Initial thoughts on Indonesia | HDR Photo Essay

Prambanan temple located in Indonesia

Rachel’s look of horror said it all. The taxi driver barely noticed the girl as she stood outside of our window with her head pressed against the glass, slowly putting her hand to her mouth in an eating gesture. She couldn’t have been more than 8. Her torn clothing and gaunt face suggested she’d experienced more than an 8 year old should.

 

She continued to wander in and out of the 4x4s, BMWs, Mercedes, and whatever else the privileged classes drive in Indonesia. No one gave her money, as far as I could see. I glanced around and noticed she wasn’t the only one out there. 7 or 8 others were wading through the traffic in search of generosity.

Prambanan temple sunset Indonesia

This seething city, Jakarta, breaks hearts at first. The rich walk by in expensive attire, slightly overweight, while the poor slump hopelessly on the same path.

 

Indonesia isn’t a 3rd world country. But the gap between the rich and middle classes seems to be insurmountable. In our new home, Yogyakarta, the difference isn’t as immediately apparent. The poor still exist, of course, but in smaller numbers it seems.

Make shift homes in Indonesia.

Towards us, the ‘rich Bules’, Indonesians in general have been extremely welcoming. They are considerate in our attempts at speaking Indonesian. So many of them beam a smile at us as soon as they realise we’re friendly. Many are at the ready to help, even without financial reward – a noble thing considering how little so many have.

 

The country is as green as I’ve ever experienced. The roads, a veritable death trap, pulsate from morning till night. Becak drivers, taxis, scooters, cars, lorries, vans, and bikes all jostle for their position in the lane, while we stand on the sidewalk figuring out how on earth we’re going to get across.

Train station in Jakarta, Indonesia

I like the vibrancy of this city. Everywhere we go it’s full of life and activity. Even the volcanoes refuse to relax for long.

Friendly school kids in Indonesia.

Buddhist and Hindu temples surround Yogya from all angles. Our recent visit to Candi Prambanan was simply breath-taking.

Funny becak driver in Indonesia.

We’ve got 5 months left in Indonesia – learning the language is our main objective. While we also hope to learn to cross the road during that time, we’d love to make a life, and friends in this remarkably confusing and beautiful country.

 

Top Travel Bloggers Jimmy McIntyre and his wife are full time travel writers. Jimmy has proficiency in 4 languages: Spanish, French, Indonesian, and Italian. He is also an avid user of HDR photography. You can read about their journey at Strange Lands Travel Blog and join their Facebook page.

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

John of Travel Rinse Repeat April 13, 2012 at 11:22 pm

Wow the temple shots looks so foreboding, well done. All of the photos are great.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:44 am

Thanks John, Jimmy did a really nice job I think.

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Lissie April 13, 2012 at 11:50 pm

I’m not a huge fan of HDR but I love the picture with the kids! Are the temple shots from Borobadur?

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:43 am

I’m wondering that as well Lissie :)

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Cam April 14, 2012 at 2:01 am

I like the train photo best. Not a huge fan of people in HDR, but the colours certainly make it pop. Well done!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:39 am

My fav shots are of the train as well :)

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Bodlagz April 14, 2012 at 3:35 am

I remember visiting Jakarta some years ago, I had a local guide who took me on a train ride and then to a tower, can’t remember what it was called but the views from the top are incredible.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:38 am

I’m really anxious to visit Jakarta someday myself :)

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Michael Figueiredo April 14, 2012 at 4:30 am

I’m not usually a big fan of HDR photography, but these shots are gorgeous. Great job!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:38 am

Thanks Michael, I agree with you that Jimmy did a great job with these.

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Dean April 14, 2012 at 6:55 am

These are some lovely HDR photos. Those temples look amazing.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:37 am

Thanks Dean, the temples sure do look amazing!

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Andrea April 14, 2012 at 10:28 am

These are brilliant! Putting HDR software on my wish list…

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:37 am

Thanks Andrea! I’d also like to improve my HDR skills as well :)

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Jimmy April 14, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Thanks to all who commented. HDR is not for everyone, but it’s a real passion of mine. Combining that with living in Indonesia, means I never put my camera down.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:36 am

Jimmy, thanks for contributing such a great photo essay. You’re really skilled at HDR shots.

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Abby April 14, 2012 at 5:43 pm

What a beautiful essay, Jimmy! Your love and loyalty to Indonesia comes through, even as it is of your first impression. I love your photos, what energy.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:35 am

I agree with you Abby!

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Laurence April 14, 2012 at 7:52 pm

HDR is one of those techniques that can be over or mis-used. Certainly not the case with these photos – really quite amazing stuff! The first one in particular is incredible.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:35 am

Totally agree with you Laurence, when it’s done well it looks great.

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Erica April 15, 2012 at 2:28 am

I absolutely love these shots; the omnipresence of the clouds and the vivid contrasting colors- gorgeous!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

Thanks Eric, I’m impressed with what Jimmy put together :)

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Glen Webber - NZ birding pictures. April 16, 2012 at 12:08 am

Wow Sam!

Thats some of the best HDR work I’ve seen in ages.
Just awesome. Like’d.

Cheers,
Glen.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:33 am

Thanks Glen, I agree with you. Jimmy’s really skilled with HDR shots.

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Heather April 16, 2012 at 1:52 am

Photos were great – nice views of Prambanan! Having lived in Yogya myself (and heading back there in September), I can say that your hotos have captured it well.

One thing you may want to be aware of is that you can feel free to give money to the people on the street (I always give at least 1000 RP), but never from a taxi cab – it’s illegal (and probably why your cab driver didn’t really notice the girl).

Also, when crossing the street – cross one section first, then stand in the middle of the road waiting for an opening to cross the other half. If a motorbike is coming, but is at least 50 yards away, then don’t worry, just walk calmly across – they won’t hit you. Cars and buses you should watch out for, but traffic laws in Indonesia favor the smaller vehicle, meaning pedestrians always win. Traffic fees are huge, and since you’re bule, they will be absolutely sure to avoid you. Strange logic, but it works!

If you’re in Yogya, I recommend Nasi Bakar, a great little lesehan down on Jalan Kaliurang. There’s also a great warung up around km 5 or so (just after Ring Road Utara) that serves AMAZING tempeh penyet. And if you’re in the mood for air conditioning, free wifi, and semi-western food, you should head to Parsley. And if you’re anywhere near Jalan Pancasila, there’s a place called Coklat nearby that has (you guessed it) a bunch of chocolate-related dishes. Just in case you’re looking for good food places!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:32 am

Thanks for the detailed comment Heather. I’m very anxious to visit Yogya myself.

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Amanda April 16, 2012 at 4:33 am

Awesome photos! I think the river/canal one is my favorite.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:31 am

Thanks Amanda, one of my fav shots as well :)

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Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures April 16, 2012 at 5:49 am

WOW! That first shot is breathtaking!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:31 am

I agree with you Aaron. Jimmy’s got some skills behind the camera :)

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@wftristan April 16, 2012 at 9:31 am

Some Lovely shots here – personally I would rather see Normal photographs (but thats only my personal taste) Having said that – One of the guy stood in front of the Graffiti is fantastic.

@wftristan

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:30 am

It seems HDR is a bit polarizing. Although I don’t often use it I can appreciate those who are good at it. When it’s done poorly it looks really awful though!

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A Montrealer Abroad April 16, 2012 at 9:49 am

Love the train station! Very intriguing.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:29 am

That’s one of my fav shots :)

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Arti April 16, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Your first two shots are just, AWESOME! Loved them, how you shot them. Can you tell me too.
And looking forward to your tales.
Have a wonderful day Samuel.
Arti~India

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:29 am

Thanks, all of the credit goes to Jimmy with regards to these photos. He’s really perfected HDR shots.

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Jeremy Branham April 16, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Wow, amazing photos! I know people who lived in Indonesia for a while. Interesting place filled with some great people and culture!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:28 am

I agree with you Jeremy. Although I’ve only been to Bali I feel a strong sense of wanting to explore more of the country with some serious island hopping.

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Laura April 16, 2012 at 5:45 pm

So, how is the language study going? How long will it take you to be fluent?
As usual, I love the photos.

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:27 am

I’d be curious to find that out as well!

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Josh April 16, 2012 at 6:23 pm

It’s sad to see the kids on the street begging for money, food, or sustenance.

Nice pictures though!

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Nomadic Samuel April 17, 2012 at 4:27 am

Indeed, that’s not an ideal scene.

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Bama April 18, 2012 at 12:09 pm

Hey! A post about Indonesia! Those HDR pictures of Prambanan temples are amazing. I never imagined it would look so good in HDR (I like how the relief carvings become more visible in HDR photo). The story about Jakarta is so true. Unlike other place in Indonesia, it’s where the rich and the poor live side by side in such a stark contrast. However many people found more lovely things about the city when they dig deeper to find the city’s soul.

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Nomadic Samuel April 26, 2012 at 5:11 am

I think that is true of any gritty city. One does need to dig a little deeper but often rewards can be found.

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Dr.M April 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

Yes I think the train one is one of the best out of the bunch. But the best part of the post was the story telling, I really enjoyed it. I hope I will be able to go and take some pics myself of those places and find a dramatic sky like the one you had ;) Considered that I will spend at least 3-4 months in Indonesia during my RWT I should have the chance.

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Nomadic Samuel April 26, 2012 at 5:12 am

Sounds like you’ll have a great opportunity to do that. I’d love to have 3-4 months in Indonesia :)

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Margyle April 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm

These pictures are unreal! The temple pictures look like the entrance to hell… is it wrong that I still want to go inside? lol
Years ago we had an exchange student from Indonesia stay with us and all the other exchange students were from wealthier families, but he was not and always felt a little out of place, even in Canada and living in the same conditions as all the others. I still remember how happy he was when he called home for the first time in 6 months. It was a learning experience for us as well!

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Nomadic Samuel April 26, 2012 at 5:12 am

I’m very impressed with Jimmy’ HDR shots as well :)

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Cal April 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

I really want to get into HDR Photography more. Awesome photos! Thank you for sharing.

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Nomadic Samuel April 26, 2012 at 5:12 am

You’re welcome Cal!

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Wanderplex April 24, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Great photos – that temple looks so intricate and beautiful. I’d love to visit Indonesia some day!

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Nomadic Samuel April 25, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I’d truly like to explore more of Indonesia myself :)

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Luiz Jr. (Blog Boa Viagem) April 25, 2012 at 11:04 pm

Very nice pics…, love Indonesia a lot! ;)

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Nomadic Samuel April 26, 2012 at 4:44 am

Thanks! :)

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Jason April 26, 2012 at 10:14 am

Some great HDR work their Samuel. Particularly like the shot of the young school children. You dont see allot of HDR travel photography of groups of people like this. Something a little different. Great Capture….

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Nomadic Samuel April 30, 2012 at 6:41 am

Thanks Jason!

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Laura April 26, 2012 at 4:56 pm

Gosh, what a contrast!

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Nomadic Samuel April 30, 2012 at 6:41 am

Thanks Laura

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Joe May 2, 2012 at 6:45 am

Lovely photos. Only been to Bali but looks like I should make a visit to Indonesia proper!

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Nomadic Samuel May 7, 2012 at 2:45 am

Joe, I’ve only been to Bali as well. I’m anxious to explore more of the country.

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Kurt W May 12, 2012 at 4:18 pm

Amazing HDR work. It really doesn’t get much better.

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Turtle May 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

There’s a lot of mixed opinion about HDR in the comments here. I guess the thing is to know when to use it – not become too reliant on it.
To my eye, it works really well with the graffiti, the train and the canal scene.
Personally I’m not normally a huge fan of it when people are in the picture.
Still, Jimmy’s shots are all fantastic!

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