Field Notes: Bandung - Landscape Photography Above the Clouds

This wasn’t supposed to be a photography trip. I’ve been spending the past couple weeks back in my hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia to spend time with family while I’m in a transitionary phase of my career (read: unemployed). Having mostly lived abroad in the US, being in Jakarta for a prolonged period of time is an adjustment mostly due to the heat, crowdedness, and relatively low air quality in the city. I don’t hate it, but I needed to get out.

So when I visited Bandung for a family friend’s birthday party, I jumped at the chance to get away from the city streets and do a bit of photography. Sitting at a higher elevation than the capital city, Bandung have always been regarded as a weekend getaway where families can enjoy some beautiful mountain sceneries and cooler air. Unfortunately that has become more difficult as the city have grown and developed, but few easily reachable spots still remain.

Waking up early in the morning (4AM), I snucked out of our hotel room to catch a cab up north of the city to Tebing Keraton (translation: Royal Cliffs) based on a friend’s recommendation. The ride is about 30 minutes and it stops a couple kilometers below the entrance, at which point you have to either hire a scooter cab for Rp. 100,000 (USD $8) roundtrip, or hike straight up for about 30-45 minutes. I chose the scooter.

Untitled photo

The gate to the cliff opens right around 5AM, and there is a small entrance fee that you have to pay to get in and it’s a short easy walk to the viewpoint after. From the viewpoint, you have about 270 degrees views of the valleys below (minus the trail which you came in from); and since it rains quite often in the area, it is very likely to see morning mists down below before the sun comes up and burns them away.

I setup my camera right at the end of the viewpoint for a fairly simple composition. There is a small patch of boulders below me that I used as my foreground focal point, set my focus to one of the rocks a few feet away from me, f/16 to get everything in focus, and just waited for a good light as the sun rises behind me. Tangkuban Perahu mountain sits quite nicely in the background. No filters, just a simple and straightforward shot. And best of all: I had the place all to myself...

Shot at 13mm (crop) f/16 3.7sec

But not long after, the crowd starts to trickle in. My nice quiet moment lasted exactly 7 minutes. But the valley started to get a little more light, so I switched to my 35mm for a closer shot of the mountain and the foothills.

Shot at 35mm (crop) f/10 1/10sec -- side note: the 35mm prime lens is so sharp for landscape, not just street photos

Having the residential lights and houses in the picture, isn’t what I would call an ideal landscape image but it’s still an enjoyable scenery. Once I’ve gotten the shots I came for, I flipped my camera to get a wide panoramic shot. Camera in vertical portrait mode orientation, I metered at the most lit spot and then set it to manual to lock in the focus and exposure. I started panning from the left and rotated my tripod head after every shot. I usually have a 20-30% chance of my panoramic shots not turning out because of parallax errors since I don’t have a proper panorama kit, but this one turned out alright.

6-shot vertical panorama, shot at 35mm (crop) f/8 1.5sec

By around 6AM, I was done and started walking out of the park. I took a bit of stroll outside the park to try and get some shots of the rice fields, but the the sun’s already a bit high at that point. So I packed up my camera and tripod, and started heading back to town just in time for breakfast. Not a bad start to the day.

Some other bonus shots from the trip:

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