Side Note: Now, I am in ultra super extreme over the edge very busy mode. Pardon my superlatives, but that did not come close to describing how my real busy-ness truly is.
Another Note: I am moving in to my new place tomorrow, and internet connection will be unavailable (sigh). I might suffer IDS (Internet-Deficiency-Syndrome) for at least a week, or even more. Do expect a bit of silence here.
It was coming to the middle of the week when I finally decided to take a stroll down to the historical city of Malacca for a short trip before starting my job as a
Initially, it was intended to be a relaxing and refreshing trip to regain my composure and clear off my oh-so-complicated mind before getting engaged back to the hectic working life. Hanging out with friends, a little bit of sight-seeing, yum-cha sessions, good food, the usual stuff you could typically expect from a simple guy like me.
THE INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL HOUSE
But NOOOOOO. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately if you see it in the sense of glass being half full, things did not go as peacefully, or smoothly as it was planned. The entire trip became so unexpectedly Dramatic.
I never knew my life could be such a drama.
I will blog about my other adventures in Malacca, the food I ate, the people I met and the places I have visited in other separate entries. But in this post, I shall break my chronological ruling of arrangements for my entries. This event took place on the last night (my span was roughly 3 nights and 3 days) I was there.
A FAMOSA The Historical Fort
Lets start the story from the very beginning to avoid any confusions, shall we?
It was the great Jasonmumbles (click) who first sought me up and asked me if I would give him a hand on a rather challenging assignment he had to cover for the local paper, since one of the main photographers was on long holidays. Why challenging you may ask? It was a task to shoot fireworks, and anything under low light conditions, especially out in the darkness of the night may never be easy. Fireworks took plenty of patience and quick thinking + adaptations you would have to make on the spot. There are of course rules and recommendations out there on firework photography, but I believe to obtain that good shots, you still have plenty to decide while you are clicking your shutter.
And so I brought along my huge heavy camera along with a huge heavy tripod all the way down to Malacca.
About the Fireworks, this is the LARGEST and GRANDEST fireworks display to date ever happened in Malaysia. The length of the blasts lasted for 25 minutes, covering from as low as 75m to a freaking high 250m up in the sky. Furthermore, it was themed and synchronized together with the musical playback, with tempo and styling of the fireworks display corresponding to the beat and rhythm of the music. There were over 4000 shots of fireworks covering the sky overlooking the primary historical landmarks of Malacca, including the infamous A Famosa. The setup and planning of the entire event took no less than 12 Pyro-Technicians.
Now, this has got to be really something, no?
FIREWORKS @ MALACCA 2008
There was a list of things to do before the fireworks. Jason was basically in charge of coordinating the entire photo-shooting session. He managed to hook out 3 other photographers (including me eheheheheheh) and he positioned us at separate places to cover different angles and views of the skyworks. Jason himself, plus Fish were stationed at the peak of the multi-storey hotel nearby to capture the overall scene from a far away overall landscape point of view.
Eugene and me were stationed on the ground, very close to where the fireworks were shot. My primary task was to shoot the fireworks as backgrounds, with the historical artifacts, such as the A Famosa, the Memorial House, and the church in the forefront focus. In short, our pictures must include the historical landmarks, with as much fireworks we could fit in the frame as possible.
THE MEMORIAL BUILDING
After the briefing, we all positioned ourselves, and I was really eager to snap the pictures of this event. As it was drawing closer and closer to the event, suddenly, something rather unexpected happened.
It started drizzling. At first.
We all thought the rain would just breeze us by, and be gone in 5 minutes, maybe. We were all wrong, dead wrong. The wind kept pushing harder, the thunders growing more frequent and scarier, and the water pouring down harder and heavier every minute passing by. I thought maybe the fireworks would be cancelled. But the display commenced, even under such harsh conditions !!
Thank goodness, my dear friend Frederick came along, with another friend too, Ah Neng. They brought UMBRELLAAAAAAAAAs !!! Yessss.... we were saved from total disaster, though the whole scene was already disastrous to begin with.
Ah Neng followed and aided Eugene on the ground, while Fred was stuck with me.
RAIN WATER SPLASHING ON LENS
(I purposely did not remove the ghostly figures due to the rain water spotting on the lens, to add the natural feel on how it actually felt like under the wet weather)
I gotta tell you guys, shooting fireworks has always been a terribly difficult task for me. Shooting fireworks UNDER a THUNDERSTORM out in the open is waaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyy beyond challenging. Things was bad for me, because I totally was unprepared for the ungodly heavy downpour.
With a tripod firmly standing on the ground, with an umbrella held by Fred above me, I tried my best to capture some good pictures. Under such harsh circumstances, I was very much restricted in terms of Mobility. It was very hard to move around, since the ground was already flooding ankle high (could have been higher if I was not mistaken) and heavy water falling from the sky prevented me from shooting up directly, since there was an umbrella covering our top.
A FAMOSA BACKLIT BY FIRE
I was standing relatively close to the A Famosa, since my task was to capture the landmark with the fireworks background. In order to cover the entire blasting range of the exploding fireworks, I need to shoot from bottom ground facing the camera up. Unfortunately I was unable to do so, since water was splashing everywhere as people walked by.
Composition wise, it was a total horror.
Allow me to just shortlist the difficulties of taking the firework shots under heavy rain.
- Limited movement, no flexibility to take pictures from different views/angles
- Very restricted framing options: Umbrella as an obstruction
- Poor concentration, since all I could think about was not to completely soak my camera under the rain !!!
- Problems with water splashing onto the front of lens, creating the ghostly distracting dots on the pictures
- Getting your whole body wet was never a good idea. Even my boxers were completely soaked, and the water SQUEEZABLE.
SHOOTING STRAIGHT UP
Nevertheless, I was quite satisfied with the turn out of the pictures. They were of course, far from perfect, or even considered good by professionals, but under such thunderstorm-ic condition, I believe I did all that I could.
Here is the list of aspects that I wished I could have improved:
- Better composition, with moving around a bit more for more variety of angles. I could have been more "daring"
- Wiping off the lens more often to prevent those distracting ghostly ugly dots.
- Use a wide angle lens to cover the upper portion of the fireworks which I could not fit into the frame. (no $$$$$$ for any other lens)
- Trying out the bulb mode, with black cards to control the in between bursts of fireworks. Unfortunately I do not have wireless shutter remote control, hence this method though effective, was impractical for me. (No $$$$$ for that remote control too)
I have had some previous experience with fireworks shooting before, but with my old budget camera. Check the entry here. Therefore, I was rather familiar with the camera settings and combinations to be selected.
Here is a summary of settings I used on my camera, and other tips I adopted.
- ISO fixed to 100 (lowest for my camera)
- Full Manual Control over Shutter and Aperture.
- Shutter varied from 2 seconds to 6 seconds
- Aperture varied from F-13 to F-22
- Manual focus all the time, fixed at infinity focus (since my subjects were all so far away)
- Anti-Shock setting 1 Second (flipping the mirror up first, and delaying the shutter release for 1 Second later to prevent shock)
- Used Live View the whole time for better composition
- Utilized a Tripod
(for the exif data of each picture, just save the pictures on your computer and view thier properties. I am lazy lah ok.....)
It was quite a scary experience. Getting your camera and lens wet was never a bright thing to do. Getting yourself completely soaked under the rain, just to capture the shots, was plain crazy. If you asked me, if it was worth taking such a risk, and making such a sacrifice, I would say, hey.... I am still young. This would definitely be something I would look back and tell people in years to come. You would not expect me to pull out the same stunt when I am 60 years old, no?
SKY IN RED
I took over roughly 30 pictures, and the usable ones are all on this page. I was surprised to learn from Jason that he and the other photographers could come out with over 600 pictures altogether !! My goodness.... as I was thinking to myself, maybe I was not trying hard enough.
But then again, I have just bought this new camera of mine (I will write a blog entry about it soon) and I was just not that willing to take that much risk of exposing it under the rain that much.
HUGE BLAST HIGH UP
To Fred and Ah Neng, you guys are heroes. Without
To Jasonmumbles, thanks heaps for getting me into the photography team. I did what I could do at the moment, and I hope the pictures were at least usable. I know I could have tried harder, but hey, that just means I need to do better the next time. Do not worry, the pictures of your face will pop out BIG BIG on my coming Malacca entries.
End Note: I will be taking a short break from writing entries, maybe around a week or more, but I have got plenty to write about, especially my walk-around in KL for the past week, and Malacca too, stories before the fireworks. And also as I have mentioned, I will write an entry on my new camera really soon.