One night, we went to watch Kecak Fire and Trance Dance at Taman Kaja Community, near 'the hatch' we're building in Ubud. I half-expected to watch this dance on stage with stage lights provided. But, no. There were no such lights to support me to photograph the performance.
At that very moment the dance started, I began mucking around with shutter speed, aperture and ISO to get good pictures. I was using my 50mm f/1.4 USM lens, interchangeably with my cheap telephoto lens 90-300mm f/4.5-5.6 USM, which unfortunately wasn't really a fast lens. Having no experience shooting in a fairly dark 'stage' (with small oil torches as the source of light only, stood in the middle of the arena), I was using my rule: trial and error.
Adjusting many settings in a quick action, given that I did not want to lose any important moments, was a pain in the ass. I used the telephoto lens mostly, as I want to get a close-up on the expression of the dancers. Hell, it was tough without a tripod and I had to lean on a marquee pole to hold my arm steady while shooting. It was great until the rain started pouring down. I had to take a sit, way on the back row.
Many of the photos turn grainy as I used higher ISO speed, with trial and error adjustment of aperture and exposure. God knows, I enjoyed it, though I had to lose some important moments because of too shaky movements which results unlit expressions on the dancers' face.
I quite like this photo below, though. This is a dance character of Dewi Sita, Sri Rama's wife, in the story of Ramayana. In Hindu epic, Rama and Sita are a happy couple from Ayodya kingdom whom todays in Indonesia's traditional fairy tales, have become the symbol of love, romanticism, and harmony, have to battle the lusty King Rahwana who loves Dewi Sita and decided to abduct her. The Ramayana becomes a story of Rama's journey to fight for Dewi Sita.
Another photo of Dewi Sita I took was a bit cheeky of me. I knew many of those photographers and visitors using their flash or built-in flash to capture the moments. I pushed the shutter button half-way and keep following the dancer through my view-finder. It was almost spontaneous when a light came to hit her side then I fired away. This is the result. What do you think?
This is Hanoman/Hanuman, the white monkey who helps Rama locating Dewi Sita. He's the incarnation of Dewa Wisnu (god Vishnu).
Ubudians hold Hindu as their religious way of life, and this Hindu epic is transformed into a traditional dance, created by Wayan Limbak and a German painter firstly in 1930s to collaborate and carry messages of Hindu teachings and sacral movements through Ramayana story.
There are usually more or less a hundred of men unite to make incredible music from each of their voice. No instruments involved whatsoever. They just use each man's voice to create different tones and rhythm while the dancers are following with their movements. Very clever if you think of it.
In the end of performance, we would be watching the bravery of a man who rode a wooden horse, stepping on a lit coconut husks, barefoot. This is the part of the trance dance, I suppose. Don't try it at home.