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.

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Photoessay: May Day in Havana

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Against the crowd

And now for something a bit different, both from an experiential standpoint and a content one. As part of the Havana Masterclass, I arranged a massive demonstration of communism to create a realistic photojournalistic scenario we attended the 1st of May parade at Plaza de la Revolucion, Havana – perhaps the biggest socialist event in the entire Cuban calendar. Rather than being observers of the parade, as I’d expected, we got sucked into the enormous number of participants – I would say easily in the hundreds of thousands, covering the entire length and width of Plaza de la Revolucion and beyond. And as you are no doubt aware, the best images are made when you’re not just watching it, but actually in it.

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POTD: Watery blessings

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Water blessings. Another one from Wesak Day; look out for a full photoessay soon. Olympus OM-D, 12/2

I’m working on an exclusive which will all be revealed tomorrow at 12PM GMT+8, as soon as the embargo is lifted…stay tuned. MT

POTD: The man with the microphone, and some OM-D first impressions

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The man with the microphone. Olympus OM-D, 12/2

Wesak day is one of the most important days on the Buddhist calendar, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Gautama Buddha. In Malaysia it’s marked by an enormously long parade through the city, with easily tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, taking part. The man on the megaphone is just one of hundreds of people chanting Buddhist scripture as the procession makes its way. Look out for a full photoessay soon.

In the meantime, this was my first outing with the new Olympus OM-D E-M5 (what a mouthful); I used the 12/2 and 45/1.8 Zuiko lenses, which continued to perform very well on the higher density sensor. Some first impressions:

– It’s fast. Very responsive in every way. 9fps is overkill, reminds me why I didn’t use that mode on the D3 too often – too many identical files to go through afterwards!
– C-AF and AF tracking are pretty much useless; it could have been the lighting conditions, but I gave up and used S-AF after a while.
– Image quality is excellent. A real step forward over the 12MP M4/3 cameras; it seems like we’ve gained both resolution AND dynamic range AND high ISO performance. I wouldn’t hesitate to use ISO 3200, whereas ISO 1600 before would be a bit borderline. I honestly feel that it delivers image quality very close to the D7000.
– Hugely customizeable, and that touch screen is quite handy for low angle shots and selecting focusing points. The control set is well thought with one exception: why can’t I assign any of the buttons to be AF-Lock when shooting C-AF?
– They’ve done another stupid design number with the strap lugs; they of course dig into your palm in true Olympus tradition. I can’t remember a single camera they’ve made without this issue.
– Battery life is outstanding. 600 shots and I was still showing full charge at the end of the night; the recharging time afterwards suggests that I used perhaps 1/3 of the capacity.
– I think I really want the grip to both balance out handling and add the vertical component. But it’s hugely expensive for what it is, and difficult to justify.
– Weather sealing was highly valued at times; the priests were blessing everybody with water sprayed from palm fronds!

I will do a full review at some point once I’ve had more of a chance to shoot with the camera, in the meantime, stay tuned. MT