Monthly Archives: June 2009

What am I doing here?

What am I doing here? What the hell am I doing here? I mean that in a positive way! Pinching my arm thinking what am I doing here? Title is Bruce Chatwin’s but the experiences are all mine. Very surreal and a new world for me as I have never been to Southeast Asia; a smorgasbord of new experiences! Having first been to Malaysia for 6 days I am presently on Borneo working for United Plantations; shooting for them on their massive palm oil plantations. I have little time, so enjoy this quick recap of some brilliant experiences from the past 9 days!

Malaysia

A culture shock that would register on the Richter scale is what I experienced landing in Kuala Lumpur straight from the Australian outback: The sights, smells, sounds, the amount of traffic and people, the tropical humidity in the middle of Summer – all senses overloaded! On the 4 lane freeway the motorbikes overtake cars left and right like a computer game. The 400 meter tall Petronsas Twin Towers tower over the city. The mega massive shopping malls from hell. The bustling, dynamic street life where every other house is a restaurant as it is cheaper to eat out than cook. Ending up sleeping two nights in the guestroom of famous Danish author Jørn Riel and wife Annette (thanks so much for your kindness and hospitality!). Kuala Lumpur is a thriving very modern city, very clean and well planned, extremely cheap to live in and I always had a feeling I was witness to the future. Far too busy for me to want to live there, people, cars and motorbikes everywhere, but a fascinating place.

Indonesia, Borneo

The river town of Pangkalan Bun is like stepping 100 years back in time. The river houses thousands of people living in wooden sheds right on the river, all connected by a network of planks and walkways intertwined like some organic network. People do their laundry in the river, take showers, brush their teeth, small two stroke engine powered traditional boats chug along the river, the engine spewing black smoke. Not a single tourist anywhere and certainly I am the only tall blonde Scandinavian, something which causes many smiles from the very friendly very interested locals. A few snapshots of life on the river:

Pangkalan Bun. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Pangkalan Bun. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography 

The shoot and 5D Mk II’s video

I have the pleasure of working with the crew of Danish reporter Michael Rastrup Smith, Georg from Livingfilms and Michael’s amazing multi-skilled assistant Kai from Thailand. We make a great team and I am learning a lot about producing video! I even ended up as camera operator a few times. We did a few tests, and the video on my Canon 5D Mk II absolutely blows their JVC proHD camera away! So my 5D has seen quite a lot of action mounted on a big video tripod and I am practicing my smooth panning skills. While they shoot video for United Plantations, I shoot stills, landscapes and whatever they need.

I must admit as a landscape photographer in love with untouched nature, there is absolutely nothing beautiful about a plantation. Nothing. It is just ugly man made landscape. Endless straight rows of oil palms as far as the eye can see does not get me high. United Plantations are at the top and doing many great things to run a sustainable operation but as a whole the industry as a whole is a rogue under the radar out of control industry that really needs to be regulated by law. 10% of the things you buy every day contain palm oil yet the industry is totally unregulated. But the people at United Plantation are amazing, I must thank Danish CEOs Carl & Martin for endless kindness and hospitality, the experience is great fun, great opportunity and a good learning experience shooting appealing photos of things you do not find appealing.

Randomness

  • Pocari Sweat…is the name of the Indonesian isotonic energy drink I am having while writing this. It has a nice taste and according to the can it is an “ion supply”. Can only be good, although I do not wish to know what the sweat of a ‘Pocari’ is!
  • At the Jakarta FM7 airport hotel there is a massage menu in the rooms. You can order all sorts of massages, with or without various versions of  ‘happy endings’ or a special bonus massage called ‘tit relief’ !?!?!???
  • Also in the room is a sign saying “Please Complain” !
  • Food here is fantastic, incredibly good. Am trying to gain back the 6-7 kilos I seem to have lost somewhere in the wild (as revealed by fancy bathroom weight in fancy Singapore airport hotel).
  • Laws of physics do not apply here in Indonesia as there seems to be no limit to the amount of people and things you can fit on 1 single motorbike!
  • Copenhagen is next stop after Borneo. Can hardly remember the place or the language. Have thousands of RAW files to develop and a very long to-do list, then a new plane ticket is high on the shopping list!

Sands of Time. Turn the hourglass and next stop Malaysia and Borneo

“The principal joy of human life comes from encounters with new experiences. Hence there is no greater joy than having a new horizon every day”.

The words are Christopher McCandless but are also very Chatwin-esque. I wholeheartedly agree. It is why I love travelling and photographing so much. The promise of a new horizon, new photos, new experiences.

Sands of time has once again run through the hourglass as I bid goodbye to Australia and head for new horizons in Malaysia and Borneo. The downside to these constant new experiences is they also constantly end. It is a rollercoaster of highs and lows. After leaving what quickly felt as a home in Namibia in early May, I now leave what feels like home in Broome, Western Australia. As always feel a little sad having encountered yet another end. But new horizons, new photographs, new experiences await. Would not want it any other way. Rather the highest of highs and lowest of lows than never-ending mediocrity!

In Malaysia and Borneo I am shooting landscapes for United Plantations in and around their palm oil plantations. A visit to see the orangutans are also planned, promises to be rather magical. I do not know if I will have internet access but hope to post a report or two.

I illustrate the Sands of Time with this image from Namibia. A very strong wind is fiercely whipping the sand dunes in the setting sun, creating a magic moment in time on a Wednesday afternoon:

Namibia. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Randomness

  • Camel Man! You must read Rod’s super funny CAKE09 blog post about Camel Man & yours truly. I was planning to write the story as well but Rod’s tells it better than anyone. “Albert” is my CAKE09 nickname, something to do with Albert Namatjira (famous aboriginal artist).
    Casey has also posted some great CAKE09 shots on his blog.
  • Still on CAKE09 expedition, in Karijini we had to one day do a re-fuel and shopping trip to the mining town of Tom Price. Now, in Tom Price they were setting up a large fair with carousels, rides, etc. As Rod and I pay for our food at the Coles Supermarket the Coles Woman says excited “oooooh are you guys from the fair?”. “Ehhhh…what?” I say and laugh. “We look like we’re from a fair?”.
  • I spent a day working for Beaches of Broome backpackers (my home in Broome) shooting new photos for their website. With little preparation, no budget, no models, no props, no flash or light of any kind and me, the landscape photographer, the conditions were challenging. Necessity being the mother of all inventions, Michael (staff from Beaches) and I simply hi-jacked 3 backpackers who agreed to model and posed them in rooms, having breakfast, riding scooters, at the bar etc. and I fired away hoping for something useable. Was lots of fun and a few of the photos are even halfway ok. Joe McNally need not worry though! Will let you know when some of our work is online at the Beaches website.

Three Men in a Troopie

Plans. Some say life is what happens when you are busy making other plans. I disagree. Life is simply What Happens, plans or no plans. Sometimes What Happens when you have no plans is rather incredible though. Such as Casey Smith inviting me along on his and Rod Thomas’ 12 day Cape Leveque And Karijini Photography Expedition – CAKE09 – travelling and shooting thousands of kilometres of Western Australia landscapes from Broome to Cape Leveque to Broome to Karijini National Park to Broome!

So begins the tale of Three Men in a Troopie. Fellow photographers and Aussies Casey Smith and Rod Thomas and yours truly the international superstar (cough) in Casey’s Toyota Landcruiser “Troopie”. Three Men, 5 cameras, 3 tripods, swags, tents, food, drinks and Australia’s largest state. This epic journey will be the topic of several posts to come, so what follows are just a teaser (long teaser) and some quick ‘n rough developed images (cropped single shots, no stitching, laptop is already dying by Lightroom and tropical heat). Many more images to come from our expedition to these fantastic CAKE09 destinations:

Cape Leveque

The remote corner of Cape Leveque is 200 kilometres north of Broome in a 4WD, home to white beaches, blue skies and red cliffs. And Three Men in a Beach shelter. The shelter is really 3 walls and a roof made of palm leaves. It is perfect, we had an outstanding camp right on the beach (all houses should have sand for floors!). Outstanding camp. Outstanding fun. Outstanding weather. Outstanding photographers. Cape Leveque slightly less outstanding though. Nice and beautiful, sure, and we did get some great clouds. But, pristine, not. Too many photo-wreckers (people), too many foot prints in the sand. Something is up with the horizon here as well. I shot some horribly crooked images including one mega crooked horizon shot (I blame the beach, tripod was sinking) that I promised Rod I would post un-edited…stay tuned! Having shot every angle we left one day early as we wanted to do a sunset shot at…

James Price Point

Just 60 kilometres north of Broome it is what Cape Leveque isn’t. Untouched. Cliffs are higher and a deeper red, blues are bluer, whites are whiter, beaches are pristine and no photo-wreckers (people), all serenity! Price Point will soon have a large gas hub on the beach though – Save the Kimberley! – so get up there and get your images before you have to clone out a gas pipe line on this beach:

Price Point. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Marble Bar

The hottest town in Australia, a fact the town is very proud of. Record is 167 straight days with temperatures reaching 40+ degrees. Population…well, the couple running the caravan park (they opened the office when we arrived at 3pm, not the busiest day ever), two women and two kids at the Info office and we saw the same couple with two kids twice. So population, around 11-12 people. We pit-stopped here for one day on the way to Karijini having arrived via the lesser known but extremely beautiful Boreline dirt road, taking us through some amazing Pilbara landscapes that are truly spectacular:

Boreline Road to Marble Bar. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Possibly the funniest quote of CAKE09 is also from Marble Bar. Having asked for directions to the caravan park at the Information/Internet/Tele office, we asked for a good spot to shoot the sunset. “Oh you mean photography” says Info Woman and proceeds “You should ask Steve. He’s down at the Garage. He’s an amateur photographer. He is REALLY good!”. Steve, if you read this, we are not knocking your work, it just came out extremely funny! Incidentally, when shooting the sunset in Marble Bar do not go to the top of the Water Tank hill. View is remarkably ordinary. We should have asked Steve. I did shoot a stitched pano of Marble Bar at sunset from the water tank, a piece of art I plan to flog to the Info Woman, I think it is just what tourism in Marble Bar needs.

Karijini National Park

More than 1,000 kilometres south of Broome in the heart of Western Australia’s Pilbara region is the Karijini National Park. Home to gorgeous gorges with waterfalls, water holes and steep beautiful iron rich deep ochre coloured rock walls. Home to beautiful Pilbara landscapes featuring the Hamersley Ranges, blue sky, ochre red dirt, golden yellow and green spinifex grass and white gum trees. Also home to Three Men in a Tent for 7 days!

I am all about ‘Grandscapes’, shots of wide open spaces with sky and horizon. So while Casey and Rod abseiled into gorges on their private tour with the excellent West Oz Active guides, I explored the red soil topside by for example hiking Mt Vigors with the excellent RemTrek Adventures. View from the 900 meter peak is outstanding, offering a 360 degree panoramic view of the region. One of my images of the outstanding sunset from Mount Vigors:

Mount Vigors. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

I also shot several gorges and pools but I am not so confident about the results. Could not shoot a good water shot to save my life although I may have done another waterfall shot I like. Images will be a while to come, as I shot many of them as HDRs and they need work to work, so stay tuned, and also read the blogs from Casey and Rod for beautiful gorge images from their abseiling adventures.

Last day in Karijini rain was forecast and the clouds brought us a beautiful sunrise with a touch of Pilbara Magic. Shooting into the rising sun, clouds on fire, I look back and am awestruck. Big fat rain clouds are lit up over the Hamersley Ranges and a perfect 180 degree rainbow hovers above it. It is astoundingly beautiful. Unfortunately before I find a composition, rainbow is fading as quickly as it appeared, leaving me with this image and many more gorgeous cloudscapes that was a perfect end to Karijini for me:

Karijini Sunrise. Flemming Bo Jensen Photography

Camping at the Karijini Eco Retreat (no fancy expensive eco tents for us, I brought my outstanding $32 tent from Coles supermarket, a tent which Casey actually ended up using) is a great and true outback Pilbara experience, sleeping right on the Pilbara red rocks. Outstanding fun was had at camp again. But also a bit cold at night. Karijini in June is winter, 20-25 midday but gets down to 5 or even colder at night. One time it was warmer in the fridge than outside. One morning there was rim frost. My brain does not pack well at 6am so I left warm woolly sweater purchased in Namibia + my jacket back in Broome! Only the tough survive – using a National Geographic windbreaker. I also hope deep ochre red colour comes into fashion. My skin and my clothes will be very trendy!

Three Men in a Troopie – to be continued

I have just scratched the surface (and stolen the title from Tim Flannery), many more CAKE09 images and stories to come. My deepest thanks to Casey and Rod for inviting me along, do check out their websites and blogs, they are REALLY good! Casey Smith: web and blog. Rod Thomas: web and blog.

Randomness

  • Karijini and gravity. First I dropped my 77mm filter adapter ring into Joffre Gorge. Went pling-pling-splash then floated down a waterfall. Brilliant. Means I now hand hold filters resulting in more than one shot with my fingers in the image! Numbnuts here also dropped 77mm lens cap in rocks, spent 30 minutes finding it again. Then dropped it again at Dales Gorge but got it back. Driving back to Broome we get out to shoot the clouds, I had been videoing road trains so had my camera in my lap. First thing to fall out of my door onto dirt road – is my lens cap!
  • Western Australia is one huge state. Friday Super Driver Casey in his Super Troopie truck drove from Karijini to Paraburdoo to drop Rod at the airport, then from Paraburdoo to Broome. 1230 kilometres from 5.00am to 6.30pm. Longest I’ve ever travelled in a car in one day and on the map it doesn’t even look like all that much as shown here. Turned on GPS once in a while to check progress, at one point it says “turn left in 395 kilometres!”. Great Northern Highway is really great and really long!
  • Rod’s Manfrotto tripod with leveling base and huge 3-way head is so heavy it should be registered as a lethal weapon. Watch yourself if you walk behind him, when Rod wears this giant on his shoulder and swings around you could be knocked sideways into the neighbouring gorge!