Batu Caves

I had made a promise with friends Anston and Fattien for a macro shooting session. However, Fattien does not have his macro lens with him hence we decided to make a quick change of plans. We were all eager to shoot, and our hands were unbearably itchy for some shutter clicking action. I suggested Batu Caves, and much to my surprise, they both agreed !! Hence, after a quick breakfast, we drove all the way to Batu Caves for our Sunday shutter therapy.

Batu Caves is one of the many tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, and is a significant landmark that carries immense religious importance for the Hindu populace in Malaysia.
Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

“Batu Caves (Tamil: பத்து மலை), is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.”

If you happen to stop by KL for the first time, you might want to consider this as one of your shooting destination, lots of friendly people, and the limestone cave itself is a marvel to look at. The location is very accessible from Kuala Lumpur city center, about just less than an hour drive away (taking into consideration of the massive traffic jam we get here).

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens (for most shots) and 8mm F3.5 fisheye lens (for wide angle shots)

I tell you, for some weird and unexplainable reasons, kids love me.

Too bad the giant statue outside the cave entrance was under renovation. But then again it was a good thing, or else my photograph would look like tens of thousands of other photographs on the internet.

"my hands are small but they are not yours, they are mine" - Hands, by Jewel

Temple on the rocks, literally.

This place is a monkey paradise I tell you.

To get creative, you gotta get low.

Gotta love the tonality of this image.

Ugh, not enough water for a perfect reflection.

Some stuff on sale in the caves.

Major backlit situations everywhere in the cave.

Some statues.

Have got to love a fisheye lens !!!

The weather was not perfect, it was cloudy, and that rendered overall outlook of the place rather dull and uninteresting. The lighting was too flat, and everything appeared to be very two-dimensional, and I would usually prefer contrasty and punchy images. Nonetheless, photography is not about accomplishing perfection as I have blogged about earlier, it is about how the photographers make do with what the situation which was was presented to them, and the circumstances were rarely ideal. I decided to just shoot first and think about the outcome later. Focus on the subject contents, the things I wanted to include in my photograph, and how to compose them to be tied up together to tell an interesting visual story.

I know very well that I will not get very good colours out of this shooting session, hence while post processing stage I strangely chose to present everything in monotone. I added a tinge of color cast to warmify the images, because I have always loved my images to have a slight warm cast. Just my own preference, nothing significant here. Then I cropped all images to the standard widescreen 16:9 format, something I have never or rarely done before (first presentation being the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens entry), and added cinema black strips. I know this looks a little out of the usual where photographs are meant to be presented as they are without all the salts and spices. Once in awhile, doing something new and different can be quite refreshing, and I do like my images with some salt and extra spices.

For this shooting session, I only brought two primary lenses to be used mainly on my Olympus DSLR E-5: the Zuiko Digital 25mm F2.8 pancake and the 8mm F3.5 fisheye lenses. I used the 25mm pancake most of the time, and only switched to the fisheye for capturing the wide angle view. Gotta admit you can do wonders with an actual horizontal 180 degrees field of view, sweeping anything from the left to the right corner of the lens. I even brought my tripod along, and did some minor HDR experimentation. I did three brackets, -1EV, 0EV and +1EV and then merge the three photos together in Photomatix. I then realized that the three files spaced at such close EV difference intervals did not yield that much advantage, I should have spaced them out by +/= 2 EV to capture a much wider dynamic range. There will always be future opportunities.

A HDR experimentation, was not very successful, but hey, lets try again some other time. But still loving the fisheye lens.

Another view of the cave interiors.

A stray photographer in action.

No shoes

Fire that burns for you


Temple helper.

What a place to lounge around on Sunday morning.

An extremely close up portrait shot of a young Indian boy.

There were MANY kids flying around the place.

I like the harsh bokeh !!! It looks better this way in this photo, than a smooth, creamy one right?

Friendly dudes.

Lucky kid, who did not have to walk all the way up.

Anston, me and Fattien, enjoying ourselves at Batu Caves. The photo on the right is courtesy of Anston.

I also have intended to use only the 25mm pancake for all the general shooting apart from the wide angle captures (which obviously you need something a lot wider than 25mm). Using the pancake lens more and more extensively now, I have grown more and more in love with it. True, the F2.8 aperture limit was nowhere as astonishing as the F1.7 on the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens which was made available for the micro 4/3 system (not the 4/3 DSLR) but hey, the Olympus 25mm costs about half the selling price of the Panasonic 20mm, so at this price point, it is not very fair to compare one to another. One thing I did not quite expect was how much I enjoyed using this 25mm pancake lens. I know I can get sharper images with my trusty 50mm F2 macro lens, with better bokeh and better overall output. However, it was the pancake that truly encouraged me to move around more, and perhaps this was due to its wider field of view at 25mm, enabling more background to be captured, necessitating the need to consider more elements into a typical composition exercise.

I would definitely love to return to Batu Caves again, perhaps, during the coming Thaipusam celebration.

Anyone shot in Batu Caves recently? After all, it is one of the popular shooting location for local photographers here too.


  1. Bartosz Dawidowski11/09/2011 01:40:00 AM

    Fantastic shot with the little fella and granny! :)

  2. Nice photos once again, Robin. It's always interesting to see how you exploit the advantages of the 4/3 format.

    I've shot in Batu Caves twice now. It is one of my favourite places to shoot in Malaysia. The Indian / Hindu culture is extremely colourful and expressive, and coupled with the moody caves it makes for great photography.

    Unfortunately, both times I visited the caves I only had a Canon pocket camera with me. Now that I've invested in an E-P3, 45mm f1.8 and 12mm f2 I just can't wait to get back there.

    The first time I visited was back in 2007, when I stopped over in Malaysia for a week during a trip from New Zealand to India. The last time I visited the caves was in August, just three months ago. I remember wishing I had a longer telephoto, for the monkeys, so I might also take the 40-150 ED next time, although it struggles a little in low light. I should be able to visit again towards the end of this month.

  3. Hello Newzild,
    Thank you so much, again you are being too kind.
    When will you be going to Batu caves? If the timing is right, I would definitely love to meet you up and shoot with you there.
    Do contact me directly via my email

  4. Hi Robin,

    I went there today (Wednesday) and just got back tonight! Unfortunately, I did not see your kind offer until now. I thought about your blog while I was at the caves, and tried to emulate your nice headshot people portraits, but only managed a couple that I am pleased with.

    The 45mm 1.8 was great for the monkeys, though, and I am very pleased with the results with the little critters. I did not even bother getting out my 40-150.

  5. hello newzild,
    no worries, I am sure there will be future opportunities to meet up and shoot together.
    I am sure you enjoyed yourself, and you must have come home with many nice photos !! The monkeys allowed us to go rather near to them, so yeah, the 45mm F1.8 works wonders due to the F1.8, giving better bokeh !