Uluwatu Temple | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Off the Clock: Bali

Last spring, Moira and I had the distinct pleasure of attending the Two Mann Studios “Metanoia” wedding photography workshop on the island of Kaua’i. Over dinner one night, Erika and Lanny told us about an idea they had brewing for a workshop alumni reunion. After teaching hundreds of students over the years, their plan was to get a collection of these individuals back together for a three-day retreat to reconnect and recharge in some far away tropical location. The workshop in Kaua’i had such a profound impact on us as photographers (and as human beings), we decided we couldn’t possibly pass up this new opportunity. Fast-forward 11 months, Moira and I found ourselves in Bali, Indonesia, ready to experience this vision, which had now come to fruition.

Ubud, Bali

We flew in a week early, not only to take some time to travel around and experience Bali on our own, but also to recover from the 10-time zone jet lag. After 30+ hours in transit and the longest single flight either of us had ever experienced, it took a restless night (or two) to get back into the swing of things.

We started our journey in the inland town of Ubud, a bustling hub for tourists looking to experience the cultural center of the island. After taking a day to hang by the pool and acclimate to the time change, we headed out on a bike tour through the surrounding villages, forests, and rice fields. We were treated to a private tour of our guide’s family home, a first-hand demonstration of how Bali’s temples are made, and a close encounter with a Golden Orb spider (which I’m told are non-toxic to humans).

The next day, we walked through town to the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which is home to more than 700 macaques that roam freely about the grounds. It’s sort of like a zoo without cages, for better or worse. I read the visitor guidelines carefully ahead of time and was able to enjoy the experience without incident, but I did witness a few attacks on (deserving?) tourists. For those interested in visiting the sanctuary in the future, I’d recommend leaving all food in your hotel room. Also, no selfies with the monkeys. Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes that guy.

Other highlights from Ubud include a stop at Museum Puri Lukisan, an afternoon stroll along the Campuhan Ridge Walk and some pool time at the Folk Pool & Gardens.

Ubud Street Scene | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Museum Puri Lukisan | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Ubud Rice Fields | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Compuhan Ridge Walk | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Mount Batur | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Golden Orb Spider | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Golden Orb Spider | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Golden Orb Spider | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Street Photography | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Local Man Carving | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Local Man Feeding Cows | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Motorcycling Through the Jungle | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Tegallalang Rice Terraces | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Tegallalang Rice Terraces | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Ubud Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Folk Pool and Gardens Ubud | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Folk Pool and Gardens Ubud | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Folk Pool and Gardens Ubud | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Suluban Beach, Bali

From Ubud, we took a two-hour cab ride (approx. 30 miles, but traffic moves at a snail’s pace in Bali) southward to Suluban Beach. We only had time for one beach day on this trip, so I spent a lot of time researching the best spots. As soon as I came across photos of Suluban, I knew we had to check it out.

The beach itself is a sort of hidden cove, enveloped by large overhanging rock ledges. A popular surfing spot for locals, the water is warm and the Bintang is cold.

Suluban Beach | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Suluban Beach | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Suluban Beach | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Suluban Beach | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

De Sapphire Cliff Villa | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

De Sapphire Cliff Villa | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

De Sapphire Cliff Villa | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

De Sapphire Cliff Villa | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

The Reunion

Now for the highlight of the trip (which is really saying something). We didn’t know quite what to expect from the reunion, but we went in with open hearts and open minds and we were rewarded handsomely for doing so.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about what transpired over the course of the three days because it feels more meaningful to keep some of those memories just for us. That said, here was my overall impression:

When thirty-some wedding photographers from all over the world gather together in one place, you’d expect there to be a fair share of ego involved. As it turned out, nothing could have been further from the truth. There was no posturing, no dick-wagging, no name-dropping – none of the egotistical bullshit I’m all too used to seeing at other industry events. Every single person in attendance was humble and warm and open and vulnerable. Never have I had so many meaningful conversations consecutively with such a disparate collection of individuals. We spoke of our hopes and dreams. Our fears and our failings. We ate, drank, laughed, cried and planted the seeds for what I hope evolve into lifelong friendships. It was an experience that I will never forget and one that I don’t take for granted for a second.

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | Anissa Rahman PhotographyPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | Anissa Rahman PhotographyPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante PhotoPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | Anissa Rahman PhotographyPhoto by Anissa Rahman, Anissa Rahman Photography

Uluwatu Temple | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Uluwatu Temple | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Uluwatu Temple | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Uluwatu Temple | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Uluwatu Temple | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Uluwatu Temple | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Bali Indonesia | Travel Photography | Minaret PhotographyPhoto by Brandon Russell, Minaret Photography

Two Mann Alumni Reunion | Indonesia | Travel Photography | J. La Plante Photo

Final Thoughts

After spending two weeks in Bali, I couldn’t help but feel amazed by how kind and gracious the locals were. Despite a population of over 4,000,000 crammed into an area around 2% the size of Colorado, the locals still greet the droves of tourists that flood their small island with open arms. Contrast that with the fact that I always have an overwhelming urge to shout “Go home!” whenever I see a California plate driving through the mountains on I-70. Clearly, I have a lot to learn from the Balinese people.

We returned home in a state of utter exhaustion, but also with an unmistakable feeling of fulfillment and perspective that only seems to come about after taking the time to experience a different part of the world. And once the jet-lag wore off, I realized that I’d brought something back with me from Bali. Not a souvenir or a new passport stamp (although I do enjoy fresh ink on those immigration pages), but a greater fervor for photography and, more importantly, for life.

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