Magic Window: Capture the spirit of East Java

Short Summary: 

A photographic learning experience and visual exploration of the region of East Java with a legendary photographer and writer Rio Helmi. Take your photography to the next level and learn how to communicate a mesmerizing visual story through the lens. 

Open a magic window into a powerful world of imagery and creativity, while travelling through East Javanese nature wonders. 

Benefits of this retreat:
  • Immerse in the pristine nature of East Java 
  • Explore sulphur mines, the biggest lake crater with its magical blue fire at Ijen Volcano
  • Learn the art of visual storytelling 
  • Broad your cultural horizons, while meeting the unique heritage of the East Javanese region
  • Take a closer look at the process happening at the coffee plantation
  • Develop empathy for those from different social and cultural backgrounds
  • Safari Adventures: meet wild deers, bantengs and birds in their raw and wild environment while walking around breathtaking savannah

This photo retreat was born out of passion for travel and photography. Rio Helmi has been a leading exponent of photojournalism in Indonesia and is a real Bali legend. Born to a Turkish mother and an Indonesian diplomat, he has been capturing images of Asia and writing since 1978. 

His work can be seen in magazines, documentaries and more than 20 large-format photographic books. Solo exhibitions of Rio’s still photography have been held in Bali, Jakarta, Madrid, Miyazaki, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Sydney, and his works are held in private collections around the world including in London, Rome, Boston, Washington and Tokyo. In the past, Rio focused on the interaction between indigenous peoples and their environment. During this photo retreat, he will be sharing his knowledge to inspire and teach the art of storytelling and how to capture the world through a lens. 


Full Description:

The late René Burri, who was one of Rio’s mentors, said: “Photography is not simply documentation. Even though it’s mechanical, you should use the camera for the expression of some kind of feeling – empathy, sympathy, love, hate or whatever it is. And if you don’t capture it in the moment, it doesn’t get stronger afterwards. While photographing, you have to employ your mind, your soul and your heart!” That really stuck with Rio throughout the years.

Since travelling and photography have been an essential part of Rio’s, this unique opportunity to meet with him in person and travel across East Java in the hunt for visual treasurers. 


Destination: East Java 

From the stark crater and sulphur mines of Ijen, down through jungled slopes to the lush coffee and rubber plantations, colourful villages with lively music and dances, wildlife sanctuaries, traditional harbours full of brightly coloured Madurese “janggolan” fishing schooners, Banyuwangi is the vibrant counterpart to Bali. It is only some 5 kilometres across the straits from Bali, Banyuwangi is one of the most diverse regions of East Java. 

Still less travelled and exposed than Bali, much of it still has the ‘off-the-beaten-track’ feel that is becoming harder to come by these days, yet within easy reach from the luxury and comforts of the tourist scene in Bali.


We have created a five-day and four-night photographic tour of Banyuwangi led by leading senior Indonesian photographer Rio Helmi, who over the years has spent many a week exploring East Java on his motorbikes. We will explore the art of visual storytelling and you will learn different kinds of photography: landscape, wildlife, documentary, and general travel.

 Rio will be mentoring participants and giving interesting talks about photography as well as doing portfolio assessments and giving tips on editing and workflow.

We will travel by land in a spacious, comfortable air-conditioned minibus from Bali to Banyuwangi regencyю It’s about 3 hours to the ferry from Ubud and less than an hour to the hotel.  We prioritize privacy and comfort, so the group will be a maximum of 6 guests at a time. 

Who is this retreat for?

This retreat is for the enthusiastic amateur who has at least a basic command of digital photography, who would like to develop his or her visual communication skills further, who is interested in becoming a true visual storyteller.