Mt Bromo Photography Guide from a madman who spent a month shooting it!
Learn the ins and outs of shooting at Mt Bromo to make the most of your photos at this stunning location. Having spend over a month here shooting almost every day, I have learned a lot about the location and challenges. I have visited pretty much every viewpoint and shot day and night from all over the place. For all of you photographers out there who are planning to take some great photos here and will likely have much less time than I had, I will share my experiences and tips in this Mt Bromo Photography Guide, so you can make the most of your time and opportunities!
As part of my 6 month trip to Indonesia, Bromo was my main highlight and I planned it when the Milky Way would be in perfect position. I had a special project planned for Bromo and eventually stayed more than a month to get the footage I was after. The weather conditions made it so hard, clouds and dew being the biggest challenges. More about my Mt Bromo projects in the following posts.
If you’re going visit Mt Bromo, don’t miss my post Mt Bromo, the Ultimate Travel Guide to Indonesia’s Most Popular Volcano!
Mt Bromo Photography Guide: Different times of day
The main activity here is watching Mt Bromo at sunrise and every day there are hundreds of people, mostly Indonesians. There are several viewpoints, but the main ones are viewpoint 1 and 2. Viewpoint 1 is also called King Kong and is the highest viewpoint. It’s the famous one that attracts hundreds of people and almost all arrive here with jeeps. People arrive as early as 3am and during holidays like the end of the ramadan even as early as 2am. If you want a good photography spot, be here before 3:30.
Bromo lies in the south (seen from the 2 main viewpoints), so the sunrise won’t be behind Bromo and you’ll have to be quite lucky to have a nice colourful sky in the background. Also the mountains block sun, so sunlight only starts to hit Bromo when the nice colours have passed. Disappointing, yes.
Mornings are the best time to shoot, because often in the afternoon the area gets really cloudy. The light will shine nicely on Bromo as well. Between 6-8am is peak hour at Bromo crater, so it’s better to get your photos there afterwards.
Often clouds come in between 2-5pm and last until roughly 9pm. But keep in mind, when it’s cloudy in the town, doesn’t mean it’s cloudy at Bromo. And vice versa.
Because of the clouds that occur in the afternoon, the chance for a nice sunset is actually really small. And if you do get one, the colourful sky will be in the east and west. So if you’re at viewpoint 1 or 2, you won’t be able to frame it with Bromo, same as sunrise. From viewpoint 1 I have seen some amazing skies in the east during the sunset. But if you’re into capturing Mt Bromo/Mt Batok during sunset, you’ll need to be near Lava View Lodge, so you’re looking towards the west.
Night / Milky Way
Night time is a great time to shoot Mt Bromo and many photographers aim to shoot Bromo with the Milky Way, like myself. Use an app like Photopills or Planit to plan your shots and determine the position of the Milky Way. The season for the Milky Way is February to September, but the first and last month it’s only visible for a few hours. The months in between are best.
During my month at Bromo, less than half of the nights were good to shoot time lapses of the Milky Way. Of course I need a clear sky (or at least not too many clouds) for hours. For photos you’ll have more opportunities, but patience will be required to find the right moment.
During the clear nights, dew was during half the nights. My lens would sometimes get wet within 15 minutes. It’s impossible to do time lapses then, but you can shoot some photos. To warm up your lens, hold it under your jacket for 5-10 minutes. To avoid dew on your lens you can use some handwarmers or a buy an electronic lens-warmer. I obviously wasn’t prepared for this dew problem…
To shoot the Milky Way well you’ll want to shoot it at minimal moonlight. But since there are no lights near Bromo, you’ll have a hard time getting Bromo and the surrounding volcanos in your shot with nice details. It’s easier when you’re just doing photos, because you can take some extra longer exposures to capture more foreground details. If you’re lucky, there will be mist in the park which will reflect some light and give nice contrast.
Viewpoint 2 is probably the best location to shoot the Milky Way. There’s a shelter and a good place to sit, the view is good. The viewpoints in town are all bothered by artificial light and passing cars/motorbikes. Only the 2 viewpoints passed Lava View Lodge are ok, but I always had dew issues there. Viewpoint 1 and near Bromo are good options, but beware of the mist.
Camera & settings & editing for photographing Milky Way
If you haven’t shot the Milky Way before are wondering how to, I’ll give you some quick & short advice here. Besides knowing where it is and when to shoot it you’ll need a proper camera. I’ve captured great results with my Sony RX100iv compact camera, but usually you will need a DSLR or mirrorless. Typically you’ll want to shoot with a low aperture, because it captures most light. A f1.8 lens for example is ideal, but shoot it with whatever lens you have. A wider angle of course captures more of the sky, so it’s preferred. But you can capture a few photos and stitch them for the same effect.
Finding the ideal settings is a matter of testing. It depends on your camera, lens and the environment you are in. But a good starting point is to shoot at ISO3200, 25sec exposure and your lowest aperture. Try to avoid getting startrails, a 14mm lens can shoot at 30. seconds, a 28mm at 20sec, roughly. There are 2 rules, the 500 and 600 rule, but you should test on your screen what the result looks like. If you have a crop sensor camera, you probably don’t want to go beyond ISO3200. If you have a fullframe camera, you can shoot higher ISO.
Shoot your photos in the RAW format, in your RAW processor adjust white balance to your liking. Adjust exposure, contrast at shadows and white. Add some clarity and vibrance to your liking. In Curves, create and S shape by lifting the lights and keeping the darks the as they are. Set sharpness to 0 and adjust Noise Reduction to your liking, between 30-70 usually. But just experiment, see what works best for you and what you like most. The actual color of the night sky is brownish, but I prefer a blue/magenta color.
Mt Bromo Photography Guide: Weather conditions at Mt Bromo
At almost 2,5 km above sea level, you are at the height of the clouds. During daytime the clouds are often below, in the afternoon and evening the clouds rise and the area can be very misty. The weather is usually great in the morning until early afternoon. Some days the area is completely covered in clouds and you can’t see a thing, let alone get a view or watch the sunrise. Even at night this can be true. Reserve an extra day if you don’t want to leave Bromo without getting some good shots.
If you’re lucky, the park area will have a blanket of mist at night and in the morning. Just be careful not to get stuck in it at night, you’ll lose your orientation completely and it’s easy to get lost. The area can turn from barely any mist to completely misty within 10 minutes. Beware!
Temperature can drop below 0 degrees Celsius, so be prepared that it can get really cold here. Even in summer temperature at night drops to 10-15 degrees and sometimes even lower probably. Everyone wears blankets, hat, scarf and/or gloves. Wear at least pants and a jacket, proper shoes too. You can buy a hat, scarf and gloves in town for cheap.
Temperature often drops below dew point, so things get really wet. For most people not a problem, but if you’re doing any night photography, it’s a real issue. I use Accuweather to see what the dew prediction is, but don’t expect it to be very accurate.
Mt Bromo Photography Guide: Viewpoints at Mt Bromo
Viewpoint 1: The highest viewpoint with the famous view of Mt Semeru in the background. This is the most famous view of Bromo and the one you will want to shoot. Get here early if you want a good spot to shoot the sunrise, it gets really crowded. To get here, it’s a 2 hour walk from the town or a 30/45 minute ride on a motorbike/jeep.
Viewpoint 2: Along the path to Viewpoint 1, about halfway up, you’ll find this viewpoint which has an amazing view and attracts a lot less visitors during during sunrise, roughly 50. It’s an hour walk from the town. Climb up the roof on the right side for the best view.
Viewpoints near viewpoint 1: A few hundred meters away there’s a viewpoint to the other side. On a cloudy day, the view is stunning there, because you’ll only see the high mountains and a volcano above the clouds. A few km further away are 2 other viewpoints looking out towards Bromo. The view isn’t the best, but it’s good for some alternative views.
Lava View Lodge: In front of and behind Lava View are some really nice viewpoints as well, one has the perfect view directly on the sunrise and 3 that look out onto Mt Bromo. These viewpoints are very quiet and you’re likely to be the only one here.
Cemara Indah: This restaurant in town has a nice view on the Bromo park, but be prepared to pay for the view in the restaurant. It was my favourite spot to check how the weather was in the park, but I actually never shot here. It’s not very convenient to set up your tripod here (for my time lapse), but for some photos it’s a good spot.
Mt Bromo: At and around Mt Bromo and Mt Batok are many great views. It’s actually a really nice location to watch the sunrise as well. Climb up the volcanos for other spectacular views. The best time to shoot here is in the morning when the light is good. After lunch the sun is on the other side and it’s not as nice anymore.
Flying your drone at Mt Bromo
It’s not a problem to fly your drone, but the max height is 120m in Indonesia. Penalties are fierce. You are not allowed to fly over the crater of Mt Bromo. It’s easy enough to fly your drone from the town, it’s about 2km to fly to Mt Bromo, and you’re higher up. Try doing some drone panoramas!
I hope you enjoyed this Mt Bromo Photography Guide. It’s a fantastic location and very worth the effort of visiting. Share your photos with me! And if you have any questions, feel free to send me an email at [email protected] or contact me through Facebook.
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