Friday, February 26, 2010

Unanticipated Fishy Affair

It was a lazy, lazy Friday morning, which was also the Prophet Mohammad's Birthday, and I found myself waking up unusually early. Perhaps it was the abnormally hot weather lately that it was not exactly that comfortable to be in bed till late in such warm circumstances. Since I got up early, I ought to get myself out of the miserable room, and at least start clicking my shutter right? Not that I have nothing better to do, actually there was a list of errands, but of course, a camera bag shall go alongside all the to-do list items.

Cats are getting quite fond of my lens. They come closer and closer to me each time I photograph them.

One of the items was to go do a quick look-see around Jalan Pasar, where there was a street full of really cheap electronic stuff. I was hoping to find better set of speakers to replace my current bookshelves, but as I was looking around, I found my fingers on the shutter button already !! I guess some habits just cannot be put aside. I did not really intend to do street shooting, but when I find so many tempting subjects around me, I just cannot help it and start snapping away. I was not that familiar with this place, so I just wandered around aimlessly at first, and not knowing what to shoot. This was probably one of the most random photography session I have ever encountered.

From the old shops at Pudu, I found myself walking further and further away from the central area, and arrived at a place that started to smell like a market. Soon enough, I stepped inside a stretch of road full of stalls selling vegetables. Never have I thought I would end up on a morning market busy with so many aunties looking for that extra fresh tomato or cucumber. So I thought, why not just photograph whatever that was standing on my way, and I just continued my journey. The subjects at this place was really fascinating. There were plenty of things to play around: colourful fruits and vegetables, facial expression of the stall owners, the customers bargaining for the best deal, and the busy-ness of the market atmosphere itself was something I have not photographed before.

I am not entirely new to wet markets actually. Once upon a time when I was still studying and working in Perth, I was quite poor hence we had to survive on our own cooking, rather than eating out. Therefore, we would do our shopping at a market, where the raw food were much more cheaper, and far fresher compared to what you get at supermarkets. However, ever since I got to KL, life has become lazier and lazier that nowadays I resort to eating outside most of the time. Should I need any raw food, I would conveniently stop by the nearest supermarket for supplies. Gone were the days of hunting at wet markets. Nonetheless, me being at a market after such a long time did bring back some memories. Although I must say the market here was way filthier and unsightly messy.

As I kept walking and walking, I suddenly ended up in the middle of a fish market. The stench was overwhelming, and the floor was wet all over. Then I started to wonder how on earth did I come to this place. Not that I have anything to complain, I did not stop the shutter from clicking. The folks at this market were very kind and friendly. You have no idea how much they welcome cameras, and they would willingly let me get near and photograph their items on sale, some even posed directly for my camera. A nod and smile were all I exchanged in return, and they would know well enough that it was quite unlikely I would buy anything from them. Nevertheless, I think having a DSLR appearance every now and then did spruce up their otherwise mundanely routine lifestyle in the market.

The atmosphere there, apart from being busy and rowdy, was actually quite warm and inviting. If you can stand the humidity and hot Malaysian sun, and ignore the strong market stench, seeing pass all that can actually find yourself some human connection to the people there. Observe the actions of the people, and take a good look at their facial expressions. The smiles were very genuine, and it was a place where people come together, and I believe the folks were not just there to get what they wanted. There were friendly chatters, and gestures of bonds being forged from constant visits and long history of buyer-seller relationship. I did not successfully capture this part of scene in my photographs, but I did not leave empty handed. What I have witnessed, was quite new to me. It did not exist in the markets I used to frequent in Perth.

In contrary to common belief that market place is usually very loud and noisy, with the folks screaming on top of their lungs trying to grab the passer-by's attention, I did not find the noise level to be anywhere alarming. It was a lot quieter than any pasar malam I have ever been to !! Yes, you do find price yelling there and here, but it was rather tolerable. On the positive note, there was no "almost-pecah" speakers blasting that horrific ah-beng themed techno song, or annoying aunty who screamed her way into the loudspeaker telling you they had the cheapest piece of fake gold bracelet on the street. The price war-shouting were done moderately here, well, I would not even call them shouting. It was comfortable to know this, since the heat and stench were already getting quite unbearable after being around the wet market for quite a while.

They say, to get photographs with impact, you have to get close. Well, I did not get close, they moved the subjects closer to me !! Somehow I think they get more excited being photographed, than me photographing them.

I was being quite careful not to photograph the people directly. After all, this was not a place that is familiar to me, and being first time there, I took all the cautionary measures necessary. Most of the people shots taken from a distance were shot with the long lens. The spontaneous shots were the ones that yielded most natural looking results, with the subjects being unaware of themselves being photographed. I wanted to capture the facial expressions as much as I could, but so many people being there, and walking at such narrow streets, it was not an easy thing to do. For other shots where zoom is not required, I found the wide angle lens quite favourable. I was having very limited working distance, hence getting that extra bit of wideness into the frame was much appreciated. Under shade, the F2.8 aided in gathering enough light, to counter blur due to shake. Man, I find it so hard not to love the 11-22mm lens !!

Found this lifeless car, that has seen better days.

So there I was, caught up in the middle of a fish market. Not quite what I have expected. After all, the best photo opportunities lie at most unexpected places.


  1. nice coverage. I haven't been to a market here in ages myself. Other 'distractions' await me ;)

  2. omg i sooooo love your second photo! i think its officially the best you have ever taken!

    remember subi markets? best fruits ever!


  3. I heard that there's a good wantan mee stall in the market itself. Hehe.

  4. hey brandon,
    LOL thanks. Distractions are good !!

    Hey marcus,
    Thanks !! Second photo? How come you like it so much? ahahaha...
    Yeah man, subi market !! Apples, oranges, grapes and strawberries.. all so cheap and fresh weiii.....

    hey chong,
    weiii... why only tell me now? Should tell me earlier marr

  5. God I love the cat!!! And the crying kid, and also the fishmonger holding his fish. Heh!

  6. hey allison,
    Thanks !! I loovveee the cat tooooooo...