112: The Rise of Malaysians

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)

Holding on

Think of our future

Let our cries be heard

Flag bearers

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

March On


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)

Supporting hands

Devil's Dance

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 !!


  1. I was not able to go due to work. Nevertheless, seeing all your pictures here is more than enough to tell the whole story

    Love the Guy Fawkes mask pic - my instan favorite

    For a better Malaysia :)

    1. Hello Capin,
      Thanks !! Did anyone from Zuikoholics attend the event? I did not bump into anyone.
      Yes, for a better Malaysia !!!

    2. I'm not sure, I guessed there should be someone over there haha - Azurin Kamal
      As for myself, currently I am too busy with my post-grad study
      Not shooting much, not writing much for Zuikoholics too

    3. Oh BTW, my wife went there with her friends hahaha...

    4. Should ask your wife to shoot on your behalf !!
      Well, I can write for Zuikoholics hahaha

  2. so no practical alternative for cyanide process yet. it will be between gold mining and a residential area with potential economic growth, which one is more profitable for a country in long term.

    1. I don't think there is a breakthrough to safely extract the gold without having cyanide. Sad but true, Government usually would prioritize profits.

  3. Replies
    1. Thanks !! Still plenty to learn and improve !

    2. too bad didnt get to meet you haha, was with the media crowd.

    3. Owh you were with the media? Nice !! I am sure there are future events.

  4. Looks like a great peaceful event. Is that someone shooting a PEN in the lower right of the A Samad Said picture?

    1. Very sharp eyes you have !! I can identify the lens as the 14-42mm kit lens but unsure what camera that is.

  5. You "not exactly have any remarkable shots"? Gee, what a understatement! Your photos of this event are dynamic and cover the atmosphere very well. Even me sitting some 10,000 km from there can feel the mood of this situation. So keep your great work on but always be hati hati.

    1. Thanks so much for the kind words Hugo !! I just felt the composition was a bit off this time, not as clean as my usual shots. But to be fair it was not easy to compose in such a messy crowd as well.
      Thanks for the advice, I will always be "hati hati".

  6. Some very powerful compositions there, Robin. Although I don't have the slightest clue of politics in Malaysia, your pictures show the event, the atmosphere and its magnitude very well. Top notch work!

    1. Thanks Andre!!! We have the most corrupt government ever in the world.... and possibly a dozen more isssues but hey... don't worry too much and my role there was mainly as a photographer. I can go on and on about how dirty malaysian politics can be but we won't accomplish anything either.

    2. Ah, politicians. They promise and promise and just as easy track back and make U-turns if it suits them. It is said that is easier to do business with the Mafia, as at least they are consistent, haha. I always liked this quote from Jefferson: "when the people fear government, there is tyranny, when the government fears the people, there is freedom". Personally, I think that's a very true statement.

      It's good that you record history in your own unique way. It not only reminds people of the power we have, but also how precious it is and how fragile freedom can be. To use yet another quote: freedom requires eternal vigilance.

    3. Very true, and well said Andre. Freedom has to be fought and won over. It does not come easy.

  7. Powerful yet creative shots, you put some of the news photographers to shame ;) Well done!!

  8. Powerful yet creative shots, you put some of the news photographers to shame ;) Well done!!

    1. cy.leow,
      that is not true !! Some of their shots are really impressive.

  9. great!! So great!!! fantastic work, strong images, real life.

    1. Thanks Ugo, still learning and improving !! but real life is the key words.

  10. Outstanding photos. A window on history, through your lens. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Hello Reverend.
      Thanks for the kind words !! My pleasure to share, really.

  11. i was there too, I was walking from University LRT station to the stadium, I think it was 7km walk, with thousands university students from everywhere. I was amazed by how many people gather together in such event, it was very exciting.

    1. Hey Amir,
      That is a loooooong walk. I don't think I can survive haha.
      Indeed there were many people, it was more than I have initially expected ! Good to see so many Malaysians standing together.

  12. Donald W Leitzel1/13/2013 11:48:00 PM

    Great pics of such an historic event. It's good to maintain your objectivity during such an emotional situation.
    Having had democracy for over 200 years, I can say that politicians are best judged by their actions not their words.


    1. Thanks for the kind words Don. I strongly agree with you on your statement that politicians can only talk, but it is their actions that show who they really are !

  13. Hi Robin,
    Politics is not exactly my type but I admire you for this special photographic coverage in which you use your talent to let the world know about Malaysia... Its great to have someone share about his country like this. Here Malaysia is only known for its shopping mall but I have discovered Malaysia other faces thanks to your blog.
    Many of the shots were stunning and convey the atmosphere of the event... we can really feel the tension when looking at the pics... and also nice creative shots using slow shutter speeds... It definitely shows how you have mastered the E5 and that you are one with it when shooting. Love the'Together we stand tall' pic...

    1. hello Johan,
      I love my country very much, and I will fight for it in my own ways, through my lens of course.
      Malaysia is surely known for its crazy shopping malls !!
      Thanks for the kind words on the photos. You were right, knowing the camera is very important, after using the E-5 for a while I felt very connected to the camera.

  14. Cannot attend d event on that day ..visit my son @ hostel maahad tahfiz ..luv d scene captured by u ..miss to take a photo on d street ..did u join d session on this 3rd Feb @petaling street (street photo session by sony )..
    Hadi nik ...

    1. Hey Hadi,
      I checked the petaling street session it is already full. However I am speaking for the 27th Jan gathering at Pudu plaza. Come !!

    2. Registered already ...sure come to see u n d others ..need to hear ur sharing about photography to get d knowledege from old timer like u ..Hahaha ..
      Hadi nik ..

    3. Eh I am not an old timer lah... still quite new to photography haha.

  15. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  16. Thank you for sharing, Robin.
    Love those images. Hopefully I will be able to attand one day.
    Now I am still stuck with year end audit.
    Personal question: Normally what do we shot at hairshow event? The hair or the face? The hair should be the main foucs right? I think I have been invited to the new forest to hunt. (Robin, sorry I always seek your help when I am hitting the wall. Thank you.)
    May you have a great evening.
    John Ragai

  17. Hello Robin, what a wonderful array of photos, so full of colour and passion.....I enjoy your work, keep it up.....Oly OM D5 is just the greatest!!

    Bill Gordon
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada

  18. bv5x4hmn8

    Feel free to surf to my website :: electric toothbrush