Ralph Lee Hopkins | A Voyage from Bali to Fiji – Dispatch from the South Pacific

A Voyage from Bali to Fiji – Dispatch from the South Pacific

December 15, 2014  •  Leave a Comment


A Voyage from Bali to Fiji – Dispatch from the South Pacific                      


Indonesia is the world's largest archipelago, with over 18,000 islands stretching from Sumatra to New Guinea. This is one of the most tectonically active regions on Earth, where shifting tectonic plates form an arc of volcanic islands, each a unique tropical paradise unto itself. The islands of Indonesia are also one of the most beautiful places you will ever visit, and best explored by expedition ship sailing between the islands. 


These images are from a series of voyages on board the National Geographic Orion. We embarked in Bali and sailed east, exploring the Spice Islands, continuing on to Australia, then New Guinea and the fabled islands of the South Pacific.


INDO14_11329INDO14_11329Sunrise, Mountains and Boats, Rinca Island, Komodo National Park, Indonesia

Boats at Sunrise, Komodo National Park, Indonesia.

(Canon EOS-1DX; 70-300mm; 1/500 sec; f/8; ISO 320; -0..33EV


INDO14_12480INDO14_12480Active Volcano, Eruption, Night Photo, Red Hot Lava, Glow, Larantuka, Flores Island, Indonesia

Active Volcano, Larantuka, Indonesia.

(Canon EOS-5DmkIII; 24-105mm; 15 sec; f/4; ISO 400; 0.0EV)


Culturally, Indonesia has about 300 ethnic groups with traditions developed over the centuries with strong influences from Indian, Arabic, Chinese, and European sources. Traditional costumes and dances reveal aspects of Hindu culture and mythology. Indigenous cultures struggle to maintain traditional ways of life as cell phones and satellite television arrive to once remote villages. Change is coming, and fast.


INDO14_13091INDO14_13091Warrior, Traditional Dress, Cannibal Culture, Takpala Village, Kalabahi, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia

Warrior, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia.

(Canon EOD-5DmkIII; 70-300mm; 1/80 sec; f/5.6; ISO 320; +0.33EV)


The biggest surprise of the voyage was exploring a remote corner of New Guinea, the coastline along the Bird's Head Peninsula to Triton Bay, with its unusual mushroom islands and karst formations. The rainforest coast was alive with wildlife and tropical birds, including the reclusive hornbills.


INDO14_15423INDO14_15423Mushroom Islands, Karst Formations, Limestone Islands, Triton Bay, Bird's Head Peninsula, New Guinea, Indonesia

Mushroom Islands and Karst Formations, Triton Bay, New Guinea, Indonesia.

(Canon EOS-1DX; 16-35mm; 1/1250 sec; f/11; ISO 640; -0.67 EV)

Australia's legendary Great Barrier Reef has some of the best snorkeling and diving anywhere in the world. There's another world beneath the waves. Pristine reefs with a kaleidoscope of corals and sponges paint the sea floor where colorful fish, sharks, and rays swim off into the deep.


AUS14_51996AUS14_51996World's best snorkel spot, National Geographic Orion, Orion Reef, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia

Blue Coral Garden, World's best Snorkel Spot, Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

(Canon EOS-5DmkIII; 14mm; 1/800 sec; f/16; ISO 800; -0.67 EV)

VAN14_10444VAN14_10444Explorers in traditional dug out canoe, Blue Hole, Tropical Rainforest, Espiritu Santa Island, Vanuatu

Tropical Paradise, Dugout Canoe with Outrigger, The Blue Hole, Espiritu Santo Island, Vanuatu.

(Canon EOS 5D Mark III; 24-105mm; 1/200 sec; f/8; ISO 1250; -0.33 EV)


Sailing east to the Solomon Island and Vanuatu took us to WWII historic sites within a tropical paradise. The people make this part of the world compelling to visit. It's like going back in time, to a simper way of life with subsistence fishing and small farm plots.


INDO14_19477INDO14_19477Woman Fishing, Fishing Net, Dug-out Canoe, Syuru Village, The Asmat, New Guinea, Indonesia

Woman Fishing from Dugout Canoe, The Asmat Region, New Guinea, Indonesia.

(Canon EOS-1DX; 70-300mm; 1/800 sec; f/5.6; ISO 1250; -0.33 EV)


It's challenging photographing in the tropics with subjects both above and below the water. I find it's best to keep the camera gear simple. I carry two came bodies, one with wide-angle zoom (Canon EOS-5D Mark III; 16-35mm or 24-105mm), and the other paired with a telephoto zoom (Canon EOS-1DX; 70-300mm). I use a sling-style camera bag with easy access. With today's low-noise digital cameras, I often use high ISOs in situations where faster shutter speeds are critical, like in dim light and shooting from moving boats.


  INDO14_13357INDO14_13357Child, Traditional Dress, Takpala Village, Kalabahi, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia

Child holding hands, Traditional Dress, Takpala Village, Alor Archipelago, Indonesia.

(Canon EOS-1DX; 70-300mm; 1/80 sec; f/8; IS0 640; -0.67 EV)

FIJI14_10693FIJI14_10693Star Burst, Sun Star, Palm Tree, National Geograpjoc Orion, Beqa Island, Fiji, South Pacific

National Geographic Orion, Coconut Palm Tree, Fiji

(Canon EOS-5D Mark III, 16-35mm; 1/800 sec; f/22; IS0 320; -1.0 EV)


​More and more I'm leaving the big guns in the bag, and instead shooting with my iPhone or small point and shoot. No matter what camera you travel with, you can learn more about both the technical and artistic sides of photography on a photography expedition with the National Geographic fleet operated by Lindblad Expeditions. The National Geographic Orion will be exploring the tropical waters from Borneo all the way to Easter Island again in 2015. To view the itineraries and for more information visit Expeditions.com.


Ralph Lee Hopkins

From a hammock in Fiji, South Pacific


© Ralph Lee Hopkins.

All Rights Reserved. Worldwide.



No comments posted.

January February March April May June (1) July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February (1) March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December