Tag Archives: Bali

Sanur cats

At this critical point in human history, with so many serious and complex problems, and so much hanging in the balance, it’s clear that what the world really needs is… more cute cat photos on the Internet. So here’s my little contribution…

Before we returned to Australia in September, we had the great good fortune to stay for several weeks in an extremely comfortable villa near the beach at Sanur, Bali. While we were there we befriended (or were befriended by – it’s hard to tell) two delightful little cats.


They were real Bali cats – lean, wary and street-wise – and pining for affection (and food). They were also the best of friends (and siblings?) One was white, and the other tabby grey. They arrived without any names that we know of, so we imaginatively christened them Putih (White) and Abu-abu (Grey).


Putih arrived first. He was sweet and affectionate, though we soon realised that he wasn’t the genius of the litter. He’s an inveterate ankle-rubber, but he never quite learnt that he shouldn’t try to rub up against the ankles of a walking human, and was consequently subjected to numerous accidental kicks. Didn’t stop him doing it again and again, however.


After a few hard minutes’ exercise chasing dragonflies and frogs around the yard, Putih liked to have a stretch and then curl up to sleep on the outside lounge for hours. Sometimes he managed to stretch and sleep at the same time.


Abu-abu arrived soon after Putih, but was at first very wild and totally scared of us, and wouldn’t let us get near him. He would hiss and roar savagely at us. The fearsome effect was however diminished by the fact that (due to some genetic defect or injury) poor Abu-abu had no voice whatsoever. So his silent roars and his yawns looked almost identical.


After a couple of days, and a few bowls of food, Abu-abu worked out that we weren’t dangerous, and could in fact be rather useful, and so the two of them became semi-permanent fixtures around the house. They certainly spent a lot of time sleeping there.


By late afternoon, they’d stir, and start to enquire about the when the next meal might be ready.


We never let them inside, and they never (well, hardly ever) tried to come in. But they knew where the Whiskas catfood came from, and they were ever-alert to any signs of food being prepared.


They waited (somewhat) patiently for the food to arrive.


They pretended to be more-than-usually affectionate as it was doled out into their dish. Putih would sometime fall of the end of the bench in his excitement (did I mention that he wasn’t real bright?)


After dinner, it was time for prowling and preening.


And, of course, more sleeping. Abu-abu took a particular liking to a wooden bowl that was just the right size, shape and texture for curling up in.



He spent many hours curled up in the bowl, dreaming (we imagined) of the sea.

Putih and Abu-abu were there when the taxi eventually arrived to take us to the airport and Australia, and we were very sad to say goodbye. We fancy that they were looking confused and sad – but it is rather hard to tell with cats…


We had become very fond of them, and imagined that, in their nonchalant cattish way, they had come to like us too – and not just for our twice-daily provision of Whiskas. The life of a Bali street cat is not easy, and we wonder what has become of them after we departed. Hopefully Abu-abu and Putih have managed to charm someone else into caring for them – and at least they will have experienced one good month of love and luxury…


More photos of Sanur cats are on my website at www.jokar.com.au/latest/Sanur%20cats/index.html

Cremation and serendipity

Sometimes an image works out because you planned it that way. Perhaps you set out to go somewhere particular to take a specific image that you had pre-visualised, and you knew in advance pretty much just what the finished picture would look like. You’d chosen the lens and the focal length, knew just what aperture you’d need for the desired depth-of-field, and even had a plan drawn up for the precise lighting gear and light modifiers you’d need. And when it works out just as you planned it, you get a nice warm feeling.

But for me that’s actually quite unusual… and many – perhaps most – of my favourite images have come from a spur-of-the-moment situation, a quick or casual capture of a scene, even an accidental image. And often I have no idea at the time that I have managed to record some compelling image until I look at afterwards in post-processing. I wish I could say that every decent image was planned, but it’s just not true. Often as not it’s serendipity that’s responsible.

This image is an example of that. We’d been invited by a friend to attend a family cremation ceremony in a village just near Bangli, Bali. The Balinese put great effort into every aspect of cremation, because they believe that this is when the soul is liberated from the confines of the physical body, and it’s got to be done right or the soul may not be properly released, with all sorts of potential consequences. It can be hugely expensive too, with poor people borrowing large  sums of money to pay for the ceremonies, even mortgaging their houses to fund it all. Consequently it’s common for villages to pool their resources and hold a mass cremation, with the bodies being buried for a time until several families can share the costs, or until a wealthy family is holding a cremation.

When we arrived on our little motorbike and had changed into ‘appropriate’ clothing for the occasion, we found that about eight bodies were to be cremated, including one of a highly respected (and wealthy) village elder. We were the only non-Balinese there, but we were made very welcome, and encouraged to take photos (as many of the locals were doing also). After a  deal of ceremony, preparation and presentation offerings, gamelan music and wayang kulit shadow puppetry, there is a countdown and then all of the cremation fires are lit simultaneously, and there is a great flurry of confused activity, smoke, heat and noise.

As a photographer it was hard to know how to try and capture such a scene, as there was so much happening at once – and the flames and smoke presented a challenge to getting a well-exposed image. I had been concentrating on photographing the large bull sarcophagus in which the village elder was being cremated, when this lady ran over to one of the smaller biers to throw some special small offerings into the flames. The photo was taken as she returned to rejoin the other onlookers. 1/320 second exposure? Aperture at f/7.1? Just an accident, it’s lucky that it’s even sort-of in focus!

One thing that I find interesting about the image, and which most viewers misinterpret when they see it, is the strained, even distraught, look on the lady’s face. It is not a face of grief as it may appear. Cremations in Bali are usually joyous occasions, where the liberation of the soul is celebrated. She was not in the throes of mourning – she was just wincing because of the smoke…

You can see more images from this ceremony here, or a selection of other Indonesian photos here.