Snapshots from Malaysia’ independence day celebrations

To all Malaysians, Merdeka!

The National Day celebration for Malaysia takes a different tone this year following a recent and significant shift in the political landscape (as documented by MT here). I braved the insane traffic and impenetrable crowds to experience Malaysia’s 61st Independence Day celebration. Following two full days of back to back intensive wedding shoots, I was physically and mentally exhausted, but that did not deter my spirit to get up at an ungodly hour in the morning and be at Putrajaya (the celebration venue) in time to get close enough to the action. I did not have any particular story to tell or a pre-determined outcome for this series of photographs. When the celebration started I knew I was too mentally drained to command anything out of the ordinary so I decided to just go with the flow, enjoy the immense positive vibes alongside fellow Malaysians, shout the word “Merdeka” repeatedly at the top of my lungs and maybe, maybe be lucky enough to get some interesting snapshots.

Just about 3 months ago the opposition toppled the only ruling government of 60 years (since independence). 2018 marks the first year Malaysia celebrated Independence Day with a different government. I shall steer clear of too much politics – after all we are here to share and talk about photography. However, the change of government has brought about a fresh wave of hope to the people. As we stood up and sang the national anthem “Negaraku” I felt the lyrics carried a deeper meaning now, and I was not alone when I noticed a few others around me weeping while we sang together. This was an important day, as tired as I was from my shoots, I felt the desire to be out there with everyone to witness this special occasion. This is my country, and I am a proud Malaysian.

As I was shooting causally for the morning, I decided to bring the one lens to do it all, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS with the OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Without having any goals in particular, I did consciously decide to add variation to the choice of subjects, making sure to avoid repetition and constantly looking out for interesting moments or something that was catchy enough for a snapshot. Here is the conundrum – I knew I will not be at my peak performance but my fingers were unbearably itchy and I just could not stop myself from shooting. I brought along the 12-100mm anticipating the need to use the telephoto zoom but I ended up with plenty of wide angle shots.

I had so much fun with the crowd, spending time speaking to several strangers, hearing their stories. Witnessing the parade has always been awe-inspiring and being in the crowd of people full of spirit allowed me to absorb some of their positive energy. I came home with not too many shots, but boy what an incredible and unforgettable Merdeka Day it was for me. It re-invigorated my hope for a better Malaysia, and (fellow Malaysians) working together to achieve that!

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and Olympus M.Zuiko 12-100mm F4 IS PRO Lens are available here from B&H


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Images and content copyright Robin Wong 2018 onwards. All rights reserved


  1. rong quan says:

    Happy Birthday Malaysia!!!

  2. Outstanding work, Ming! I’m truly inspired.

  3. These, to me, are the best you have ever posted on this website. You absolutely caught the mood.

  4. Shoibal Datta says:

    These really stood out for me Robin – really, really good. I loved the slow-shutter blur play, esp. the flag-waving B+W in #5. These “look” different from what you usually post (and I mean that in a good way 😉 ). Hope to make it back there soon and take another stab at Pudu!

  5. Just like being there. Already wanting to go back!

  6. Fantastic photos. You say “snapshots” but many of these rank among your best portraits. Inspiring!

  7. Great pictures Robin. Wonderful atmosphere captured perfectly!

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