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The art of picture taking – and how it changed Bali forever

To say Bali is picturesque is an understatement. Practically just by a glance, every corner here is worth a thousand words to tell. I think that’s just the one reason why millions of people from all over the world visit this island every year –because Bali is just such an eye candy. Especially to city folks who have always been confined inside boxes made of concrete, glass and steel – such as yours truly. At the beginning at least. When I moved here from the capital around fifteen years ago, Bali was such a foreign land to me. It was sparse, laid back and definitely traditional – as opposed to Jakarta that felt so rigid and cramped. 

But my favourite time every day is always right after class. Me and a bunch of my closest friends would hop on our bikes and drive to explore the hidden beaches of Uluwatu. Because I went to school at the Bukit area, this is quite easy to do, especially when the traffic there was still bearable. I can’t remember how many sunsets I’ve spent at Blue Point, that tiny patch of beach under the cave before it became a surfer’s favela. Or Gunung Payung before its dirt path got overrun by wide roads for trucks and the hotel constructions that followed later. During the weekend, our adventures would go farther. On our motorcycles, me and my friends have travelled as far as Bedugul, Padang Bai, even Negara. 

One thing that differs those great times and the present is that photographs were luxury. Our mobile phones were mostly standard Nokia or Sony-Erricson – didn’t even come close to the smartphones kids using these days. So if we wanted to take a picture, it’s an actual camera with a film roll inside. When it gets dark, we need to come closer to the camera so the flash would capture us. And the frustration of bad results was incredibly painful. Technology certainly changed a lot of games. In terms of capturing a scenery, we have a gadget that not only can take pictures, but also edit its exposure, colours, mood, for it looked so much better – we can even take videos and make a short movie in our palms now. While the professional cameras even got better. They’re more durable, and capable of documenting even the finest details of an object flawlessly. They even go as far as creating super tough tiny cameras for adrenaline junkies who seek to document their adventures in the most realistic scene possible. Nowadays, they can even fly your camera with a drone! It’s like no limits for these developments. 

“If we wanted to take a picture, it’s an actual camera with a film roll inside. When it gets dark, we need to come closer to the camera so the flash would capture us. And the frustration of bad results was incredibly painful”

The face of the island also changed a lot in the past one and a half decade. But the picturesque part somehow remain. Even with the emergence of these GoPros and drones and crazy high pixelated camera phones, more beaches, fields, temples and waterfalls are discovered and documented. Also thanks to social media, it’s shared on the internet so that everybody can see. Eventually those pictures would make others like them curious (and maybe envious), so they too come and make their own explorations – and the cycle continues. These kids even have specialties now. Wedding, fashion, action, even food photography. It’s so interesting! Before we know it, more hidden spots are found, more local businesses prospered from the visits and more exposure about the island blasted. The point of my rant is, I fully embrace this technology and whatever advanced evolution it may be in the future. But somehow the memories of those countless hours of driving to a secret beach and just enjoying the view without worrying how the photo we took with an old analog camera would come out still lingers. I can still smell the salty water, feel the sandy beach and squint to the orange glare of the sunset in my eyes. 

 

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