Best of ASMP Photographer

I’m chuffed to be selected as a Best of ASMP 2011 photographer by my peers at the American Society of Media Photographers. I’ve long been inspired by tales of past honorees, and this year’s roll call is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s amazing how many languages people use to “write with light”.

ASMP Bulletin editor Jill Waterman made a marathon effort interviewing this year’s 20 photographers. Even I learned a thing or two in my own Q&A, thanks to her probing questions. And Director of Communications Pete Dyson bent over backwards to wrangle last-minute tear sheets and photo captions into my web profile.

Far-flung in Indonesia, it’s easy to feel cut-off from the mainstream photographic community. Devoted efforts from people like Jill and Pete, and the generous wealth of experience at the ASMP forums, make me feel right at home. Thanks guys!!

An excerpt from the Q&A…

Best of 2011: Djuna Ivereigh

© Djuna Ivereigh

Poachers-turned-guides scale giant trees, some with their first branches 50 meters off the forest floor.

During a 1998 Indonesian caving expedition, Djuna Ivereigh’s forest guides turned out to be a gang of highly skilled cockatoo poachers, trapping birds for the pet trade. At the end of the trip, she stayed behind to photograph the group as a personal project. Her resulting images inspired a conversion: While the poachers initially showed no signs of remorse in stringing up birds, they felt differently after studying her pictures. They now run a wildlife rehabilitation center and lead groups into the trees as ecotourism guides. Ivereigh has remained in Indonesia, as well, where she continues to photograph conservation and tourism, including luxury villas in Bali.

Djuna Ivereigh, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Project: A personal project documenting how Indonesian poachers operate and why, which resulted in their change of heart to work in ecotourism and wildlife rehabilitation.


Guides from Seram Canopy Safaris (clockwise from top: Sonny, Ois, Buce and Peter) share a laugh beneath their newest rainforest canopy platform.

ASMP: How long have you been in business?

DI: Freelancing for 20 years; writing and shooting full time for 13; still working to wean myself of words.

ASMP: How long have you been an ASMP member?

DI: Finally(!) pulled my head out and joined this year.

ASMP: What are your photographic specialties?

DI: Trees, hobbits and the odd luxury villa. Emphasis on “odd.”

ASMP: What do you consider your most valuable tool or piece of equipment?

DI: Menfolk envy my 500/f4 and its dedicated extender. My only consolation: “It’s not about the equipment, it’s how you use it!”


Read on about my rite of passage, how I dropped in on a cargo cult, and how I repaired a camera with a rock.

And see 19 more fascinating Q&As here.

Banda Dragon Survey

Banda – Images by Djuna Ivereigh

A few shots from Banda, on a scout with Jamie Woodall for the new Where There Be Dragons Indonesia Program. Later that year (Fall 2010), a gaggle of gap-year students had a great time out here.

Vermillion Cliffs – Red Rock Paradise

Vermillion Cliffs – Images by Djuna Ivereigh

No, we’re not in Indonesia anymore. In May 2009 I was lucky enough to get back to the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, a rapsberry swirl of Navajo Sandstone on the Colorado Plateau. Smack dab between Arizona and Utah. In the United States of America.

Back in the day, access to this geological playground could be secured with a shoulder rub that would earn you a bit of map pointing by the right BLM official. Then photographers got wind of it. These days, permits are all by lottery, and your chances are about one in a hundred that a bingo machine (yes, a bingo machine!) will pop up your number for the coveted northern section (a.k.a, “The Wave”). Not to worry. This southern section is well-guarded by natural obstacles and is well worth the extra trouble of 4WDing and orienteering.

I was just happy to see naked rock. Not much of that here in Indo for us recovering geologists.

Timor-Leste, Unplugged

Let’s face it — East Timor has gotten a lot of bad press. Five centuries of colonial rule and 24 years of bloody occupation didn’t help. In my mind’s eye, Timor was all rocky scrub and rubble. How wrong I was…

A few weeks ago, I joined my partner Joe Yaggi and Jungle Run Productions on a circuit around the coasts and highlands of western East Timor. Joe shot footage for Tour de Timor 2010 — a mountain-biking-cum-nation-building initiative launched by President José Ramos-Horta. I helped out, and shot a few stills.

All in all, I was smitten. We made our way over two high passes — 1500 and 1800 meters, one at the base of Timor’s highest peak, Mount Ramelau, topping out at 2963 meters. The rolling, green highlands looked like something out of New Zealand, just add Austronesian architecture.

And the people… Most have a story to tell, and are grateful they’re here to tell it. There was Ferdinand Xavier, the last guerilla commandante from Ainaro, who fought alongside Xanana Gusmao. There was Gaspar Leki, who joined the Indonesian army to oppose Timor’s independence, but was welcomed home when his side lost. And there was Sister Elsa, who speaks of unspeakable massacres, and moves on: “Of course, I have to be peaceful, I have to be joyful, so that I can bring this peace, this joyful in my heart to other people.”

No one practices peace so vigorously as those who had to earn it.

Banda Panorama

Take a spin on the summit of Gunung Api, an active volcano at the heart of the Banda Islands of Maluku, Indonesia. As the native home of nutmeg, these are the “Spice Islands” that drove Europeans on their first journeys around the globe. In 1667, the tiny island of Run, just visible in the far the west (opposite the rising sun), was traded for Manhattan.


Fun with panos

1) Do somersaults!

2) Right click… “Little Planet View”. Now try somersaults!

3) Click lower right corner of image to toggle full screen view. This calls for more somersaults!

How’d I Do That?

This “spherical panorama” depicts 360° in all directions from the camera. It’s a stitched composite of four fisheye images shot from a single point. The camera was mounted on a special support, so that rotation centered on the “nodal point” of the lens — the point where all light rays converge. This eliminated parallax (displacement of the view throughout rotation) so that images could be neatly stitched using the program PTGui. From there, the image is beamed through the krpano viewer, which offers some fun projections and interface features.

Impress your Friends!

At last, the perfect gift for the know-it-all New Yorker. Put them in their place with this Banda-centric world view. Which speck of real estate in this image was once worth more than their rent-controlled apartment? You’ll leave them stumped for sure…

Click “Planet Banda”, below, then “Add to Cart” to order a 20″x20″ inch print, shipped anywhere in the world. Just $50!

A "little planet" projection of a 360-degree panorama from the summit of Gunung Api volcano, Banda Islands, Maluku. Pulau Run -- the distant island at 5 o'clock in this image -- was once traded for Manhattan. (Djuna Ivereigh)

A "little planet" projection of a 360-degree panorama from the summit of Gunung Api volcano, Banda Islands, Maluku. Pulau Run — the distant island at 5 o'clock in this image — was once traded for Manhattan. (Djuna Ivereigh)

Sriwijaya for Sale

Pagaruyung Prasasti

Early Indonesian history is limited to cryptic stone inscriptions and outside sources. Only archaeology can fill in the gaps.

What if you held an auction and no one showed up? Thankfully that’s what happened when the Indonesian government tried to auction off cultural heritage dating from the golden age of Indonesia’s Sriwijaya empire.

Maritime experts believe that the shipwreck discovered off the coast of Cirebon, Java in 2004 harks from 10th century Sumatra. And that the story it tells is not the common tale of outsiders coming in, but of an Indonesian kingdom in its prime, dominating a trade network from Arabia to China.

Precious little evidence about the classic Sriwijaya period, recounted in the histories of foreign powers and in widely scattered stone inscriptions, indicates that the Sriwijaya kingdom was not only wealthy beyond compare, but that it was Asia’s hub of cross-cultural learning from the 7th to 10th centuries. The Chinese monk I-Ching, who studied at Sriwijaya for some ten years, described the scene in the late 7th century: “There are more than a thousand Buddhist priests whose minds are bent on study and good works; thier rules and ceremonies are identical with those of India.”

Early in the 20th century, Indonesia’s founding fathers leveraged Sriwijaya in their call for a “National Awakening”. But current government policy turns Sriwijaya into a business proposition. Whereas land-based archaeological sites are studied and conserved by a dedicated research institution under the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, marine sites fall under the Ministry of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who contracts private marine salvage operations in exchange for a 50% take on proceeds. So goes the great maritime history of Tanah Air (“Land of Water”).

Last I heard — back in 2005, the Cirebon wreck got especially messy when local police confiscated the salvaged goods mid-operation. Fragile remains of the ship itself — the only example of its kind — were yanked from preservation tanks and locked away in shipping containers. For at least a year. I doubt they fared well…

Anyway, despite outcries from international authorities and the Sultanate of Cirebon, it’s looking likely that this shipload of sunken treasures will soon be scattered to the winds. I’m thinking of a photo project — a final Sriwijaya family portrait, of sorts. Any takers??


Cirebon Palace plans to build museum to house artifacts | The Jakarta Post, 01 May 2010

For Sale: Ancient Treasures Dug From Indonesia’s Seas | reproduced from The Jakarta Globe, 03 May 2010, on the salvage company’s website [photos]

UNESCO chief concerned by auction of ancient artifacts | The Jakarta Post, 05 May 2010

Little Interest in Indonesian Treasure | The Jakarta Globe, 06 May 2010 [photo]

Artifacts auction closed sans bidders | The Jakarta Post, 06 May 2010

Indonesia to Ease Auction Rules to Lure Treasure Bidders | The Jakarta Globe, 09 May 2010 [photo]

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Sriwijaya for Sale, © Djuna Ivereigh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with credit for DjunaPix Indonesia Photography linked to href=”

Monkey Business

Rosek Nursahid, a founder of ProFauna Indonesia, visits ebony leaf monkeys at a rehabilitation center while coordinating the most ambitious release to the wild to date.

This year in Indonesia, some 2500 Javan langurs will be poached from the wild, mostly sold as pets. Rosek Nursahid, co-founder of ProFauna Indonesia, doesn’t like this. He and a corps of activists will prod government officials to confiscate the endangered monkeys from markets. In the past, this has involved wrestling cages from angry mobs of vendors.

Langurs in hand, ProFauna’s real work begins. Their biggest challenge lies in rehabilitating the animals and releasing them to the wild.

When I heard that Rosek was coordinating the most ambitious langur release to date—41 animals in 3 troops—I asked to tag along. Graciously he worked me into his logistics, a tactical surge involving three times as many people as monkeys.

6-week-old Intan would be the youngest ebony leaf monkey ever released to the wild. How would she fare?

6-week-old Intan would be the youngest ebony leaf monkey ever released to the wild. How would she fare?

Before Release Day, I visited the langur rehabilitation center. I found Rosek working the phones, wrangling ropes and climbing gear, and checking final touches on three dozen backpack-able crates. Then he stole time for one last stroll through the langur enclosure.

Some monkeys had been there for years. Rosek knew each by name and by their tortured pasts. Did they remember the wild? Would they adapt? He was particularly concerned about Intan, a baby born just six weeks before Release Day. He’d never released a toddler, but at this stage it was too late to turn back.

Releasing 41 monkeys to the wild was an effort involving 3 times as many people.

Releasing 41 monkeys to the wild was an effort involving 3 times as many people.

To the uninitiated, releasing animals to the wild sounds easy. In reality, it’s anything but.

For starters, try finding real estate for wide-ranging leaf-eating monkeys on the world’s most populous island. That took a year. Finally, in the shadow of Mt. Semeru, a smoldering volcano in East Java, they found a patch of cloud forest out of range of humans and other langurs.

Next, chase down funding, push through permits, set a date. Recruit students for three months of monitoring and hope they can actually keep up with monkeys. Hire a village, build a camp, cut steep, slimy trails, string a Tyrolean traverse across a gorge. Haul in planks, build treetop enclosures. Add a neighboring blind at the behest of a last-minute film crew.

Monkeys had to be hauled some 50 meters across a steep gorge to the release site.

Monkeys had to be hauled some 50 meters across a steep gorge to the release site.

Now truck in the langurs. Pack them through the forest, wriggling in their boxes, haul them over the gorge and up into a tree. About two years after you rescued some of those monkeys, shift them to the last cage they’ll ever see. Stuff in leaves and leave them overnight, to settle.

I woke before dawn on Release Day, and joined Rosek on the trek up to Troop #3. Volcanic ash dusted the tree ferns, like snow in the tropics.

I watched from the filmmakers’ blind as the langur cage was opened. We hid behind palm leaves, so as not to scare the langurs. I guess it worked because the first thing the big female did was to march over and greet her new neighbors. Before long there were more monkeys watching us than the other way around.

Red phase ebony leaf monkey

Troop leader Tommy on alert

But Tommy, the troop leader, had other priorities. He climbed high, circled wide around the group and squinted into the forest. Poached late in life, he knew the threats of eagles and aggressive, territorial langurs. Was he up to the task of protecting his harem?

Maybe not. By the next morning Tommy had disappeared. Lost, killed, or living in self-imposed exile, we’ll never know. He was never seen again.

This left Intan without a father, along with her older half-brother, Chewbacca. And though langurs should range far and wide in search of food, this leaderless troop spent days close to its treehouse, and ours, sampling local leaves, napping, grooming, and doing its best to keep the kids out of trouble.

This latter effort proved futile. Intan’s curiosity outpaced her coordination by a long shot. At any chance she’d lurch off a limb and dangle head first, 30 meters off the deck, screaming like eagle bait.

Baby ebony leaf monkey hanging upside-down

Baby Intan in trouble

Before long, mom had had enough. She bounced into the blind, parked Intan on my lap, and took off on a forage. No doubt about it, I was on babysitting duty. Intan craned her neck up with a look that said, “Mom’s gone. Let’s have fun!” Then fell over.

Monkey babysitting

Me getting recruited for monkey babysitting duty

Recall, if you will, that the point of this exercise is to sever the cruel bond between human and wild animal. Then remind me, because never before or since have I seen anything so worth a cuddle as this fuzzy bundle of monkey baby.

Before the release, Rosek made perfect sense when he said that cultivating the trust of the langurs would be a very bad thing. On the whole, we humans should be the langurs’ worst fear. But now all that jazz about maintaining distance and avoiding eye contact was proving a very tall order. I was ready to stuff Intan in my pack and smuggle her home.

Monkey huddle

Mom looking out for Intan and her cousin

Thankfully, Intan wobbled just beyond arm’s reach. She seemed safer there, fixated on some twig and not on me. So silly she was! Jerky, like her nerve impulses came in jolts. She started a jig around that twig—hop, hop, hop, then… gone! Straight over the edge, like a pilot on auto-eject. I dove for her, too late to help, and just in time to see her thumping on leaf litter like dead weight.

Intan lay silent as the langurs and I shrieked obscenities. I was ready to jump off the blind myself. But the langurs were quick. Within seconds, mom had scampered down, scooped up her limp treasure and returned to her tree. She smothered it tight, in a huddle with Chewbacca, who looked fit for tears and Intan’s aunties, who glared as if to say, “To think we could trust a human!”

Just then, mom shifted. And out from under her arm there poked a tiny head. If I didn’t know better, Intan’s smile said, “Wasn’t that fun!” Moments later she was scampering off, in search of her next adventure.

When we climbed down the tree that day, we didn’t come back. It’s hard releasing animals to the wild. Harder still to leave them there.

Baby ebony leaf monkey face framed in mom's fur

Intan, ready for her next adventure.

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Monkey Business, © Djuna Ivereigh, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with a credit to DjunaPix Indonesia Photography, linked to

Wallacea: Stepping Stones between Supercontinents

Bali as seen from Lombok

Bali as seen from Lombok

Brochure I produced for the 150th anniversary of Wallace's journey to Indonesia

If you think a journey from Bali to Lombok feels farther than it is, join the club. Back in 1856, a British naturalist made the same observation. His name was Alfred Russel Wallace, and the biological rift between these twin neighboring isles is now known as “Wallace’s Line”.

“In this Archipelago,” Wallace wrote home, “there are two distinct faunas rigidly circumscribed, which differ as much as those of South America and Africa, and more than those of Europe and North America: yet there is nothing on the map or on the face of the islands to mark their limits.”

Wallace discovered the Bali-Lombok division—along with more than a thousand new species and a working theory of evolution—by luck. It helped, of course, that he traversed some 14,000 miles through what is now Indonesia pinning and pickling, tagging and bagging some 125,660 specimens of natural history.

Wallace on chasing butterflies

Roughing it for eight years, Wallace might have been Asia’s first ecotourist. He settled comfortably into huts where we now bunk up at losmen. He hired indigenous guides, treating them with a respect nearly unheard of at the height of the British Empire. And he traveled by all means of local conveyance—cargo ships, dugout canoes, a Moluccan prahu and a treacherous but endearing Bugis schooner. The very unreliability of the transport offered him great serendipity:

“Having been unable to find a vessel to Macassar, I took passage to Lombok, where I was assured I should easily reach my destination. By this delay, which seemed at the time a misfortune, I was able to make some very interesting collections in Bali and Lombok, two islands which I should never have otherwise seen. I was thus enabled to determine the exact boundary between two of the primary zoological regions, the Oriental and the Australian.”

Endemic Seram Cockatoo

Endemic Seram Cockatoo

On Lombok, it was the cockatoos that first caught Wallace’s eye. “This is the most westerly point on the globe where any of the family are to be found,” he noted. He also spotted honey-suckers and Megapode mound-maker birds “here first met with on the traveler’s journey eastward.” Bali’s barbets, fruit-thrushes and woodpeckers, meanwhile, were nowhere to be seen. Nor were there any of the tigers or rhinos known from the western islands of the archipelago. Further years of observation led Wallace to sum up “…we shall find that all the islands from Celebes (Sulawesi) and Lombok eastward exhibit almost as close a resemblance to Australia and New Guinea as the Western Islands do to Asia.”

Tarsier - a primitive primate of Sulawesi

Indeed, there could be no stranger neighbors than Asia and Australia. As Wallace explained, “it is well known that the natural productions of Australia differ from those of Asia more than those of any of the four ancient quarters of the world differ from each other.” Wallace had no way to know how ancient these quarters were, or where they had all come from. But our modern understanding of continental drift suggests that Indonesia is in fact the reunion site of long-lost supercontinents.

It all started back in the Mesozoic era, some 150 million years ago, when Pangea, the mother of all supercontinents, split in two. Laurasia (today’s North America and Eurasia) headed north and Gondwanaland (South America, Africa, Antarctica and Australia) ventured south. Each took their own share of animals: dinosaurs, most notoriously, but also some newfangled creatures—early mammals, followed soon after by birds.

Marsupial cuscus, Seram Island

By the curtain call of the Mesozoic (65 million years ago), dinosaurs were down for the count and mammals had split into rival factions. Modern placental mammals had old-fashioned, pouch-bearing marsupials on the run. Up in Laurasia, where the placentals got their start, marsupials were squeezed out by 30 million BC, save for a few crafty possums. But down in Gondwanaland, the marsupials ruled the roost. Only a smattering of placentals had clambered aboard the drifting continent, now breaking up yet further. Placentals stood no chance in Antarctica when it froze solid 14 million years ago. And in South America the mammal wars got totally out of hand—placental sloths and armadillos grew as big as tanks to fend off pouch-bearing “wolves”, “bears” and “saber-toothed cats”. But even those marsupial beasts were doomed 3 million years ago when South America slammed back into North America and its armies of real bears, wolves and cats.

Komodo Dragon

This Komodo dragon would have looked wimpy next to a fossil cousin in Australia that measured twice his length.

Which left Australia as last the outpost for kangaroos, koalas and other keepers of the pouch. Modern mammals never made it that far—save one or two. So today, watching this old chunk of Gondwanaland inch closer to Laurasia is like witnessing alien worlds on a collision course. Strange creatures now intermingle along the stepping stone islands of Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi and Maluku—a mixing zone known as Wallacea.

Lesser Bird of Paradise

Lesser Bird of Paradise, Papua

Three curious features distinguish Wallacea:

First, you find endemics—species living on one island and nowhere else on Earth. (Sulawesi boasts 88 unique birds and 82 unique mammals.)

Second, you find mad experiments in evolution. The babirusa, a primeval pig with tusks erupting through its nose, begs the question “Why?”

Third, you find an “island effect”: a trend for animals to be oddly big or small. No where is this more famous than on Flores and Komodo islands. There, fearsome lizards the size of “dragons” inspired the film King Kong. And just thousands of years ago, Flores was prowled by dog-sized rats, cow-sized elephants and people no taller than five-year-olds. Smaller, in fact, than Tolkien’s hobbits, which inspired the nickname for a new fossil human species discovered in 2003.

Wallace, himself, might have been shocked to find that 150 years after his passage, such startling discoveries await among the islands now bearing his name. At this rate, there must be plenty more on the horizon. [END]

Archaeologist Thomas Sutikna examines the Homo floresiensis skeleton that he and his team excavated from Flores in 2003

Archaeologist Thomas Sutikna examines the skeleton of Homo floresiensis that he and his team discovered on the island of Flores in 2003. What other "Lost Worlds" remain to be found in Wallacea?

Wallace on new discoveries

Wallace brochure

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Wallacea: Stepping Stones Between Supercontinents, © Djuna Ivereigh, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License. Excerpts may be reproduced with a credit to DjunaPix Indonesia Photography, linked to