Saturday, July 23, 2016

Bringing in the Rice

A woman threshes rice during the harvest in Bali. 

Rice is a staple for people in most of the world. In Bali, rice is not only a food staple but also an integral part of life. Life is built around the cultivation of rice. There are rice fields everywhere on Bali, even in the middle of cities, in what would be an empty lot anywhere else. 

In most countries in Asia, rice grows on a predictable schedule. There is a planting season (which, coincidently, is right now in Thailand and Cambodia), a transplanting time (when baby rice plants are gathered and replanted in paddies), and a harvest season (usually starting in October in Thailand). On Bali, which has diverse micro-climates and a millennium old water distribution system based on community knowledge, rice grows year round. Rice is planted in one paddy while it's harvested from another paddy, which could be right next to the paddy where it's being planted. 
A man transplants rice in a paddy just a couple of kilometers from where the rice was being harvested. A new, and expensive, home for a foreign family is behind the paddy. 

For a photographer, this is a great thing. I could photograph rice being planted and harvested on the same day. That's not something I can do in Thailand. 

On Bali, rice cultivation is still an old school activity. Some farmers are starting to use small tractors to prepare rice fields for planting, but after that the work is done by hand. 
A rice worker moves his small tractor to another paddy while prepping the paddies for planting. 

In Thailand, at least on the big rice farms in central Thailand, most of the work is mechanized. 
A woman carries a threshing table out to a rice field near Ubud...
...The rice was cut by hand and then the women threshed it by pounding it against the table (a process called "banging" in Indonesian). 

I enjoy photographing workers in the rice fields, but it's not something I could ever do. It's back breakingly hard work done under a grueling sun. 
The woman on the left was cutting rice and tossing it to the woman on the right who was threshing it in a field near Ubud. 

In the same field, workers harvest rice in front of a development of new homes built for foreign tourists and retirees who want to live in a rice field. This is the biggest threat to Bali's rice growing traditions. The real estate boom in Ubud is fueled by Americans, Australians and Europeans who want to live in the midst of Balinese rice fields. It's the "Eat Pray Love" effect, an unintended consequence of Elizabeth Gilbert's best seller.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Bali Fight Club

Young men do battle with thorny pandanus leaves in Tenganan village on the eastern end of Bali. 

The last ceremony I covered in Bali was the Pandanus War Ritual in a village about two hours from Ubud. It was unlike anything I've ever seen. 

Tenganan village itself is not that different from any other village on Bali. The people are Hindus, each family compound has a small family temple. There are a couple of larger village temples in the community (priests bless the combatants and lead services at the temple but the fights are not a part of the temple ceremony). But the fights themselves are unique. 
A woman makes an offering in a small family temple. 

The day started typically. We went to the village and were invited into a family compound, where girls were getting made up and a woman was praying in the family temple. The girls were getting into the traditional make up and attire of Balinese dancers but they weren't dancers. They were extraordinarily well dressed spectators. 
Men ride a home made manually powered ferris wheel on the main road in town. 

There were a couple of vendors and games of chance on the main road leading up to the fight grounds, and I photographed it all. 

The main event, though, was the pandanus fights. Hundreds of men, preteen to senior citizen, gathered at the stage while nearly as many beautifully dressed young women gathered in view areas. 
Women in traditional outfits watch the fights. 

A fighter with a tattoo of Ganesha, the Hindu god known as the "overcomer of obstacles" on his back. 

The men came equipped with thorny pandanus leaves and rattan shields. They climbed up on stage and started to fight.
A veteran of pandanus fighting leads his team towards the stage. 

Before the fights started, one team taunted another. 

The pandanus fights. Men would meet in the center of the ring (stage) and scratch each other with the leaves. They sometimes jumped on each other and other times would chase each other around the stage. 
The fights were usually good natured. 

The fights went on for several hours. They started with two fighters facing off against each other, but as the afternoon went on became more and more of a mob scene. By the end of the fights, there were dozens of men on the stage and while the fights had more of a free for all feel. Eventually the fighting ended and all of the participants sat on the ground around the stage while Hindu priests led them in prayers and sprinkled the fighters with holy water. 

A Hindu priest sprinkles the fighters with holy water after the fights. 

There are more photos of the pandanus fights in my archive and available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Ceremony on a Beach

Prayers on a beach in Bali. 

I inadvertently followed up the ceremony in Tampaksiring with a Hindu ceremony on the beach near Kusamba, in eastern Bali. It was advertent because I went to Kusamba to photograph salt works, but it has been raining for almost a week straight and the salt works were too wet to make salt. Coincidently there was a Hindu ceremony to mark the full moon, on the beach right next to the salt works. So I put on my sarong (because I always carry a sarong with me in Bali) and walked down the beach to the ceremony. 
Men and women pray during the beach ceremony. 

I missed most of the ceremony and got there as it was ending. People prayed while Hindu priests sprinkled them with holy water and then a group of priests walked down to the water's edge and threw offerings into the surf. 
Offerings are carried down to the water's edge...

...and thrown into the surf. 

I only saw the final 15 minutes or so of the ceremony, but it was enough for me to make a few photos and revealed another side of life on Bali to me. 
Women pack up and leave the beach. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Balinese Temple Ceremony

A dancer performs at a temple ceremony in Tampaksiring, a village not too far from Ubud. 

I covered a temple ceremony in Tampaksiring, a village near Ubud, while I was in Bali. Most of the people on Bali are Hindus who celebrate their faith in a very public way. Bali uses two calendars. Business and government use the Gregorian calendar but private and spiritual life in Bali is governed by the Balinese calendar. 

The Balinese year is 210 days long (only seven months in the Gregorian calendar). Bali is dotted with temples. Proportionally I think there are more Hindu temples on Bali than there are Buddhist temples in Thailand or Christian churches in the US. Every village has at least one village temple and almost every family has a family temple in their compound. (Family compounds are really more like tiny villages because they are home to not a "nuclear family" in the American sense but an extended family of several generations.) Every temple has an annual founding ceremony, but since it's annual on a Balinese calendar, which is seven months in the Gregorian calender, when you do the math you discover there are temple ceremonies almost everywhere almost all the time. 
Women praying at the Pura Agung temple ceremony in Tampaksiring. 

Which is why I went to Tampaksiring for their annual (on the Balinese calendar) temple ceremony. As luck would have it, the cosmos aligned almost perfectly to make this the most important ceremony in the temple in about 50 years. It was the full moon, which is always auspicious in the Hindu faith, and in the cycle of ceremonies it was an especially an important ceremony honoring the temple's founding. 
People, mostly men, wait for the ceremony to start. The ceremonies are not segregated by gender. The men, sat together so they could chat about the things Balinese men chat about. The women sat together and socialized about whatever Balinese women chat about.  

The temple was packed, everybody attired in their finest sarongs and traditional dress. Balinese Hindus are very accommodating to outsiders - about the only restriction is that we have to wear Balinese attire. So I wore a sarong, sash and Balinese hat. In fact, I carried a sarong and sash with me everywhere I went on Bali because you have to wear the traditional attire anytime you go into a temple or a religious ceremony. But everywhere I went in the temple people were completely willing to be photographed or talk to me about the ceremony or Bali in general. 
Dancers prepare for a performance at the ceremony.

A man gets into his dance costume.  I saw the dancers getting ready in a small room in the temple. I knocked on the door and asked if I could photograph them and I was invited in. The only "rule" was that I not get in the way, which was difficult because the room was tiny, crowded and a beehive of activity. 

The ceremony was almost sensory overload. Traditional Balinese gamelan orchestras performed throughout the temple grounds, sometimes three orchestras playing at the same time. All playing different pieces of classical Balinese music. Then the dancers started. Multiple dance troupes performing at the same time in the temple's central courtyard, about the half the size of a basketball court. 
A gamelan orchestra performs...

...while dancers perform different dances...

...within a few meters of each other. 

But the ceremony isn't about music and dancing. After the dances, people took seats on the grass, in the heart of the temple or wherever they could, and prayed. 
Girls in a dance troupe lead a procession through the temple. 

Prayers in the main hall of the temple. 

The ceremony at Tampaksiring will go on for 11 days. Some days will be more active than others. The first and last days should be the most interesting. 

There are more photos of the ceremony in my archive or available from ZUMA Press.

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Some Big Fish

Workers carry yellowfin tuna ashore at a fish market in Kuta, near the airport in Bali. 

The fishing waters in the Pacific Ocean near Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines are some of the richest in the world. I wanted to photograph fishing boats coming ashore in Bali so we went to Kuta to see what we would find. I was hoping we would see the smallish (two or three man crews) outrigger canoes coming in, but that wasn't happening. Instead we saw small outriggers bringing in dozens of fresh caught yellowfin tuna. 

I think the fish were caught on trawlers and transferred to the small outriggers just over the horizon because the boats bringing the tuna in were far too small to land the fish and some of the fish were already frozen and the outriggers don't have the wherewithal to freeze the fish. 
Yellowfin sticking out of an outrigger coming into the Kuta beach. 

Although this isn't what I set out to photograph, it was worth the trip. Yellowfin are some of the most sought after fish in the ocean. They're extremely popular in Japanese sushi and sashimi places. 

As the small boats landed, men lined up with bamboo poles. The fish were hung from the poles and men carried them up beach to a buyer who graded the fish on the spot and determined which were exported and which would stay on Bali. 
The small yellow fins are how the yellowfin got their name. Fish in an outrigger ready to be offloaded. 

Men wrestle a yellowfin out of the small outrigger. It was slung from a pole and two of the men carried it up the beach to a waiting buyer. 

This was really globalization in real time. These fish would be on a table in Japan in less than a day (the Bali airport is just a couple of kilometers from the fish market). 
A buyer (in the yellow shirt) grades a fish. 

Other types of fish were being brought ashore. Most I didn't recognize and the smaller ones never even made it into the fish market. Women set up and sold them on the beach. In addition to the tuna, the boats were landing huge marlin. The foreign buyers though were only interested in the yellowfin. 

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mass Cremation in Ubud

A sarcophagus burns during the mass cremation in Ubud.

I covered a second mass cremation in Ubud. This was actually the cremation I went to Bali to document. I got to Ubud on Wednesday afternoon and photographed the burning of the remains and then went to the cremation area each day to photograph activities related to the cremation ceremony.
The remains are cremated on Wednesday afternoon. The remains were wrapped and then burned while family members and others gathered round and watched. 

When the remains cooled people went through them to pull out bone fragments. The ashes were wrapped and blessed. 

The burning of the remains Wednesday was done without much apparent fanfare. People gathered around the cremation site to watch while men worked large burners connected to gas tanks. When the remains were burned, the ashes were gathered, wrapped and put into small litters. People then gathered in a plaza in front of the local temple for a prayer service. 
Prayers in the plaza in front of the local temple. 

After the prayers, the remains were taken a local river and sent down the river to the sea.
The procession to the river. 
And carrying the remains to the river. This was less than a kilometer from the cremation site. 

The burning of the remains was Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday and Friday people prepared the cremation site for Saturday's main ceremony. Thursday I photographed socializing at the site and blessing the effigies that were burned Saturday. 
Family members gathered on the plaza near the cremation site. The effigies of the people to be cremated were arrayed behind them. This was a time for prayer and reminiscing but it was also very social. Visitors went from family to family chatting. 

Blessing and praying at the effigies. 

I didn't spend much time at the cremation site Friday. I went there early in the morning but I didn't photograph much because I spent most of Friday at the mass cremation outside of Ubud

Saturday was the main event. The day started with Hindu prayers, led by a Brahmin High Priest, at the sarcophagusses in downtown Ubud. Following the prayers teams of men, mostly young men, carried the giant sarcophagusses up to the cremation site. 
A Brahmin priest leads the prayer service at the sarcophagusses.

A woman prays at one of the sarcophagus.

People pray in a pavilion downtown. 


Running up to the cremation site with a sarcophagus. There were dozens of these elaborate sarcophagusses and although there were a couple of close calls, none of them were dropped and none of the boys riding on them fell off. 

The cremation I covered Friday in the countryside prepared me for the cremation in Ubud, which was much bigger and more crowded than Friday's cremation. After the sarcophagusses got to the cremation site, women and men carried the offerings and effigies over to the sarcophagusses. 
Women carry offerings to a sarcophagus...

...A woman holds a portrait of a loved one. 

Men carry an effigy to a sarcophagus

The sarcophagusses were opened, filled with the effigies and offerings, reclosed and set afire. In the countryside all of the sarcophagusses were set alight at the same time, but in Ubud each one was burned individually and local firefighters doused the flames before they consumed more than the sarcophagusses. 

I think this is because the cremation Friday was done in a relatively open space with no nearby structures while the cremation in Ubud was done under a dense forest canopy and very close to several homes (including our hotel, which was literally next to the cremation site). 

Bali is famous for the mass cremations, which have become popular tourist attractions. The Balinese handle the tourist influx with great patience and dignity. If you're interested in going to one, there will be several more cremations in villages across Bali during the rest of July and August but the cremation season will end by September. (But I don't have any specific information on when or where the cremations will be held.) 

There are more photos of Balinese cremations in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.