I was initially invited by Luke Chua to shoot alongside him on this interesting event, happening earlier today, the 112: Kebangkitan Rakyat. This was a rally for protest, mainly organized by opposition parties, in conjunction to the coming general election. Unlike the previous Bersih 3.0 which I have participated, I was not very keen on joining this rally. I have my own reasons which I shall not voice up too loud here as Malaysians do not exactly have freedom of speech, and if I was not careful enough this might just be the last blog entry you will hear from me and I will magically disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow. Therefore, I shall remain neutral on my thoughts, and just did my part as a photographer.
Although I was not looking forward to this particular rally/protest, I did give it a strong consideration to attend as a photographer, not a supporter. When 911 happened, Steve McCurry did not just sit idly, instead he stormed right into the midst of the disaster and made his photography magic work. I knew this 112 event would be huge, could possibly be even bigger than the previous Bersih 3.0 rally. Things could get "interesting", and if there was a good photography opportunity, I would not want to miss it !! Hence, with the right intentions in mind I battled through the crowd of thousands and snap the photographs in this entry. I shall also describe the event as I experienced it, and some photography technicalities.
All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 or 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non-SWD)
Think of our future
Let our cries be heard
High Patriotic Spirit
Busy, busy crowd
I met up with Luke at Petaling Street, which was one of the gathering points, before walking toward the Stadium Merdeka, the ultimate rendezvous for all gatherings. When we arrived there it was close to noon, and the sun was unforgivingly harsh. Later in the afternoon I realized I had been under the hot sun for the whole day and I got quite a bad sun-burn. Nonetheless, we were there with a specific purpose in mind: to get photographs. I did not intend to get tangled with whatever dramas or traumas happening between the people, but I sure wanted to be present if something interesting occurred, and my camera will be ready to capture that moment. We marched alongside the crowd toward Stadium Merdeka, and as expected, somewhere along the walk we lost each other to the sea of people. To make matters worse, since there were so many people, cellphone signal was very weak and making calls or texting were almost impossible. We just have to trust each other that we could take care of ourselves, and I headed toward the Stadium together with incredible amount of Malaysians.
Somehow, the condition this time was a lot less hectic than it was in Bersih that I attended. It was a peaceful rally, and no violence or whatsoever happened. There was no police coming in to cause trouble, no tear gas or chemically laced water cannon to disperse the crowd. The people were allowed into the stadium, the exact same location where Malaysia claimed its independence in 1957 from the British Colonization. Everyone was behaving very well, and this showed just how Malaysians can tolerate and work together hand in hand, being a united nation. We all have our complains and frustrations with the government (to be fair I don't think there will be one government that can be fully satisfy everyone, nothing is perfect) and it was a very matured and civilized way to peacefully demonstrate our thoughts and protest. No harm was done. No lives were lost. There could be slight damage to the public properties (as expected when a gathering of this magnitude took place) but there were also volunteers doing their rightful and respectful tasks in cleaning up the streets during, and after the whole event took place. As a Malaysian, I am proud to be one of them.
That Scary Mask
The poster said stop Cyanide in Gold Mining. Honestly, I don't think there is a way to mine gold without producing cyanide as a chemical by-product. I am an engineer, I know. If you want gold, you get cyanide too. That is just how it works. Until someone smart enough to figure otherwise. Ask a scientist.
That 2 minute fame.
One of the landmarks in Jalan Sultan, Petaling Street.
Jalan Sultan's buildings will be demolished for the further development of MRT project. The locals are protesting hard for this.
It is indeed strange shooting this event at Petaling Street, because it was my street shooting ground. Well, looking it in another way, instead of having my usual shutter therapy, it has somehow been upgraded to shooting a history-making event. Not a bad change, but surely more demanding and it took up almost the whole day for me.
I took along with me my Olympus gear: the E-5 and two lenses only, a wide angle zoom and a telephoto zoom. For events, it is usually easier to work with zooms instead of primes unless you decide to use multiple camera bodies. I wanted to use one body only, so that it was easier to keep track of where my camera is and protect myself and the camera from being stolen/snatched. If you have not heard Malaysia is getting really famous for snatch-theft and daylight robbery now. Be extra cautious when you visit this country !!
It makes sense to carry one wide angle and one telephoto lens. They covered all my shooting needs from 11mm super wide to 200mm on the longest end. In 35mm equivalent format, we are looking at 22mm to 400mm, flexible enough to shoot just enough anything. The trick about shooting this event was not shooting everything, or trying too hard to capture all the things that you see or come across. I selected my subjects or something that I wanted to photograph carefully, and use the right lens to execute the shot. I can change lens very quickly now, probably I can do it even without looking at the camera and lens at all. Hence if I saw something I wanted, and I knew I will make the shot happen. Being comfortable with handling the camera and lenses, and being able to change lens quickly will help you a lot, and worry less about not having the right lens at the right time. It takes lots and lots and lots of shooting experience with the same gear to be able to know them inside out, and handle them well. It was no surprise I always sighed when my friends kept changing gear, because you do not even know your gear, you have not even optimized its usage to the maximum potential, yet you are throwing it away and start everything all over again.
Did I use one lens more than the other? I did not even think about that. When I saw the need to use wide angle I used the 11-22mm lens. When I knew I needed the far reach, came into the E-5 the 50-200mm zoom lens. I think I utilized both lenses equally as much, and both lenses are equally as important. If you ask me which lens I would leave behind if I could, I would say NO, I needed BOTH lenses !!
I know some people ALWAYS rolled their eyes when they saw another photographer using a telephoto zoom lens. They always claim that zoom users are lazy shooters. Seriously, having a telephoto-zoom lens is a godsent gift in events like this one. You just cannot suddenly move yourself 30 meters ahead of you to capture that one shot you saw about to happen. And in the midst of such a messy crowd, having a long lens will compress the background, giving you less clutter to work with, emphasizing on the subject better and having a cleaner, stronger composition in general. When you need a telephoto zoom lens, you need it. There is no excuse.
Now Olympus, please give us a 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 equivalent for the micro 4/3 system. If you have that lens, I will switch fully to micro 4/3 !!
A helicopter passed by, possibly by the media, hence the crowd showed their "NO" sign.
Flag is a strong symbolization.
Ok, I cannot help it I just have to shoot some strangers. I know, I know, I can do it any other day. But my hands were itchy.
Great opportunity to earn money.
Noise is Meant to be Heard.
At one point it did start to drizzle a little. For me? No problem. My Olympus E-5 and both Zuiko Digital lenses were FULLY weather-sealed. I did quietly wish it rained so some of my shots could be more dramatic. Oh well... it did not.
I regretted for not bringing my ND8 filter. As I did some slow shutter speed executions, even at ISO100 I get over-exposed images. I knew I would still be able to recover some details, as all my images were shot in RAW. Nonetheless, having an ND filter would have opened up more flexibility in handling the highlights. And I could slow down the shutter speed even further for smoother motion blur. I do honestly think my slow shutter speed shots were very messy and require a lot of refinement. I should have planned them better and composed closer. As I was panning, using the continuous AF, I just cannot help it but to admit how superior the AF on a DSLR can be. I knew there is no way I could get the panning shots with such high hit rates if I were to use any micro 4/3 cameras, even the OM-D. If only they can improve the continuous AF, and I really hope they do for the next update of the micro 4/3 camera body.
As we made our way into the stadium, things started to slow down. I walked around the stadium and shot around a few shots. I tried doing a panorama shot to fit everything into a frame, but the panorama shot did not turn out as well as I expected. This was the time I wished I have the 7-14mm lens, so I do not have to worry about stitching for wider coverage. Initially I did not plan to move into the crowd on the field, because it would be very difficult to move around, and should something happen, I would be practically trapped in the midst of thousands of people and unable to do anything, or even move. Then I thought perhaps I was being too cautious, as an engineer would always be, and realized things would not turn ugly. Trusting my instincts, I finally decided to move closer to the center of action, where the opposition party leaders gathered and deliver their speeches.
I found a spot, still not as close as I would liked, but it would have to do, because people in front were getting too crowded, and there was no way to penetrate through. The only way to avoid this problem was to come much, much earlier to secure the spots, but that would also mean I would not be able to move away, and not shooting around the stadium. So I just had to make do with the position I had, and used the longest end of the 50-200mm lens to get my shots. Thankfully at the longest end, it was 400mm equivalent on 35mm format, and it was sufficient to have very clear view of the speakers on stage. And at that longest end, the 50-200mm lens is still very sharp, even shooting at wide open. I did not even bother to stop down the aperture.
The idea behind this mask is bulletproof
Together we stand tall
Outside the stadium......
Inside the stadium
People Mountain, People Sea (Chinese Proverb)
Several opposition leaders delivered their speeches, and I could not care less for what they had to say. Politicians always have beautiful promises, but we have learned from history not to be too trusting, humans are never perfect.
It was before Anwar Ibrahim's speech that I decided to walk away from the field, to avoid moving with the full crowd out of the stadium at the end of the event. Phone line was still jammed, as no calls could come in our out. I decided to just walk to one exit and find a clearing, hoping my phone would pick up enough signal to make a call to find out where Luke was. I think we photographers have some kind of mind-link, and we can subconsciously read each others mind. Without even trying to look for each other, as I was nearing an exit I can see clearly ahead of me, I heard Kathy called out to me!! Oh what a joy to finally be reunited with Luke and his lovely wife Kathy !! I felt quite bad for losing Luke halfway through our walk, and it was almost impossible to find him in that sea of crowd and lack of communication means. By some strange miracles we found each other, in a stadium with tens of thousands of people. Luck or coincidence? I don't think so. I tell you, we photographers have some kind of psychic connection. One day someone is just going to prove it true.
The Tower and the People
Behind where I sat
In front of where I sat. The stage was that far away.
A Samad Said, 80 years old, a Malaysian Literature Patriot and hero. He read a beautiful yet powerful poem he wrote specifically for this event.
Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang, Malaysia.
Surely it has been quite a day. I must be honest, there was not enough drama to be captured in photographs, everything appeared rather normal, too ordinary. I did not exactly have any remarkable shots, but hey, it was surely a privilege to be able to attend, and shoot an event, possibly one of the largest in Malaysian history. It was also an honor to shoot alongside Luke Chua, an amazing photographer and a National Athlete. He has got some amazing shots, I have seen !!
Kathy and Luke Chua
Thanks Luke Chua for the amazing photo !! You rock !
January 2013 is surely a month full with events and activities, and surely tonnes of photography opportunities to go along with them. More interesting stuff will happen and I will be there to shoot them. Quite a great start to the year, from the way I am seeing it.
Stay with me, and I will have more stuff to share with you beautiful people !!