Shooting Melasti Festival in Bali

Mar 6, 2018

Next week on the island of Bali sees the arrival of a particularly auspicious time, with this years’ Melasti festival, followed closely by the silent day of Nyepi.

It’s a truly fantastic time to be on the island, and it’s well worth planning a trip to Bali that coincides with these festivals.

Not only will you have so much to photograph, but you’ll be able to participate in these fascinating Balinese rituals.

Purification

Melasti involves a pilgrimage to the sea. Scores of people walk or ride on trucks to the coast, dressed in ceremonial garb.

Once there, prayers are said and purification rituals are enacted at the beaches with the sacred water of the sea. The ceremony symbolically cleanses all bad things in the past.

As is the way at auspicious moments in the Balinese calendar, an abundance of ceremonies take place all around the island. The change in atmosphere is palpable and the sights and sounds are something to behold.

Festivals and ceremonies are intrinsic to Balinese culture, and whatever time of the year you visit you’re bound to come across them. Melasti and Nyepi are two of the most important, (along with Galungan and Kuningan). People and communities are out in swathes, beautiful clothing is worn and fascinating rituals are performed on the streets.

During my time living in Bali, I was lucky enough to witness numerous examples of the Balinese zest for ritual and community.

Read below for my five tips for photographing Melasti in Bali!

Tips for photographing Melasti

1) Do your research. Talk to locals and find out where the various festivities are taking place. Some are bigger than others, so discover what’s happening and decide which appeals to you most.

2) Get up early! Golden hour does not last long in Bali and you don’t want to miss it. Get down to your beach of choice in plenty of time so you get the best light.

3) Get stuck in. The Balinese are super-friendly and as long as you are friendly too, they won’t mind you being there amongst the action. Don’t be shy, say Hi, and get snapping.

4) Be respectful. Whilst you will be welcome, don’t forget that Balinese festivals are extremely important to the islands’ residents. Festivals are auspicious times and should be respected. What you wear and what you do in Bali matters, so ensure your clothing is suitable and learn how to respectful get close and participate. Perhaps some people don’t want their photo taking, be respectful of that and just move on if someone is feeling shy.

5) Plan for delays. Big festivals mean big traffic, as large numbers of people move around the island on its narrow and often congested roads. You will likely be held up, so plan for it. Allow more time for your journeys and ensure you’ve got some water and raincoat.

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