Category Archives: Photography

Notre Dame, Paris – A Photo Essay

These pictures were taken during a stroll around Notre Dame in September 2013.

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Photowalking in Villaneuve

This is a post from Garry Benson from late in May when he was in Queensland. It has some beautiful images of the area around Somerset Dam in Queensland.

Images and text © Garry Benson 2014

Photowalking in Villaneuve

I’m staying with friends in a cottage next to the vast Somerset Dam in the Village of Villaneuve. Villeneuve is a very small village in the Somerset Region, Queensland, Australia, The town is named after the railway station, which in turn took its name from Frank Villeneuve Nicholson, owner of the property Villeneuve.

I arrived on Sunday night from Brisbane and went for a Photowalk last night and again at dawn this morning. Here are some of my images, unedited (apart from my watermark) and not in any order. I often find that sunset and dawn give the best opportunities for great photos. The light changes quickly but subtly and if you take lots of shots you’ll always end up with some interesting images.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

A Buddhist in Bali

Text: © Garry Benson 2014
Images: © Garry Benson 2014

Honouring the Gods is such a long-standing tradition in Bali that the island is named after the native word for ‘offering’ – Bebali. For the Balinese, to make the material world as beautiful as possible ensures a safe journey to the afterlife and a better reincarnation.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

The religious festivals of Balinese daily life are a continuous performance. Traditional music, dance, theatre and the arts are there to give pleasure to the Gods. The daily offerings are an excellent example – every banana leaf offering is covered with rice and marigolds, mostly grown in the highlands around Bedugul in the north of the island.

Bouquets of flowers and larger offerings abound, and in traditional towns like Ubud the daily hubbub of tourist traffic is punctuated by the sight of these beautiful ‘bebali’. Lavish sculptural offerings of food and gifts are created for odalan, or regular temple activities.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Tono Prayseta is an Ogoh Ogoh artist from the small artist’s village of Batubulan near Ubud.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

An Ogoh Ogoh is a classic Balinese figure that is closely associated with Nyepi – the Hindu Day of Silence or the Hindu New Year in the Balinese Saka calendar. The villages are cleaned, food is cooked for 2 days and in the evening as much noise is made as possible to scare away the devils.

On the following day, Hindus do not leave their homes, cook or engage in any activity. Streets are deserted, and tourists are not allowed to leave hotel complexes. No arrival nor departure flights at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar – Bali. No tourist activities… The largest celebrations are held in Bali as well as in Balinese Hindu communities around Indonesia.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Ogoh ogoh is a kind of statue/giant doll made of light materials such as the combination of wood, bamboo, paper, and styrofoam so it is easy to be lifted and paraded. The name ogoh ogoh is taken from Balinese ‘ogah-ogah’ that means something that is shaken. In fact, when an ogoh-ogoh is paraded around it is always shaken by its carriers to make it look like it’s moving or dancing. There’s no set image – it can be any of dozens of frightening creatures.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

In culturally diverse Bali the celebrations of Hindu holidays are very important. For example Galungan celebrates the return of Balinese gods and deified ancestors to Bali. For ten days, Balinese families offer prayers and offerings, along with ceremonies to cleanse and balance the inner and outer energy on the island.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Galungan lasts for 10 days and features, among other things, Barongs (links with Vishnu) dancing from temple to temple in each village. The festival symbolises the victory of good over evil. The origins of Galungan are still a mystery, but essentially this is the beginning of the week in which the gods and ancestors descend to earth…and good triumphs over evil.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

The Balinese have maintained their unique culture for centuries despite many outside influences. 95% of traditional Balinese practise the Hindu-Dharma religion (known as Agama Tirta). This uniquely Balinese combination of Hinduism, Buddhism and ancestor worship is basically a monotheistic religion with one Supreme Being, Sang Hyang Widhi.

As a practising Buddhist when I took Refuge in Buddhism I made five vows:
1. Not to kill any sentient being.
2. Not to steal.
3. Not to lie.
4. Not to indulge in sexual misconduct.
5. Not to surrender to intoxifying substances.

The Balinese have their own Five Religious Principles:
1. Brahman, belief in One Supreme Being
2. Atman, Belief in Souls and spirits.
3. Samara, or Reincarnation
4. Karma, that action and practice is appropriately rewarded – that is good rewards good and evil, evil.
5. Moksa, the possibility of unity with the divine.

There are many parallels with Buddhism apart from the fact that Buddhism is regarded as a philosophy and we don’t believe in One Supreme Being.

A Balinese person’s life is marked by rituals, beginning in the seven month ritual of pregnancy followed by the birth ritual; the sixth month ‘baby touching the ground’ ceremony; the teenage’s toothfiling ceremony (perhaps in abeyance now); wedding and birthday celebrations and clan gatherings at temple anniversary ceremonies.

The ultimate ritual, Pitra Yodna, is coming next month – in July and August many villages prepare pyres for the elaborate cremation of the dead, to speed their souls to Balinese heaven so they can be reincarnated for an even happier existence in another physical form.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

One thing is certain. The tremendous growth in tourism has generated demand for the work of all Balinese artists and craftsmen, revived their traditional skills and fostered a thriving new industry. Whether it’s sculpture in stone, wood or styrofoam; fantastic kites or wallhangings, the art of Bali has a soul – and that’s also expressed by their daily offerings and lifestyle.

Flowers around Alam Jiwa, Ubud, Bali – A Photo Essay

We had an overnight stay in Ubud, Bali where I had the opportunity to take these flower shots, enjoy.

Other posts about Bali:

365 Places: Alam Jiwa

The Soul of Nature: Alam Jiwa

Candi Dasa – East Coast of Bali

365 Places: Sanur’s Balinese Restaurant

North Bali – A Photo Essay

365 Places: Bali

365 Places: Nyuh Kuning

365 Places: Sanur Beachfront

The Soul of Nature: Alam Jiwa

Images: Garry Benson
Text: Garry Benson

Nyuh Kuning (Yellow Coconut Village)
For the 10th year I’m home – at blessed Alam Jiwa in the traditional Balinese woodcarving village of Nyuh Kuning. It’s just a short walk through Monkey Forest to Ubud, the world-famous arts and crafts capital of Bali.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

Surrounded by shimmering rice fields with a view of sacred Mount Agung, the village is a showcase of traditional Balinese culture. Alam Jiwa translates as ‘the soul of nature’ and is a total of eleven beautiful two and three-story stone ‘apartments’ running along the border of the rice paddies.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

The owners of Café Wayan, Ibu Wayan and Pak Ketut have created an ambience reflecting the beautiful nature of Bali. The secluded setting of the six Alam properties in Ubud and a hotel in the Gilis all feel like retreats – yet also a connection to interact with Balinese culture.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

It’s just a short walk from Alam Jiwa to the Monkey Forest, the home to over 300 macaque monkeys. The Balinese believe these monkey to be spiritual beings who are protective guardians of the temple ‘Pura Dalem Agung’. They have free reign in the village of Nyuh Kuning.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

The overwhelming feeling of staying at Alam Jiwa is being part of a family. On arrival I’m always greeting with a huge vase of tropical flowers with a typical message ‘Welcome home to Garry Benson’. I know the staff and their families, and to see their eager faces and smiles when they welcome me back are wonderful.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

My hour long morning daily walk in Nyuh Kuning village is always a buzz. After 10 years I know a lot of the locals who smile & wave and sometimes chat. Just one of the paved streets about half a kilometre long had a total of 126 different sculptures.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

Each Balinese compound has its own temple dogs or guards, but the outstanding one for someone with a mudbrick house is this one. Beautiful stone mosaics, and dozens of small sculptures embedded in the walls.

The village is intentionally ‘house proud’ and the villagers vie with each other to have the most beautiful entrances. The main streets of the village abutting Monkey Forest are all paved and decorated, with a soccer field, a temple complex and local school. It’s almost a model traditional Balinese village and a wonderful place to stay, to walk around and enjoy the numerous restaurants etc.

Image Credit © Garry Benson
Image Credit © Garry Benson

It’s amazing that this traditional woodcarving village has such a wonderful array of stone sculptures, carved wooden doors and offerings, a constant joy to crazy photographers like me!

Profile: Rev. Petros Kipouros

You never know who you might meet in Canberra, despite the city having a reputation as the most ‘boring’ capital city in Australia. In an earlier post Canberra Doesn’t Suck, I mentioned that this is a very creative city, drawing highly skilled and diverse people from around the world to work and live here. What makes this place even more interesting, is that many people have multiple lives or histories before they come to settle in Canberra. Rev. Petros Kipouros is one such person. I came to know of Rev. Kipouros through his daughter, a student of mine at university. Most people in Canberra would know him as the priest at the Greek Orthadox Church, but he has another fascinating story to tell – of his work as a travel photographer, photographing people from all over the world.

© Father Petros Kipouros
© Rev. Petros Kipouros

His images have been reproduced in National Geographic and he has published a number of books. There are also a number of articles published online that discuss the fascinating connections between his role as a minister and that of an artist and traveller. For example,  Elina Kourempana’s 2013 article titled The Sensitive Eye  in NeosCosmos discusses the connections between seeing light as a photographer and seeing the light in a spiritual context. In many ways his photographic work has been influenced by the Impressionists because of his love of light as an element in his work. In the interview for NeosCosmos Rev. Kipourus said “The word photography means ‘writing with light’. It is great to ‘write’, record the light during all the times of the day and the year.” Another article by Richard Carter in the Times Record News titled Globe Trotting Greek comments that:

Kipouros has won prizes for his photography from National Geographic competitions and has had several photographic exhibitions, three in his hometown and one nearby…While he enjoys taking pictures with his Canon EOS camera of nature and landscapes, he tends to focus more on people. “People and their lives are very interesting,” he said.

You can buy his coffee table book Colourful Facebook: Father Petros on Blurb. On the Blurb website you can also see a preview of this beautiful book. Rev. Kipouros has also allowed us to publish some of these wonderful images on Geokult Travel and we very much appreciate being able to share these gorgeous pictures with you. We would also like to thank his daughter Chrysa for all her help.

Finding Balance: Mura Gadi 2nd Edition

Orroral Map © Tracey Benson 2013
Orroral Map © Tracey Benson 2013

We are really excited to announce the release of a second edition of the publication Finding Balance: Mura Gadi by Tracey Benson, published on Blurb.

With essays by Tracey Benson, Linda Carroli, Catherine Summerhayes and poetry by Shannon Novak, this text documents a series of bush walks in national parks around Canberra, Australia.

The book will also be released soon on Amazon, so check it out at Tracey’s page on Blurb

Tasman National Park, A Photo Essay

These photos are from a visit to the Tasman National Park, Tasmania, on a very hot day back in late January 2008.

See other posts on Tasmania:

Cradle Mountain, Tasmania – A Photo Essay

Dubrovnik, Croatia – A Photo Essay

We visited Dubrovnik as part of a ‘Sailing’ Croatia cruise from Split to Dobrovnik and return in October 2013. Although the cruise was promoted as a sailing cruise, the sails were not raised once over the nine day. We did however visit some beautiful seaside ports and villages along the way, including this one:

Please have a look at our other posts on Croatia:

Mljet Croatia – A Photo Essay

365 Places: Korčula

 

Thank you lovely followers and likers!!

I just checked the stats this morning and really excited to say we have done great in May so far!

Last month we had a total of 1754 views and 505 visits, this month we have had 2083 views and 648 visitors.

Thank you so much for taking the time to look at our posts, like them and make comments. We really appreciate it and your support inspires us to create more content for Geokult Travel.

Here is a cute photo of our kitty, Oscar, whose full name is Pharaoh Sun Ra Oscar Bratski Maine Coon Cat. He has been writing some articles for us and is exhausted from all the hard work 🙂

 

Oscar helping us out.
Oscar helping us out.