Sunday, June 01, 2008

Largest Malaysia Fireworks Display @ Malacca 2008

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 noob engineer this coming week.

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.


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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

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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?


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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.


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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.


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(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.


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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.


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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.


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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?


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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.


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To Fred and Ah Neng, you guys are heroes. Without your umbrellas you guys, we would not have ground coverage of the fireworks !!! Thanks for being there, and lending us your helping hands.

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.


  1. fireworks is always difficult to capture. don't worry dude. with you being in KL, you'll have plenty more chance to shoot more firework than i do, here, in kuching.

    hey, where's your cbox.

  2. Great Shots you got there! Probably the Melaka Government might want to reorganize the event after looking your coverages. Hahaha.. ^.^ Hopefully at that time you can take better photos!

  3. hey your photos turned out wicked! first time taking fireworks? it sure does not look amateurish at all!

    on a side note: my friend (the graphic designer) has updated me. he says he managed to sneak a peek at the new "talents" and their profiles recently not including yours just to get a rough feel of the competition. these stretch out for the next 10 to 12 issues at least. apparently u have your work cut out for u cos some of these ladies are no push overs! super hot bods + outstanding background. for e.g one of them that particularly caught his eye is a national beach volleyball player. so u can already imagine what kind of physique she has. and there is a small handful that are former beauty pageant contestants themselves with accolades like miss photogenic, miss personality, etc.. i'm just wondering how come in real life i don't get to meet such women? these talent scouts are good at sourcing for their subjects! maybe i should hang out more often at beach volleyball tournaments or beauty pageants and hand out my namecard to all the women.

    ok anyway just an update. don't wanna ruin your mood by expressing the odds that are stacked up against u. like i said it takes months for things to get thru! but it looks like u are doing great now as a photographer for hire! way to go!


  4. hey allen !!
    Yeah it was very tough hey.... it was a little bit "sayang" coz, this particular event was the largest and grandest so far, waaaayyyy better than what we usually see !!!

    Hey slinky,
    thanks !!! nah, it will cost them more tax-payers money to re-make another fireworks event !!! then people will start making noise ahahahaha... yeah, if only it didnt rain pics could have turned out WAAAYYYYY better !!!

  5. Hey marcus !!!

    Whoah are u commenting or making a blog entry here ahahahahahahahaa.... kidding...

    Anyway.. do not worry about the selection process and everything. I know it was not easy to begin with, but hey, we all have nothing to lose right? It was good getting exposed in the first place, and I wont be pushing my expectations for much. So do not worry about me ya? its all good, and thanks heaps to you dude !!

    Oh btw, it was my first time fireworks with the new camera. I did the other shoot with the Australian National Day over the Swan River at esplanade remember?? ahahahahh..

  6. nice photes. how u doin anyway,,,

  7. Hey Hunt,
    Thanks dude !! I am good, how about yourself?
    You must miss Malacca a lot eh?

  8. fireworks r so difficult to capture. i tried it with my normal cam =P and the shutter speed is lalalala. hope u get to do photography as ur part time thing cos that's how alvin leong first started. cheers.

  9. Hey Samantha !!
    As much as I love photography, I still need to focus on my primary career now. Of course, if there are opportunities, I would LOVE to start something with it.
    Photography with fireworks? Use tripod !!! Believe it or not, your camera is capable of producing great shots because of the manual functions. But of course, only with tripod.

  10. HOLY SHI-! I missed out all the fun!!! Arggghhhhhh!!!

  11. hey hao !!
    Yalor.... i was thinking if only Hao and gang were there..... would have been so much fun !!!

  12. taking into account that this is your first time, with no space to go wrong or experiment, you did a FANTASTIC JOB,bud!! :D Those are FANTASTIC PHOTOS!! I especially love the er.. something red sky one!!

  13. Hey Ehon !!THANKS sooo much. Yeaahh... it was not easy, but I was quite happy with some of the shots !!
    Composition wise would be better is no rain !!!!

  14. Dude, thanks for helping out and am feel a little bit bad for putting your camera under such harsh weather.

    Honestly, you have churned out quite a number of really decent firework pictures. Probably a little bit of editing to brighten up the fort (so that people can see its the fort), the picture is really good.

    Once again, thanks! :D

  15. And friend, do you know that by posting your own pictures, I dare not post mine and others now.

    Your picture puts my 40D to shame.

    I hate chiuuuuuuuuuuuu...

  16. Dude, your my latest shutter god. Jeez... the perth pictures you took and your compositional techniques for all of your shots are extremely beautiful... it's to die for. I can't believe you shot those perth shots using a kodak digicam. I've always complained about kodak's color and contrast representation.

    Oh yeah, for you... getting a nikon D3 or a EOS 1D Mk3 will be justified incredibly. You've put an amateur photographer like me to shame :( Especially since I am much better geared than you. I am kow-towing at thy feet now XD

    Oh yeah. Do thank Ah Neng for me for shielding my cam under the rain. If he hadn't done that, I think there would be more damage done to my lens and body. My lens already has some stuff in it which I don't know if it's dust or water droplets. Thank god the lens is still under warranty. My cam on the other hand is recuperating under a bucket filled with rice XD. Most probably it'll be in my friend's drybox tomorrow.

    Do come often to m'cca... Oh wait... I'd most probably will be working in KL anyway... Do keep in touch and I will be visiting your blog more often for inspiration. Hope to smell you soon :D

  17. great fireworks pics u got there. tripods are essential for these kinda things. looks like ur picking up photog really quickly. get some nice lenses (the 50 prime and the 14-54) and you're on your way! do check out the pics i've taken with them. cheers!


  18. hey jasonmumbles,
    Dun worry about the stupid rain, it was unavoidable, no need to be sorry !! was a heck of an adventure ahahahaha...

    yeah, the original pics were a little underexposed... need a fair bit of editing to tune things up a bit.

    Hey ur shots are quite ok wad.... just EDIT RUTHLESSLY like what I did ahahahahah....

    Dun hate me lahhhhh... we all love jasonmumbles !!

  19. Hey Eugene,

    OMG I am so not qualified to be a "god" LOL LOL...

    Hey you have got some awesome shots during that crazy night too, i saw ur pics from Jason's lappie, though a few of them suffered a fair bit of shake. But under such terrible windy rain...... its quite hard to steady anything eh? so it wasnt our fault ahahhaaha blame the weather !!!!

    Aiyooo.... me no money to get such expensive cameras lah weiii.... i got this current one wanna pokai oledy...

    Yeah thanks to my friends who came to rescue !!!! Without them we wouldnt have any shots at all LOL.....

    Yeah, i foresee more trips down to melaka... then we go shooting together again, in much better weather i hope LOL LOL

    Hey brandon,
    Thanks for the compliments, I actually admire your skills very much, ahahahahaa love the way you take your pictures. They tell stories.
    Anyway.... I am damned broke lar.... cant afford all those gorgeous lenses.....
    I have seen your fb pics.... and hey.. WTFFFFFF is jason lau doing there????? LOL

  20. thanks dude..

    yeah jason's here.. were u his classmate? i usually bring my e510 around and shoot stuff/ppl whenever i can. next thing is the zuiko 50-200mm lens. i wna get it from at its current price, its comparable with, and even cheaper if i ask ppl to get and bring it to melb from malaysia to escape import tax. happy snappin'.

  21. hey brandon,
    Yeah, knew jason as my classmate back in the secondary school days... crazy dude that was...
    whoah... 50-200mm.. thats total syokness.... too bad i am stuck at the moment, gotta wait for money to fall down from the sky or something...