Tag Archives: Ceremony

365 Places: Wedding at Bangalore Palace

Day 180: Wedding at Bangalore Palace, Bangalore, India

Today my post features some images and a video of an Indian wedding we saw at the Bangalore Palace.

It was so colourful and noisy – had it share!

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365 Places: National Gallery of Australia

Day 70: National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra, Australia

Today I had hoped to go bushwalking as it has been a long time since we went for a walk on the weekend. However, we were thwarted by bad weather – cold, fog and rain. Anyway, I was still really keen to get out of the house and have a walk around even if it was indoors, so suggested that we go to the NGA. I also wanted to go to the gallery as there were two temporary exhibitions that were of particular interest – Bali: Island of the Gods and Atua: Sacred Gods of Polynesia.

Bali: Island of the Gods
Bali: Island of the Gods

Both of these exhibitions were excellent. I knew before even arriving at the gallery that I would love the work in the exhibition about Bali, as I adore Balinese culture and love Balinese artworks, especially drawings, paintings and carvings. I am especially drawn to the epic stories told in these works, especially the Hindu classics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There were also some beautiful textiles works in the show, some of which were used for shrines – which were lovely. My favourite works were some incredible drawings on palm leaves with Indian ink. The detail was so intricate and beautifully executed – I have never seen anything quite like it.

The exhibition of Polynesian works had a diverse selection of (Atua) God and Goddess figures from a range of areas and cultures in Polynesia. Many works were from the 18th and early 19th century and there were also some engravings from the text documenting Captain Cook’s third voyage to the Southern Hemisphere.  My favourite works were some amazing small wood carvings for God figures from Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and some beautiful Maori carvings, especially the piece pictured below.

Atua: Sacred Gods of Polynesia
Atua: Sacred Gods of Polynesia

Both exhibitions are free, though be warned that there is a little shop out the front of the exhibitions with some very tempting items. I could not resist the catalogue from the Bali show as I wanted to look back at the beautiful palm leaf drawings.

Dates
Atua: Sacred Gods of Polynesia 23 May – 3 August 2014
Bali: Island of the Gods 13 June – 3 August 2014

National Gallery of Australia
General information +61 2 6240 6411
For visitors with mobility difficulties +61 2 6240 6411

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.

365 Places: Alam Jiwa

Day 55: Alam Jiwa, Nyuh Kuning, Bali, Indonesia

Today, I am posting again about Alam Jiwa, the beautiful place I wrote about yesterday in 365 Places: Nyuh Kuning and Garry wrote about inThe Soul of Nature.

This is a truly amazing place, surrounded by little ponds, fountains and waterfalls, where the water from which all comes off the rice fields nearby. Here are some images of this very special place.

Photo Basics

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

Here are some simple tips and rules that can help you to create better pictures. Use them to lead you to create that extraordinary picture. Remember though, there are exceptions to every rule, so you think something will look good, don’t be afraid to try it!

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

This seems like a little thing, but often times just taking a pause before pressing the button and really looking through the view finder or in the LCD can go a long way to improving your shots. Check that everything is in the viewfinder that you want or that there isn’t too much there. Also, check that the camera is straight and level. I see so many shots that have the skyline askew – if you don’t have editing software you can adjust the level in iPhoto if you are a Mac user.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Try to use the highest image resolution available so that you can crop or edit the image without too much loss of image quality. You might have a smaller number of shots on your memory card but continually delete those shots that don’t work and you’ll free up space.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

If you’re shooting a person try to watch that objects behind the subject do not seem cluttered around the subject’s head. An example might be a plant growing out of their head, a lamp or a bright building directly behind someone’s head which will tend to detract from the picture. On the other hand, do it intentionally and end up with a goofy shot like the above.

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

Try shooting your subject from different angles not just straight on. Often times a unique point of view can really add dimension to a picture.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

Don’t be afraid to climb up that hill, stand on a chair, or even lie on your back. Great artists will go to great lengths to get that perfect shot! Try turning the camera 90 degrees and taking a vertical shot instead of a horizontal shot.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

This particular technique works great when shooting a picture of one or two persons. If you’re working with children often the best technique is to get down to their level – the eye line really works well and they’re more comfortable.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

You will undoubtedly notice that time lag between pressing the shutter release and the exposure. This delay is necessary because your camera needs a little time for pre shot calibration and to balance the colours. Just hold the camera steady for a little longer than usual until you get used to the time delay and take the shutter to the first pressure. It’s like shooting a rifle – target shooters squeeze the first pressure then lineup their shot.

There is also a delay between shots as the camera processes the previous images. Some new cameras have buffers that let you continue shooting during the processing time, which is great for fast action photography. If your camera doesn’t have a buffer you’ll have to wait between shots, so look for a camera with fast shot to shot time.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

If your camera lets you to override the auto focus, you’ll want to use this feature if you take a lot of action shots, or if you are shooting through glass like this shot through my bedroom window. Even if your camera has a buffer, the auto focus may not react fast enough to give you sharp pictures if you shoot too quickly or the light is too low.

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

 

Have you ever noticed that your shots sometimes have a cool, clammy feel to them? If so, you’re not alone. The default white balance setting for digital cameras is auto, which is fine for most snapshots, but tends to be a bit on the “cool” side.

When shooting outdoor portraits and sunny landscapes, try changing your white balance setting from auto to cloudy. That’s right, cloudy. Why? This adjustment is like putting a mild warming filter on your camera. It increases the reds and yellows resulting in richer, warmer pictures.

Often your shots will look slightly underexposed or darker on auto exposure. But this means you have a lot better detail in shadow and highlight areas that you can edit with your image editing software.

© Garry Benson 2014

© Garry Benson 2014

If your shots are consistently overexposed check the setting – you may be using an extremely high exposure setting like 2400 or 3600. In bright sunlight the camera can’t cope if you’re on a manual setting.

Get your camera out and go through the menus one by one. There are probably different menu settings for Record and Playback, and most display data such as shutter speed, aperture and date & time. Mine even has a Travel Date setting that tells me how many days I have left until I arrive in Bali!

365 Places: Port Macquarie

Day  37: Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia

May 26 is a special day in the Benson Drury calendar, as it is our wedding anniversary. For this reason, I dedicate today’s post to the beautiful seaside town of Port Macquarie, the place where we were married.

Shelly Beach, Port Macquarie – Image Credit Kevin Fallon Photography
Shelly Beach, Port Macquarie – Image Credit Kevin Fallon Photography

Port Macquarie is famous for its beautiful beaches, rainforests, great fishing and whale watching expeditions.

The town also has a history as one of the first convict settlements in Australia. Nowadays British tourists are stunned that people were sent here for ‘punishment’. In many ways, it has become a bit of a joke between the two nations, though there is a very serious side to the history of penal colonies in Australia. Convicts were the builders for the colonists and in Port Macquarie you will find many historic buildings were built by prisoners, including the church where we were wedded.

St Thomas' Anglican Church http://pmqang.org/history
St Thomas’ Anglican Church http://pmqang.org/history

St Thomas’ is one of the oldest churches in Australia, in fact St Thomas’ is the oldest church outside of any of Australia’s capital cities. The St Thomas’ website says:

St Thomas’ Church was built by convict labour when Australia was still part of the Diocese of Calcutta and Port Macquarie was a penal settlement. The foundation stone was laid in 1824 and the first services held in 1828, when the worshippers were the Chaplain, Camp Commandant, a detachment of British Infantry and the well guarded convicts who stood at the west end of the nave.

Port Macquarie is not just a place for colonial history, it is also a place of modern creativity, with the Glasshouse Port Macquarie functioning as a cutting-edge venue for cultural and arts events year-round.

From www.glasshouse.org.au
From http://www.glasshouse.org.au

Port Macquarie is a town we love to visit when we travel up the coast of New South Wales. It is not only beautiful, it is also a place that holds a lot of significance for us.

Mise en scène

Text: Garry Benson
Editor: Tracey Benson

As someone who has worked in stage, film and television for many years the expression mise-en-scène is quite familiar. It has its origins in the theatre, and the French term mise en scène literally means ‘putting on stage.’

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

When applied to the cinema, mise-en-scène refers to everything that appears before the camera and its arrangement – sets, props, actors, costumes, and lighting. So let’s borrow the phrase – for a photographer it can refer to most of what goes into a composition of a given shot including framing, lighting, and movement of camera.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

In the same way, when you walk into a new environment, a foreign city or even the local shopping centre to take photos, you are part of the mise en scène. But with a big camera and a long lens, you tend to stand out like a shag on a rock and draw lots of attention.

So chill, sit down and have a coffee, become part of the environment around you and soon people will accept you and your camera. It’s amazing how people react and accept that you’re harmless and nobody is paying much attention to you. So that’s your goal, fit to the point that nobody’s taking any notice of you – you could say that’s the opposite to the rest of your life!

In fact just last night, I was walking through my hotel lobby when I got the opposite reaction. A young woman noticed my pro-looking camera and asked if I was a professional photographer as she’s looking for a wedding photographer. As I live 3,000 km away on the date of the wedding, I demurred.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

To capture those memorable random moments just be patient, keep the camera in view but not pointing at everyone and soon those magic moments will appear. Pick an area that’s in the middle of everything, but not directly in it. So from across the square, above from a bridge, or almost anywhere once you’re part of the mise en scène you can capture life as it happens around you.

In this case, patience is a virtue and of course these days everyone is a photographer with their iPhones, iPads etc. I was recently in France, when everyone was taking photographs with their handheld devices, while we were waiting to enter Notre Dame.

© Garry Benson 2014
© Garry Benson 2014

I particularly noticed that a lot of mature women hold up their iPad & shoot a quick image or two. Even my lovely sister Bev uses her iPad as a camera a lot, and apart from the lack of a zoom lens she gets remarkably good shots at a close-up range.

Image from Photojojo.com - available through Amazon
Image from Photojojo.com – available through Amazon

However, hope springs eternal and now there’s the iPad Telephoto Lens, a Telephoto Lens for that giant viewfinder of yours, your iPad. At a cost of around $AUD 50 this strange look beast turns your iPad into a solid zoom camera!

Image from Photojojo.com - available through Amazon
Image from Photojojo.com – available through Amazon

And what if you’re extra shy about pointing your DLSR camera around? Well, perhaps the Super-Secret Spy Lens would be perfect for capturing some street photography. It allows you to shoot at a 90˚ angle. Now I’m not recommending the above two add-ons, but perhaps it’s worth risking a few bucks.

Happy shooting!

Collaborations between culture and science: Yorta Yorta projects

It is almost a year since I headed to Shepparton on a Jawun secondment to work with the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation (YYNAC). My role was to help them to develop their social media presence and internal communications tools. It was a big brief for six weeks, and it is great to see that they continue to be very active on Facebook, having over 700 followers liking their page at https://www.facebook.com/YYNAC. For me, it was a really enriching and challenging time and one of the highlights of my public service career to date.

When I heard that I would be working with YYNAC, I was thrilled – as I had read about the work that they had done with researchers into building bridges between cultural knowledge of land and scientific research. For example, their ongoing partnership with the Monash Sustainibility Institute has resulted in numerous research papers. I was very fortunate to be in the audience for the presentation of their paper Indigenous voices in climate change adaptation, at the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) conference in Sydney last year. Another researcher from the US, Caroline Addler has also worked with the Yorta Yorta people over the years – check out pp 36-37 of Mountain Meridian.

Map of Barmah lake area, Image Credit: www.facebook.com/YYNAC
Map of Barmah lake area, Image Credit: http://www.facebook.com/YYNAC

I have recently heard that they are developing an app for mobiles and handheld devices, using Bluetooth technology, with the working title Bluetooth Tourism Product: for a walking tour around Barmah National Park. This project sounds really exciting and I can’t wait to go down to visit and try out the app.

From the Facebook page:

Since the closure of the Dharnya Centre we continue to create opportunities through a range of different activities that can value add economically and educationally.

The particular product is a new app tool using bluetooth sensors and tablets. We are currently recording people from community talking about significant areas of country to create a walk from the Dharnya Centre taking in to area to the Barmah Lake, Broken Creek.

If you want some background into their work, the suite of digital stories on the YYNAC website is a great place to start understanding the research that has evolved over recent years. In particular, the video, Nhawul Bultjubul Ma (To See with Both Eyes) offers some brilliant insights:

To further highlight the Yorta Yorta peoples engagement with key agencies and researchers, in December 2013, a delegation from the World Bank met with the Yorta Yorta community. The delegation included representatives from Cambodia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Laos, Samoa and Zambia.

World Bank Delegation, Image Credit: www.facebook.com/YYNAC
World Bank Delegation, Image Credit: http://www.facebook.com/YYNAC

The Yorta Yorta people stand out as a highly engaged group, willing to collaborate, share knowledge and learn from new technologies. I look forward to seeing more amazing work from this community. It was a real privilege to work with them and I hope our connection continues to strengthen over time.

If you are interested in reading more about my Jawun secondment, you can check out the blog posts I wrote while working with YYNAC on the geokult site.

 

References:
Griggs, DJ, Lynch, AH, Joachim, L, Zhu, X, Adler, CE, Bischoff-Mattson, Z, Wang, P & Kestin, TS 2013, Indigenous voices in climate change adaptation: Addressing the challenges of diverse knowledge systems in the Barmah-Millewa, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 64 pp.

 

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The Use of Masks

Text: Garry Benson
Images: No information available

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

One of my favourite places is Venice where my friends Francesco and Sarah Aidone own the Dalla Mora hotel, a cozy little gem in the Santa Croce neighborhood, situated in a building that’s been standing since the 1500s. Brothers Francesco and Alessandro have run the place with care since 1980.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

And though they live on The Lido, at Carnevale time it’s all go. As an artist the masks of Carnevale are an inspiration, as a drama director it’s a rare glimpse of the world of Italy’s travelling acting troupe, the Commedia dell’arte.

Photo: @ 2014 Garry Benson
Photo: @ 2014 Garry Benson

One of the courses in my Drama Direction course I did at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London) was Masks and their use in drama, from the early Greek tragedies to today’s Balinese masks…

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

The Carnival of Venice (Italian: Carnevale di Venezia) is an annual festival, held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent, forty days before Easter on Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras), the day before Ash Wednesday. The festival is famed for its elaborate masks.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Venetian masks
Venetian masks are a centuries-old tradition of Venice, Italy. The masks are typically worn during Carnevale, but have been used on many other occasions in the past, usually as a device for hiding the wearer’s identity and social status.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

The mask would let the wearer to act more freely in cases where he or she wanted to interact with other members of the society outside the bounds of identity and everyday convention. It was useful for a variety of purposes, some of them illicit or criminal, others just personal, such as romantic encounters.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Venetian masks are characterised by their ornate design, featuring bright colours such as gold or silver and the use of complex decorations in the baroque style. Many designs of Venetian masks stem from Commedia dell’arte. They can be full-face masks (e.g. the bauta) or eye masks (e.g. the Columbina).

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

History
Near the end of the Republic, the wearing of masks in daily life was severely restricted. By the 18th century, it was limited only to about three months from December 26. The masks were traditionally worn with decorative beads matching in colour.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Types of masks
Bauta (sometimes referred as baùtta) is a mask which covers the whole face, this was a traditional piece of art, with a stubborn chin line, no mouth, and lots of gilding. The mask has a square jaw line often pointed and tilted upwards to enable the wearer to talk, eat and drink easily without having to remove the mask thereby preserving their anonymity. The Bauta was often accompanied by a red cape and a tricorn.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

In 18th century, the Bauta had become a standardized society mask and disguise regulated by the Venetian government.[ It was obligatory to wear it at certain political decision-making events when all citizens were required to act anonymously as peers.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Only citizens had the right to use the Bauta. Its role was similar to the anonymizing processes invented to guarantee general, direct, free, equal and secret ballots in modern democracies. It was not allowed to wear weapons along with the mask, and police had the right to enforce

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Decline of Venetian Carnival
By the eighteenth century the wearing of masks by Venetians continued for six months of the year as the original religious association and significance with carnevale diminished. On October 17th, 1797 (26 Vendémiaire, Year VI of the French Republic) Venice became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio. The Austrians took control of the city on January 18, 1798 and it fell into a decline which also effectively brought carnival celebrations to a halt for many years.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

Today Venice’s Carnavale is a tourist mecca. After a long absence, the Carnival returned to operate in 1979. The Italian government decided to bring back the history and culture of Venice, and sought to use the traditional Carnival as the centerpiece of its efforts.

Venetian masks - image credits unknown
Venetian masks – image credits unknown

The redevelopment of the masks began as the pursuit of some Venetian college students for the tourist trade. Today, about 3 million visitors come to Venice every year for Carnevale. One of the most important events is the contest for la maschera più bella (‘the most beautiful mask’) placed at the last weekend of the Carnival and judged by a panel of international costume and fashion designers.

Photo: @ 2014 Garry Benson
Photo: @ 2014 Garry Benson

Noh masks
The other dominant art form of masks is the Japanese Noh. It’s also an acting tradition that uses masks, and there were originally about 60 basic types of noh masks. Covering the face with a mask is much like wearing makeup. However, noh performers feel that the noh mask has a certain power inherent in it which makes it much more spiritual than a prop used to change ones appearance.