Borobodur

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One of the must see places close to Yogyakarta is Borobodur, a 1000+ year old Buddhist temple, built a little bit like a pyramid with several levels that represent stages in… ah, I forgot. Something with finding enlightenment or finding inner peace or at least finding a good dinner.

Anyway. What you do as a good tourist is: you get up at 3 am. You try not to wake the baby (and not scare your nanny to death as you carefully place the baby monitor next to her) and meet your driver 15 minutes later at the hotel entrance.

The ride to the temple site takes maybe an hour. There’s a hotel there. They sell tickets, give you a flash light and then you walk through the hotel grounds to the temple, while you hear the humming sounds of Buddhists coming from somewhere (or was it an early Muezzin? – I am actually not sure anymore). All of this so you can watch the sun rise over Borbodur.

Having arrived at the base of the temple you can see the dancing flash lights of the folks who were there earlier than you, moving up the temple. At that time I started to get nervous. This always happens to me when I know I am at a site which is extraordinary and I have a certain time pressure to take the photo I want. I got the camera out. I started to assemble the tripod. I tried to capture some of those dancing lights, but even with ISO 6400 that does not result in a good photo at that time of day. So, after realizing I was wasting time, we made our way up to the top of the temple, waiting for the sun to rise.

Having arrived on top, I had a sobering realization: there was no way I would be able to take a great photo with all those people walking through the picture. Even the one above, which is arguably nice (also in black and white), ended up with two flaws: the moving head in the lower part that is a blur due to the long exposure time (and I guess you did not notice until now) and an annoyingly glaring white banner which hung at the opposite wall and was partly visible (but I’ve edited it out).

In hindsight, the result is still nice, but when you stand there in the crowd and you see the photos you produce, which also have to happen within a certain time frame as we were hoping for the sun to come out, you can get into a bad mood. Well. I don’t know about you – but I did.
I did not worry too much about the fact that it was cloudy. I knew that we would have to be super lucky to get a perfect sunrise on the one day we visit. And I wanted to address this with taking at least one HDR. And try out HDRs made of more than three photos: last time I did HDRs I took them with the 7D and this camera cannot take more than 3 different exposures in a burst. So I set the 6D to five exposures in a burst and tried my luck with that. It worked, of course, but while the burst with different exposures on the 7D was a no-brainer, I could not figure this out on the 6D and had to take them one by one (which of course did not matter much because the camera was sitting on a tripod, but I still don’t get what I did wrong).

The funny thing is that while I used to be very excited about HDRs, I am not anymore (in the above case it also does not make a big difference whether you use 3 or 5 or 7 different exposures). I still think HDRs have their reason for being, of course, and they can help fix problems with difficult exposures. But since Lightroom has now these very powerful editing tools for a few versions that enable elegant handling of dark and light areas in a photo, I can get the effect I want on 95% of my shots with editing from a single RAW exposure. Ultimately this means I get a better output at less effort than with shooting HDR.

So, yeah: I can handle “cloudy”.
But all these people… god, they pissed me off (and yes, I know I am one of them – shut up!).

The sun did not show, so I walked to the opposite side of the temple where I saw a surprisingly beautiful scenery with the light coming from behind me (took a while till all those damn tourists were out of the photo, of course).

I love the view and the haze that lingers over the forrest. But I like the following photo even better.
As you can see on the previous photo, those bell shaped cages each have a little Buddha sitting inside. And they are of course the defining feature of the temple.

Here’s a close-up of a Buddha.

With me being in a foul mood because of all the idiots walking through my photos, Lamia was leaving me in peace and taking her own shots. In the end she’s still always waiting for me, of course, because the same patience I have to mind force even the last clown out of my photos, she has to mind force her husband to let it go and join her in the sun.

Then the sun came out a little more and something interesting happened: suddenly all the folks who had been ruining many of my shots were all gathered at a certain spot to take photos. I thought that was interesting and took a photo of that ugly crowd…

… which means a collective uproar occurred, because now I was in their photo (though only for 45 seconds – much shorter than what they did to me). But I can tell you they hated my guts. I know this is wrong on so many levels, but I was in an upbeat mood after that (though I guess I should be happy they did not beat me up :) ).

Meanwhile, my wife was waiting for me, turning into a Buddha.

Here she is 15 minutes later (getting a little comfy):

So far we had been only on the upper levels of the temple and now we were slowly moving downwards. I had already mentioned in a tweet that we ran into Tanguy and Jerome the day before, but amazingly, we met them here, too.

This is how the temple walls look like on the lower levels:

Lamia and I don’t play it cool in Borobodur:

On the lowest level, you can walk around the temple and see all these Buddhas smiling at you.

And here’s a front view of the temple at 7-something in the morning (the only time since I have the 6D that I missed the 7D and the EF-S 10-22 mm wide angle lens).

It’s funny how the openings look like dozens of mouths… like a swarm of fish, gasping for air or food.

I think it was 7:30 am or so when we decided to walk back to our car.
On the way out I got a little souvenir: a small representation of those pot lids in the temple and when you lift it up there’s a little Buddha in there as well.

And we got little scarfs with a illustration of those pot lids… and I just knew what to do with one of them.
But this I will explain later…

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