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Image 1 - I was asked to photograph this wedding at very short notice. However, I had photographed the bride on numerous previous occasions and this proved to be a significant advantage. She was accustomed to my way of working and consequently more relaxed than might otherwise have been the case. This particular type of shot always has inherent difficulties because options for composition and background are very limited. The bridal car arrives, the door is opened and there are just a few moments available to capture a worthwhile image before the she emerges for the start of the ceremony.

It is essential to use daylight fill-in flash because the brightness from the car windows and the white wedding dress deceives an automatic exposure system into underexposing the faces. However, a little too much flash can easily cause detail in the highlights of the white dress to be lost. In this case, much to amusement of the bride, the camera was held upside-down so that the flash was below the lens. This allowed a higher angle for the view into the car door than would otherwise have been the case. A second consideration was to ensure that the camera autofocus system locked onto the eyes of the bride rather than her veil which was about ten centimetres closer.

Image 2 - Bali is unique - it is as simple as that. Some travellers claim that the character of the island, indeed its soul, has been trampled by hoards of tourists arriving by jumbo jet. That is not true. Those who say such things surely cannot have explored the island, seen the temple ceremonies, a village wedding, or a weary duck-shepherd escorting his slow-moving flock along the evening skyline. That is the real Bali.

I enquire locally where I might attend a tooth-filing ceremony, but for some time can obtain no information. Ceremonies of this nature are not easy to find, since they are held on auspicious dates determined at short notice by village elders. But my luck changes and I am advised to go to a small village near Tampaksiring at first light. I set off in good time, but soon become lost in a tangle of narrow lanes. Directions are obtained from a succession of local people and, via a tortuous route, eventually lead to a traditional Balinese home where I am welcomed as an invited guest.

The tooth-filing ceremony, for which I arrive too late, is the prelude to a three-day wedding ceremony. Inside the home, which consists of several separate buildings enclosed within a walled family compound, a chance encounter with the official wedding photographer leads me to the mother of the bride. My photographic interest in the wedding of her daughter provokes family discussion and eventually leads to an unique invitation to witness a private ceremony held in the family temple. Only family members normally attend such ceremonies. As a non-Balinese stranger to both families, armed with a camera, I am privileged to be positioned between the bride and the altar - an ideal vantage point to which access is rarely granted.

The bride is certainly attractive in her mauve kain and skin-coloured lace kebaya, under which she wears an obtrusive white bra. In the not-too-distant past she would have been naked to the waist, but fear that the western world would associate bare-breasted women with a primitive people resulted in an order to wear blouses. Adopted standards of dress have nevertheless done nothing for traditional feminine beauty here. I refrain from using flash out of respect for the family, but manage a sequence of hand-held shots with a 135mm f/2 DC autofocus Nikkor. Wide apertures can sometimes save the day! However, it is the circumstances that make the picture unusual and extremely difficult to repeat.

Neither the bride nor the groom smiles throughout the ten solemn minutes of the ceremony. The blessings completed, they rise to their feet and are carried shoulder-high to a waiting car. The bride is in tears as she departs. She is leaving home for the last time and will soon be living with the family of her new husband.

 

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