Adventures In Self-Publishing
August 31, 2018

Those of you who follow my social media output are most likely well aware by now that most of the past year has been spent lashing together thirty years worth of photographs from my many travels to Indonesia into a book. Writing the text, then leaning on talented writer & graphic design friends to lend their eyes and skills to proofreading and organizing my chaos into something that, in the end, I am very proud of.

Originally, my thought process in putting this project together was simply to have a vanity book to share with friends, family and select clients and patrons. After all, tens of thousands of photographs were residing on storage drives and file cabinets full of film captures with no one seeing them other than the few images I have placed on my website, social media platforms and my blog. Why not put together something tangible to commemorate the adventures, if for no other reason?

The book began simply enough.... using the online, on-demand printing services offered at, the project slowly began taking shape. The user interface and templates provided by Blurb were somewhat intuitive and easy enough to navigate after a bit of practice. Six months later, the book took shape even without much in the way of graphic design skills. Enlisting friends to add their advice & critique further added to the final layouts and, what I think is a pleasing flow of images and text. When a friend in the graphic design industry offered her services, the visual flow of the pages was elevated even further.

Now was the time for a trial by fire... send the thing off to print a proof copy. A week after sending off the files to Blurb, the postman arrived with the first copy hot off the press. Having seen a few other projects friends had printed using Blurb, I wasn't quite sure what to expect and expectations were rather low I must admit. Fortunately, Blurb had recently added some beautiful, luxurious paper stocks to choose from and I had opted for one of the more expensive of those choices. Excitedly opening the package, I was blown away by the color reproduction of the photographs, my primary concern. This first copy, however, still needed a little more fine-tuning... a couple of photo spreads were changed to images with greater impact, a handful of typos corrected. The revised files were uploaded and an order for 25 books was placed.

One week later, the books arrived. The consistency of the color reproductions was perfect. I now had on my hands a product that, judging from the responses of everyone I showed it to, could be very marketable. With that in mind, I began researching for an agent, a publisher and a distributor. Online, I found Robert Morton, a NY book agent specializing on photographer monographs who had previously been a photo editor at Aperture Books, one of the leading publishers of fine art photography books. An email exchange ensued. Robert was very kind and very helpful. He told me I had a very interesting and good book on  my hands. He suggested that the book had the greatest sales potential, obviously, to the tourist markets in Indonesia.

I also learned that the market for coffee-table photo books was severely depressed in recent years. Books that I had once paid upwards of $100.00 and more were now selling for under $50.00. That meant that publishing books in mass quantities using the on-demand services at Blurb was now out of the question. Each copy produced at Blurb was costing almost $90.00, even with volume discounts applied.

Being a regular traveler to Indonesia, I was well aware of Periplus Editions, Ltd., operator of fine book stores in great locations in Bali's tourist districts, airports, etc. Periplus is the Asian distribution arm of Tuttle Publishing based in Vermont. Friends in Bali, where I assume the book would potentially sell best, advised me that Periplus had the book distribution in Indonesia pretty well locked up. If I were to move forward with getting this book to market, they were the ones I believed to be best at publishing and /or distributing it. A photographer friend in Bali was kind enough to give me a contact name at Periplus. Finding their submission guideline on their website online, I sent off a book to my contact in Singapore. The submission guidelines advised that it could take 3-4 months to receive a response on my submission. I was both surprised and elated to receive and email 3 days after the Periplus offices had received my submission package. Within that email were suggestions on how to make the book more marketable, a somewhat disappointing suggested retail price and an insistence on a change to the cover image. I was advised that, at this time, the company was not taking on any additional publishing projects. That said, if I could produce the book affordably to meet their suggested retail price and make a change to the cover image, Periplus would offer me a contract for international distribution with heavy promotions in Indonesia and Asia and place an initial order of 1500 copies. 

That email was most encouraging. The book was viable! Now I had to find a way to mass produce the thing more affordably. based on advice of ad agency friends in Honolulu, I solicited printing quotes from 3 printing presses in S. Korea, 1 in China and another through a mid-west print broker dealing with several printers also in China. After some back and forth, I selected one the presses in S. Korea. Several new cover images were submitted to Periplus for approval and, after some back & forth, we finally settled on one that I could live with and the distributor believed would go a long way in increasing sales.

Now, as the Blurb layout & design software was proprietary to Blurb, the entire book had to be reformatted/redesigned for off-set press printing. With the generous help of the graphic designer who lashed the original version into shape, the book files were delivered to the press in Korea last night. Contracts with Periplus were signed and delivered earlier this week. The final cover design and descriptive paragraphs also submitted to Periplus for inclusion in their Fall 2018 Catalog. The agreements with the printer includes shipping to three Periplus distribution warehouses in Jakarta, Singapore and Texas. I am told that Korea will be shipping press proofs for approval early next week and once approved, production and packing will take 3-4 weeks. Once printed, shipping to Periplus will take another 3 weeks by ocean freight.

This entire process has been both frustrating and exhillarating. Now, with any luck, the book will be on store shelves well before the onslaught of the Christmas holiday season in Indonesia and elsewhere around the globe. I have learned a great deal in going through this gauntlet and entering the world of self publishing. Here are some of the very important take-aways I have garnered in the process:

-Details, details, details... pay attention to the minutiae.

-Enlist as many eyes as you possibly can to critique layout,design, etc.

-Proofread until your eyes bleed, then hand it off to others to proofread until their eyes beed too.

-Seek as much feedback as possible

-When you think its perfect, check it again, and again.

-Know your market.

-Seek a publisher or at least a distrubutor with expertise in that market

-Be patient

-Listen to and heed advice from the people who will ultimately be seeing your book

-You will not get rich publishing photo books

-Printing is expensive

-Enlist the services of a design expert. You will be glad you did!

New Lifestyle Work - A Family Vacation
July 31, 2018

A recently commissioned and completed lifestyle shoot depicting a "Family on Summer Vacation" involved both motion and still photography. Seven Model/Actors, One Director of Photography, two cameramen and an equal number of grips, one agency Creative Director, one Account Executive, one Producer & moi all caravanned around the island to three locations all covered in a day. Soon to be seen in TV commercials and print advertising both here and abroad.

A Resort Restaurant Rebrand and an Update to a Maui Classic
July 28, 2018

During the past week we've been busy making images for some fine eateries around the island. First up, a rebrand and redesign of the former "The Terrace" restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua Resort. New interior design by the Phillpotts Group of Honolulu, made to resemble a library as you enter, this is the main breakfast buffet venue for the resort. Clean white lines, broad stone surfaces and beautiful lighting. Now renamed "Ulana", the restaurant features broad, sweeping views of the resort pool, ocean and the Island of Moloka'i across the channel.

Later in the week, we were back at one of Maui's most venerable, iconic and renowned restaurants, Mama's Fish House. Specializing is some of the freshest fish preparations you'll find anywhere, set within a coconut grove along an idyllic cove on Maui's north shore, Mama's is perhaps to most gorgeous "tiki" themed restaurant on the planet. But don't expect any Disney-fied version of that Polynesian theme here.... it's authentic to the core, right down to the wait staff dressed in real vintage mumus. Mai-tais, tropical sunsets, mouth watering creations by long-time chef Perry Bateman... Mama's is THE place for fresh fish in paradise.

I've been making photographs for Mama's for years. This time around, the goal, among other shots , was to capture images of their constantly busy dining rooms and the interior design when it was full of people. Just how to do this had evaded me for a long time.... how to safely light and capture the richness of the interior design during actual service without running cables, light stands and creating a safety hazard for both staff and guests. A couple of scouting & testing trips, I decided that it was entirely possible to shoot using only available light at just the right moment when the outdoor sunlight was fading to twilight. Wrangling up some talent as our focal point and asking them to freeze in place for up to 6 seconds per exposure allowed the other customers in the room to blur enough to be unrecognizable, thereby avoiding the need for signed talent releases from everyone in the restaurant. 

Scenes From A Lost Weekend... 2018 Kapalua Wine & Food Festival
June 15, 2018

Last weekend remains largely a blur... three days of wines, food, celebrity sightings and hangovers as I covered the 30-somethingeth Wine & Food Festival at the Kapalua Resort for the 20-somethingeth time. Much of the rest of the week that followed was spent hunkering down before this fine blue screen editing and retouching the accumulated weekend's takes. I seem to vaguely recall attending a number of tastings, winemaker discussion panels, gala poolside and beachside parties and hobnobbing with the beautiful wine people doing wine-people stuff.

Highlights for me were eating a decadent $65 hamburger of waigu beef, foie gras & truffles on toasted brioche bun prepared by San Francisco and Vegas Chef Hubert Keller, hanging with old friends Shep Gordon, Mark Ellman and Mick Fleetwood, sampling far too many delicious vinos being constantly thrust into my hands.

Downlights were dropping my camera and destroying a $2300 lens (thankfully, the camera body survived). Let that be a lesson to you... never drink and photograph. 

Supermensch Shep Gordon
David Arthur Winery Owner David Long and His Lovely Wife
Mick Fleetwood and Chef Hubert Keller
Chelsea Hill & Mick Fleetwood
Somm Journal Managing Editor Jessie "Jabs" Birschbach w/ Supermensch Shep Gordon
Chef Mark Tarbell Celebrates a Successful Service
Mick Fleetwood w/ Chef Cat Cora
The $65 Burger

Wednesday, May 23, 2018
May 23, 2018
Spent most of Monday shooting my second "biopack" of still images for the Food Network program "Beat Bobby Flay". Last year, it was wonder chef Chefwonder - Sheldon Simeon. This time around, it was working with The Banyan Tree Restaurant at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua's Chef Alvin Savella, who's aptly named Instagram handle is @thekitchenassassin. He killed it, preparing five signature dishes as I snapped away, then fed me deep-fried soft-shell crab for breakfast. I think I'm in love! All day yesterday spent prepping and retouching Monday's take and delivering to Chef Flay's production team.
News on the Bali book front... an offer has been received from a preferred distribution company to place the book throughout Indonesia and the USA. Details of the deal are being hammered out as I type and print houses in S. Korea & China being solicited for quotes on printing en masse in a more affordable fashion. 

Stay tuned!

Interior Design Project
May 15, 2018
A recently completed project featuring the always stunning interior design elements of Kari Demond of KLM Interiors, Austin, Texas at the Montage Kapalua Bay Residences here on Maui.
Announcing The Release of My New Book: "Bali: Portraits of Life, Culture & Ritual"
April 15, 2018

I am so excited to announce the publication and release of my book on Balinese culture and rituals of devotion. 124 pages, hard cover linen bound with glossy full color dust jacket. Over 120 beautiful color & black and white photographs and armchair anthropological descriptive collected from 30 years of annual visits to the island. In honor of the initial release, I am offering signed and numbered copies at the discounted price of $115 plus postage (Hawaii residents add 4.167% tax). To get in on the discounted price, you can message me here or email me at :

Click Above to Preview and Purchase Online

New York Times "On Location" Feature
March 21, 2018

Photographed a cool prototype home for off-grid, sustainable living commissioned by NYT Photo Editor Phaedra Brown. The story popped up online early last week and ran in the Sunday NYT print edition on Sunday 3/17. 

You can view the online version and the slideshow of photographs here:

Monday, January 15, 2018
January 15, 2018

Woke early Saturday morning for the customary dog walk and surf check. While at the beach, my phone began screeching & the message above appeared on the screen. 


38 minutes later came the broadcast: MAJOR FUCKUP FALSE ALARM.

Somebody pushed a wrong button.

Heads will roll.

Exploring Trance Phenomenon In Selumbung
September 26, 2017

"Tomorrow we will go to Karangasem for a ceremony. There may be some opportunities to photograph trance" said Mr. T, my friend, fellow photographer and guide into the world of Balinese "Niskala" (the unseen). Together we had attended several gatherings where people had fallen into trance during previous visits to the island and I was excited at the opportunity to witness and photograph more.

In 1957, the late Anthropologists Margaret Mead & Gregory Bateson traveled to the Indonesian Island of Bali to observe and document the island's culture, societal organizations, art & religious practices. Among the collected works gathered during their stay was a documentary film "Trance & Dance in Bali". The grainy black & white film depicts men & women in frenzied dance and attempting to stab themselves with fierce looking curved-bladed daggers known as "Kris" or "Keris" but unable to injure themselves while in a state of trance.

In the 30 years I have been visiting Bali, most of my time has been spent searching out their Hindu religious ceremonies, their Shamen & Balians (healers) and other activities that would largely fall into the category of "mystical" by western thinking. In Balinese culture, however, the unseen plays an equal role and is given at least as much attention as the visible world. Great energy, time and attention is devoted daily to appeasing and placating an enormous pantheon of spirits & Gods. In doing so, the Balinese believe that they help to maintain the balance between good vs. evil, bringing order to their world and to ours.

Trance phenomenon has been something that has held special interest for me. Hearing about these strange rituals for many years, it wasn't until recently that I have had the opportunity to see and document the activity. In trance, certain members of the community are prone to being "inhabited by spirits"... a sort of "possession" in which the spirit enter the body and communicates through the possessed. Sometimes, when sickness is an issue, for example, a spirit will enter a trancer, usually a Balian (healer), and prescribe proper offerings, etc. in order to restore the spiritual balance of the ill. In rituals such as the ones documented by Mead and Bateson, and in the images I have captured below, the individuals in trance become very rigid, their every muscle tensing, eyes glazed over. Often, those individual in trance will perform ritual dances to their gods, sometimes, animal spirits will take over the body and the individual will mime animal movements and sounds. Almost always during these rituals, men & women alike will make attempts at ritual self-mutilation, turning the large Kris daggers on themselves, beating their upper forearms with the blasé, raising welts and drawing blood in a frenzied activity, then attempting to stab themselves with the pointed blade of the daggers, though while in trance, they are protected and unable to pierce the chest even though great pressure is obviously being applied.

Arriving at the small mountain village of Selumbung, in the Regency of Karangasem, we were met on the road leading to the main temple by a number of other followers and photographers all gathered for the annual ceremony "Ngusaba Pusa" in which the village ancestors are honored. Even before we began walking towards the temple gates a woman, obviously in trance, approached us then passed and went to greet the village "Barong", the mythical beast representing good and positive forces. This was looking promising, I thought as we entered through the temple gates and into the main courtyard. A large group was already assembled and a dozen or so people were already falling into trance and dancing around a smoky fire, aided by the hypnotic sound of the village gamelan orchestra and a man wearing the mask and costume of "Rangda", a representation of the evil witch mother of Balinese mythology. Attendant priests dressed in white were ever present, armed with holy water and incense to watch over those in trance and keep order. A few moments later, a procession of men bearing bamboo palanquins with boxes housing the effigies of ancestral gods approached and entered the temple, along with the Barong and it's tranced escort. As the gods and Barong passed through temple gates, more and more attendees fell into trance, dancing, attempting to self-mutilate until the entire inner courtyard was filled with a euphoric delirium. The trancing continued for the three hours we remained and was still going on when we departed the hillside village. Mr. T did not disappoint in bringing me to this village... he never does. 

Below are photographs shot while in the midst of the ceremony. I cannot explain in great detail what is actually taking place or why. The best explanations I have read comes from Fred Eiseman, Jr.'s, "Bali: Sekala & Niskala Vol I: Essays On Religion, Ritual, and Art". Here, Eisman describes the trance phenomenon as a dissociative state, not unlike sleepwalking or some other form of hysterical phenomenon such as hysterical seizure or paralysis. The person in trance, while not completely unaware of their surroundings, appears to be in a state similar to being hypnotized. Some people are very prone to trance and fall into the state spontaneously. Others may requite other stimuli before falling... the approach or proximity to ancestral gods, proximity to an "energized" Rangda or Barong or the repetitive sound of the gamelan orchestra. In the case of Balian healers, meditation can induce trance. Others are immune to trance and are often relegated to the position of attendants and guardians, assisting in keeping things orderly and non-violent during the ritual. While in trance, some individuals appear to be in a state of euphoric bliss, other appear to be suffering from terrifying visions. Much of their movements in mass trance ceremonies such as this one are ritualistic, as with the dancing and attempts at self-mutilation with Kris'.

 Since my departure from Bali only a week ago, this village and many others in the Karangasem Regency are under threat of a major eruption of Bali's sacred volcano, Gunung Agung, the first since 1963. As of today, over 74,000 villagers have been evacuated to shelters, public buildings, homes of family and friends as they await the imminent eruption. My prayers go out to all...

Approaching the Temple
Barong & Attendants

All Photographs ©2017 Tony Novak-Clifford

New Food Porn
February 10, 2017

A long day spent capturing food porn for new websites of my favorite local chef & restauranteur... mouth/eye watering results.

Hawaii Says No More
January 28, 2017

Very honored to work with Mariska Hargitay and the Hawaii Team at the Joyful Heart Foundation in producing this series of images for the national & local PSA Campaign raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence. Hawaii Says No More!

Pictured below is Mariska w/ Dr. Kamana'opono Crabbe

January 25, 2017
Saturday Civil Dissent
January 23, 2017

Attended the Women's March on Maui over the weekend. The Friday frowns were turned upside down as an estimated crowd of 5,000 peacefully turned out to be counted and demanding representation.

January 06, 2017
Becca, Queen Street Tattoo, Honolulu, Hawaii 1/4/2017
Holiday Print Sale - Week #3
December 05, 2016

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: Untitled 
Image Size: 15"x 20" 
Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm 
Ink: Epson Archival Pigment 
Edition: Limited Edition of 25 Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed), Signed & Numbered 
Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash 
Contact me by email at: 
Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

Holiday Print Sale - Week# 2
November 28, 2016

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: "Dawn Cane Burn #1" 

Image Size: 15"x 20" 

Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm 

Ink: Epson Archival Pigment 

Edition: Limited Edition of 25 Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed), Signed & Numbered 

Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash 

Contact me by email at: 

Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

Holiday Print Sale
November 22, 2016

Give the Gift of Art...

Each week leading up to the holiday season, I will be offering Limited Edition Archival Pigment Prints from my series "After the Fire: The Final Days of Sugar in Hawaii" for sale. Here is this week's offering:

Title: "Survivor"

Image Size: 16"x 16"

Paper: 17"x 22" Hanemuhle Photo Rag Satin 310gsm

Ink: Epson Archival Pigment

Edition: Limited Edition of 25

Price: $300 USD + Tax (Hawaii Residents Only) + Shipping (Unframed)

Payments Accepted: Paypal, Square Credit Card, Check, Cash

Contact me by email at:

Be sure to include your name, address for shipping and preferred method of payment.

More Burn, July 14, 2016
July 14, 2016

A massive burn at 4am this morning in the Omaopio-Pulehu area of Lower Kula. Four fields set ablaze simultaneously. The equipment operators, security personnel and field workers are getting to know me now. I am a regular fixture at these early morning burns for the past couple of months. 

As dramatic and compelling as the leaping flame/burning fields images are (and there are plenty of them so far), I am drawn to there images made after the flames die down and the first light of dawn begins to appear. The smoke, swirling around trees volunteering to grow amidst the stalks of sugar cane, surviving the flames and standing defiantly as the smoke weaves itself around them to obscuse, then reveal again. 

At one point earlier in the morning, I was caught between the blazing fields with flames leaping 3 meters in the air all around me. The heat was intense, the crackling of the flames deafening. 

Sunrise After the Burn, July 11, 2016
July 12, 2016

You are entering Paia