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Shooting Bali: Paradise Under the Lens

Expert photographer Jordan Hammond made Bali his home and did some of the best shooting of his life on this paradise. Here's how.

Where else but Bali? With cascading waterfalls, pristine beaches, luxury resorts, and intricate temples galore, this haven for snap-happy photographers is one of a kind. Combine all the unique elements of a Balinese experience with tropical weather and some of the most delicious and healthy food on the planet, and you’ve really got a winner. Myself and my partner were fortunate enough to make Bali our home earlier this year, exploring the island inside and out.

Pura Lempuyang

Otherwise known as the Stairway to Heaven, Pura Lempuyang sits opposite the mighty Mount Agung, with a perfect view through the temple gates on a clear day. Located in the far east of Bali, the complex is home to seven temples and is an important site on the island for spiritual pilgrims – and photographers.

For the best photos, make sure you visit on a clear day and aim to be there for either sunrise or sunset as these times are generally less busy and the light is best for shooting. You may even be greeted by a local photographer who uses a mirror under a phone camera to take a perfect reflection shot. Pura Lempuyang is one of the six holiest places in Bali, and is found on the slope of Mount Lempuyang, 600 meters above sea level.

Tegellalang Rice Terraces

ABOVE: Palm trees of the Tegallalang Rice Terraces.

The Tegellalang Rice Terraces near Ubud is my favorite place to shoot the sunrise in Bali, especially when the light rays pierce through the surrounding palm trees. The terraces encompass the beauty of the island, and are arguably some of the most beautiful in the world. Take an early morning stroll through the terraces and meet the locals that work tirelessly planting and harvesting the rice, a staple of the Indonesian diet. If you head over to the other side of the hill in the middle of the terraces, you’ll find the most photogenic area of the terraces, with plenty of palm trees to use in your photos.

Sekumpul Waterfall

ABOVE: A rare lone moment at the Sekumpul Waterfall.

There are supposedly 99 waterfalls in Bali, with Sekumpul, in my opinion, the most magnificent. Located in Northern Bali, which is a world away from the typical holiday destinations of Southern Bali, you’ll have to be prepared for an early start to get here before the light becomes too harsh. You’ll also have to wade through a couple of rivers, but the view is extraordinary from both the bottom and top of the waterfall.

Tukad Cepung Waterfall

ABOVE: Light through the cave at Tukad Cepung Waterfall.

When we first visited Tukad Cepung in 2016, we had the whole waterfall to ourselves. Today it’s quite a different story, but there are still some great photo opportunities to be had. Get to the waterfall for between 9am and 11am (depending on which month you visit) to capture the light through the cave roof and onto both the waterfall and the rock just in front of it – both of which make for a captivating shot. This little gem of a waterfall has become increasingly popular in recent years, but is still worth the visit to see something one of a kind.

Kelingking Beach, Nusa Penida

My last but by no means final photography recommendation for Bali is on the island of Nusa Penida, a 45 minute boat ride from Sanur in the south of Bali. Infrastructure is still in the early stages on Nusa Penida, and the locals still predominantly rely on fishing and farming for a living – resembling a bucolic Bali some decades ago before it became a popular holiday destination known around the world.

There are numerous photo opportunities on Penida, including Angels Billabong, Atuh Beach, and Crystal Bay, but my favorite place to shoot has to be Kelingking Cliff. The government recently invested in building a stairway from the cliff down to the beach below, and the scenery on the hike down serves for beautiful photos. If you have a drone, you can get great aerial shots of the cliff and the beach below.

So, if you’re ever planning on taking a trip to Bali, remember: take a good camera and keep your eyes open. This island is always changing.