Indonesia is a much more diverse country for travel photography than the endless photos of beaches give it credit for. Sure, you have countless beautiful beaches on the various islands, but there’s also rain forest, mountains, rice terraces, and wildlife. Lots to keep a photographer busy, and happy. Though I haven’t had the chance to see every corner of Indonesia, I have spent ample time in the country and these are some tips for visiting the country as a travel photographer. I’ll cover things like where to stay, where to photography, and what gear should be in your kit.
Where to Photograph
Most people who are first time visitors to Indonesia head straight to Bali. And it makes sense, Bali is classic Indonesia, and there’s plenty to do and see. You can head up to Ubud to photograph the rice terraces and forest, go to Tanah Lot to see the temples, or over to Uluwatu and shoot the temples, hidden beaches, and surf.
Where to Stay?
Bali has hundreds of places to stay. But, the island is bigger than you’d expect. I’d say, if you’re looking to party, stay in Kuta. If you’re looking for beach, stay in Uluwatu. If you’re looking for yoga and peace, try Ubud. And, if you’re looking to get off-the-beaten-path try Lovina.
The city of Yogyakarta was awesome. I really enjoyed my time in the city. It’s the cultural epicenter of Indonesia, in my opinion, and there’s a lot to photograph in and around the city. There’s always cultural events, there’s cool markets – especially the bird market – and you’re not far from temples like Borobodur or Prambanan.
Where to Stay?
Be sure to stay near the old quarters – or inside them. Ameera Boutique Hotel is great within Yogyakarta itself. If you’re looking to spend significant time at the temples, it might also be a good idea to stay at a guest house near to them. In Yogyakarta, there are plenty of options. But, if you’re looking for more info on the Ameera Boutique Hotel read more here.
Before I get into Bromo, I’ll say this: avoid holidays when visiting. When I went to Mount Bromo, it was around Chinese New Year and the park was an absolute mess. I actually really didn’t enjoy it at all. I had a hard time. That said, it is one of the most photogenic places in the country. So, if you go try to go on a weekday in the off season. Also, try to scout out a good location for photography away from the crowds.
Where to Stay?
There’s a great hostel inside the park called Cafe Lava Hostel. For me, it was actually the best part about Bromo.
This is the island where you’ll find the Komodo Dragons. If you’re into wildlife, seeing these amazing animals has to be a goal of your trip to Indonesia. Most people will go to Flores either by a flight or by doing a bit of a cruise. The cruises are on boats that are less than perfect, so make sure you go with a reputable company.
The Gili Islands
My biggest Regret for my last trip to Indonesia was that I didn’t go to the Gili Islands. I was worried about not having a stable internet connection, but that was just silly of me. The photos of these islands are simply paradise. And well most head to Bali looking for paradise, they’ll actually find it here.
Photography Gear for Indonesia
For me, there are 3 lenses that you need in Indonesia: a wide angle like a 16-35mm, a fast standard prime like a 50mm f/1.4, and a telephoto zoom like the 70-200mm or the 100-400mm. Those pieces of glass will cover you anywhere in the country. Also, with the weather being a bit crazy, it would be smart to pack a good rain cover for your camera – ThinkTank makes a really great one. Of course, don’t leave for Indonesia without a good travel tripod and a set of filters. There are lots of beautiful landscapes to photograph.
When to Visit Indonesia
You can pretty much visit Indonesia year round. I would, however recommend that you avoid December-March if you can. Not only is this the rainy season – where the beaches can often be covered in garbage – but it’s also the holidays for locals and Australians. It’s also Chinese New Year and the islands can become overwhelmingly annoying. I spend time in these months, and would recommend you visit in August or September instead.
Getting Around Indonesia
My recommendation in Indonesia is to rent a scooter. It’ll give you the freedom you need to get around the islands and be in the right places at the right times of day for photography. It can be a challenge otherwise. Of course, you could also hire a car, but the traffic in the country is infuriating.