoshop skills every photographer should know.

Award-winning photographer Ben Willmore has taught hundreds of thousands of photographers worldwide how to harness the power of Photoshop, and he’s ready to share his unique insights and style with you. You’ll learn about optimizing images, sharpening, retouching, black and white conversion, directing the viewer’s eye, and much more. Ben will take the guesswork out of Photoshop by covering which menus and tools are essential — and which you’re better off ignoring.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the core, everyday Photoshop skills that every photographer needs to produce professional-grade work.

If you do choose to purchase the class, you’ll get the course handbook, which is a pdf that Karen is creating that will review all the techniques I cover.

Find out more info and enroll for free HERE. (You get my “5 Tips for Making your Images POP” pdf just for enrolling.) 

Another Lightpainting Before & After

It seems like everyone really liked my last post where I showed the before and after images from one of my recent lightpaintings, so I thought I’d post another one. A few months ago, I took a private workshop with photographer Harold Ross. Harold has a lightpainting style that I really loved, so I spent two days with him learning how he works his magic. At the end, I came away with not only a slew of new knowledge and techniques but a completed image as well. Harold actually showed my image in a recent blog post that features his students’s work and you can see that HERE.

Below, drag the handle back and forth to see what the scene looked like with ambient light (before) and then the final processed image.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you want to give lightpainting a try for yourself, you can download a free pdf, which is an excerpt from my e-book, that includes everything you need to get the ball rolling. Enjoy!



Lightpainting Before & After

Hi gang! We just spent a few days in Gainesville, Florida, where lots of vintage trailer owners were converging for the Tin Can Tourists’ Winter Festivus. If you follow this blog regularly, you know that it has been an ongoing project of mine to lightpaint different brands of vintage trailers and motorcoaches. I wanted to share a little before & after with you that shows what the scene looked like with ambient light (before it got really dark out) and the final image.

The subject is a 1956 Airstream Bubble towed by a Chevy Suburban. I captured 102 exposures over the course of 35 minutes using my LED LENSER M7R Flashlight as the only light source. I then used 52 of those exposures to create the final lightpainted image. It took about 3.5 hours of computer work.

If you haven’t tried out light painting yet (it’s a blast once you’re used to it), then be sure to download the free sample PDF on the lower left of this web page… it will give you enough guidance to get you started on your first light painting.

Drag the handle back and forth to see the before & after:


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