During my Secrets of Melanesia voyage with Heritage Expeditions in 2019, I visited a series of incredibly remote islands from the Solomon Islands on down through Vanuatu. Ambrym was the last island that I visited before ending the expedition in Port Vila. It is known as the “black” island due to its twin volcanoes which cover much of the island in volcanic ash as well as being renowned for its mysterious “black magic”. This magic is showcased by the famous Rom Dance which is restricted to only the village men. The masked dance is a ritual that stretches back centuries and recounts the age-old tale of good versus evil. It is also believed to influence harvests and is a privilege to witness. In order to view the performance, all of us had to hike along the shoreline and then up hill to the ceremonial site. Once we arrived and settled down, the village men began their enthralling dance. The ground shook and the sound reverberated off of the trees as the men drummed their feet in unison. I was trying to figure out how to best photograph this mysterious spectacle and decided to use a slow shutter speed to record the motion while zoomed in with my telephoto lens. For a brief moment, rain began to pour down adding another secretive element to my image.
I have not photographed a lot of people over the years. It is not that I do not know how, it is just that I have only done it for my family and friends since I focus on landscape and wildlife photography. However, during my recent travels to Vanuatu, I had several opportunities to photograph the beautiful people of Tanna Island. I created this slow shutter image on a day when I was invited to attend a traditional ceremony of three tribes gathering to celebrate their young boys entering manhood. It was a beautiful but hot afternoon filled with singing and dancing. I was honored that I was even allowed to celebrate with them, let alone be able to take photos.