Friday, September 26, 2014

Labor Day Weekend - Ngemelis

Four weeks ago the staff new and old took a retreat to a remote island by the name of Ngemelis. This is no ordinary island, but the Chief’s personal island. In Palau there is both a President and  also a Chief though honestly I’m not sure where their responsibilities are split. Both are important and have a few perks - like a personal tropical island!

We took an hour long boat ride out and if you've been with me on a trip you know I manage to find a way to sleep anywhere whether it’s a bus, car, plane, or apparently a boat. Thanks to Andrew for getting up close and personal.

PC Andrew Ugalde

The tide was out so we parked the first boat and hauled everything we would need for the weekend (including water) across the shore to a small encampment where the outhouses and cooking area were. [The boat in the pictures is the second boat that came later at a different tide level]

As soon as we got settled I instantly went to look for a place to hang my hammock and I could not be happier with what I found!

I should mention before I forget that I set my hammock out at low tide when the water was still 50+ feet away, but when I went to get in that night at high tide I was very surprised to find that my hammock was out over the water and only about 1.5 feet above it! It certainly made for some interesting entries and exits to remain dry!

At some point Allison said, “Am I living inside my [computer’s] wallpaper?” and I don’t know a better way to summarize the awestruck. It was truly beautiful. I had both my GoPro and Canon with two batteries, but that unfortunately would not quite make it the whole weekend. I shot some great time lapses of the sun climbing and setting with the rising tide, my hammock between two pitched palms and even a few stars which is quite a feat for my 6 year old rebel! Palau is in the middle of its rainy season now which makes for some epic skies and sunsets including these that were taken Friday night of Labor Day Weekend.

After sunset and worship we hung out and talked until everyone went to bed. At which point I was eager to shoot the stars without competing ambient flashlights and lanterns around. I tried a few angles and multiple exposures in the same spot as well as trying to set up a few panoramas that failed in the post processing section. My best shot ended up being the most simple and one of the firsts. If you know much about photography, you know it’s hard to shoot stars without a prime and better yet on a crop-sensored 5 year old rebel and yet the stars were so bright, I was able to capture a fraction of its grandeur.

 Hailing from the northwest, many of my friends are what you call “granola” in that they spend most of their time outdoors and down jackets & hiking boots are actually fashionable. Seemingly every deep conversation includes “mountaintop experiences” and it seems to be something that they all feel atop rocks, but not me.The top of a big rock provides me with a beautiful view, an excellent photo, and a feeling of accomplishment, but not much else. The buzz of “mountaintop “experiences” gets a lot of traction and while I understand the craving for that intrinsic ,insightful, spiritual, and emotional high I've never really gotten that from mountains. But that night I found where I get that feeling- 3.5 feet above sea level in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I watched the stars both stationary and shooting until 2:30 in the morning came and I realized I was getting up in a just a few hours to shoot the sunrise. I compiled the sunrise shots into a timelapse video that our internet just can't support so until I get back to the States, so here's one frame.
I went back to bed after sunrise and breakfast and woke up to this beauty. Luckily I had fallen asleep with Gopro in hand- this is just too hard to beat.

 I took down my hammock for this shot Saturday afternoon, but you can see that Ramsey found the second most beautiful spot in the world for his hammock :)

I definitely hope to make it back to Ngemelis (nehmaleez) again sometime soon. Hope you enjoyed the pictures!


  1. Gorgeous, Ty! Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. My mountaintop experience and spiritual high also happened at 3 feet above sea level in the South Pacific. I understand what you're saying.