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My Balinese Adventure
Abdel Rahman Gabr-Koree

My Balinese Adventure

After my recent trip to Norway, I wanted to go somewhere completely different and also not freezing cold! I chose to go to Bali, a relatively small island full of amazing surfing, gorgeous waterfalls, scenic rice paddies and of course: the beautiful culture of the Balinese people.

Being the super-prepared traveler that I am, I had to do some research. Importantly, I discovered that the best way to get around the island is by scooter. This meant I had to pack the lightest gear bag possible. I still needed be able to get the shots I wanted, at the quality I wanted and still be able to travel easily on scooter and on foot; hiking up and down the hilly terrain looking for beautiful waterfalls.

Given these restrictions my main camera for this trip was the Sony A7R II, a small & compact mirrorless beast with a full frame 42 MP sensor and unbelievable dynamic range. The A7RII is just everything you need in a camera. My second buddy for the trip was the Sony A7S II which is the twin brother of the A7RII but with a full frame 12.5 MP sensor which is perfect in low light situations and has never failed me.

I packed four lenses – the Sony FE 16-35mm, Sony 24-70mm G-Master, Zeiss Batiss 25mm and Rokinon 14mm.

I also had the usual tripod, filters, SD cards, hard drives, laptop, drone and so on.

During one of our waterfall shoots the flow of the river was extremely strong but the scene was so amazing we HAD to try and get the shot. My model Maya was standing in front of the waterfall and I was 5 meters away as there was no space to go in further between the rocks and keep the framing I wanted. I was using the Sony A7R II and the 24-70mm G-Master lens for this shoot and you can’t imagine the amount of water that was coming towards me: the lens and camera were continually covered with spray and I had to dry out the lens every few shots. This setup did a fantastic job keeping out the moisture in a very difficult situation. As you can see the results are pretty amazing too!

There were many occasions during the trip when I needed to crank up the ISO on the A7R II especially when it was foggy. With its in-built 5 axis stabilizer, I was able to shoot with a shutter speed lower than 1/50 of a second and still get a sharp image that was relatively noise-free! This is incredible considering the 42MP of the sensor.

During my trip I fell in love with a location called Nusa Penida, where there is this incredible tree house on a cliff that we stayed at, after having seen it first on Instagram. I wanted to do something new with this location, and I knew that while we were there the moon would rise late one night, so I’d have a small window to capture the Milky Way – crazy Balinese weather permitting!

I was super lucky that night and captured the Milky Way right on top of the tree house with my Sony A7S II and Sony 16-35 mm.

Right near the end of my time in Bali I heard about this epic small island with only one tree in the middle of it. I planned to get a shot of Maya during sunset with the tree and sky behind her. But you know what they say about plans…

We had to take a local Balinese style boat out to the island, and that day the tide was really strong. There were many waves hitting us, so I told the boat captain to try and quickly get us to a safe spot closer to the island. During the maneuvering, the side of the boat got hooked up on a coral reef – which almost split it in half!

As you could have guessed, I fell off the boat when we hit the reef.

I had my camera in a dry sack, so I wasn’t too worried about it – I was more focused on getting to safety. I was in the water and knew I had to swim fast to the island: the boat had to reverse away from the reef, and another wave was inbound. If that wave hit me I’d be smashed into the reef!

I made it over the reef and up onto the island as fast as I could, but sustained deep cuts on both feet. The boat then had to stand off some distance from the island until the weather and waves calmed down.

Once I was safe I had to wait for the boat – so I decided to go and get some shots. I opened the dry sack and saw it had not sealed properly. The A7R II was soaking wet near the battery door and lens mount and the body had taken a beating. I had nothing to dry it off but without thinking I tried to turn on the camera! Sadly, the salt water and bashing the camera took while I was scrambling to safety combined with the electricity from being switched on was a bit too much for it.

I hope no-one reading this ever gets into a similar situation, but being prepared always pays off!

Here is my tip list for if you fall in the sea, or your camera gets hit by a wave:-

1. A dry sack is not a reliable thing to take your camera underwater in – use a housing.
2. If your camera is wet DON’T turn it on.
3. Immediately remove the battery and SD card.
4. Get a hair dryer and dry the camera.
5. Keep the camera in pot of rice for about a week.
6. Remove the camera after that and try switching it on.
7. If this does not work approach your local service center.

I am happy to pass on my experience to everyone else so you can avoid something similar happening to you!

Despite the accident I was extremely pleased with the gear I took with me: the Sony Alpha cameras and lenses really helped me to make the images I wanted to make at the highest possible quality, while not being too big and heavy to carry round the islands.

We arrived at this gorgeous waterfall with just enough time to catch the sunset colors shining down on us and taking a dip in the cold water. (This was where the camera was getting constantly wet from the spray!)
Sony A7R II, GM 24-70mm @61mm, F/2.8, 1/250sec, ISO-800

Always surround yourself with inspiring people! (This was one of the foggy situations when I increased the ISO on the Sony A7R II)
Sony A7R II, GM 24-70mm @42mm, F/2.8, 1/125sec, ISO-2500

Warp speed to the Island (This was the same Island where I fell in, and damaged the A7R II)
Sony A7R II, FE 16-35mm @16mm, F/13, 1/50sec, ISO-160

I couldn’t resist stopping the car to make an image showing this amazing colorful sky during sunset.
Sony A7R II, GM 24-70mm @24mm, F/2.8, 1/40sec, ISO-200

Living on the edge, we gotta embrace the awesomeness of it! 🙂
Sony A7R II, FE 16-35mm @16mm, F/9, 1/320sec, ISO-400

This is the image that resulted from me realizing there was a late moon rise at the tree house location. We were lucky to get some clear skies, and capture this shot of the Milky Way behind the tree house after many attempts.
Sony A7R II, FE 16-35mm @17mm, F/4, 20sec, ISO-2000

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