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Malaysia, First Day….

Feb 1

In In The Field at 5:01am

29 hours, door to door. Check into hotel. Sleep 3 hours. Up at 4am. Go to Thaipusam.


Didn’t know about Thaipusam before this trip, and the timing is completely coincidental, but photographically fortuitous. It is one of the wildest explosions of human frenzy, devotion and religious fervor I have ever been to. It is the Hindu celebration of the birthday of Lord Muruga, and thousands gather amidst the heat, sweat and incense to seek his blessings and render homage. Many bear gifts, simple as a pot of milk, up the long walk to the Batu Caves. Others spin themselves into a frenzy, drift into trances, pierce their flesh, and hoist enormous kavadi on their shoulders. The kavadi is a physical and symbolic burden, a means of imploring help from Muruga.

Many Hindus prepare for the day by cleansing and fasting, and then, upon arrival at the shrine, shaving their heads.


Cleansing is one of the watchwords of the day, as devotees gather at the river to wash and prepare for the hike up to the caves.


It was down by the river that trances were induced and the ritual piercings began. In the intense, sweaty crush, air thick with smoke from burning joss sticks, camphor, and spice smells I had no knowledge of, people yipped, spoke in tongues and were literally harnessed for the journey to Muruga.






Yikes. My head was swirling with the smells, the beating of drums, the feverish cries and acrid air, redolent with incense smoke, not to mention no sleep and a total parachuting into a different realm of senses and beliefs. Potent stuff for pictures. I must have been wide eyed as this young boy, all morning.


Back to the hotel. Sleep. Monday’s on my doorstep…..more tk….

72 Responses to “Malaysia, First Day….”

Dee says:

on February 1, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Stunning shots Joe….Welcome to Malaysia and looking forward for your class

Tim Woodard says:

on February 1, 2010 at 11:08 pm


Great shots! As I was looking at the photos they look like you were not shooting with a flash, and using natural light. However, I know how you shoot photos and know you love to light. So please tell us were you using just 1 SB900 attached to your hot shoe, or did you have some other lighting off the camera?



Doug Wittrock says:

on February 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm

What a happy accident, and some great images. Beautiful colors and textures and light. Wish I was there!

David M says:

on February 1, 2010 at 11:20 pm

So Joe, did you get your head shaved or anything pierced? haha. Love the photos! You truly are an inspiration.

John says:

on February 1, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Beautiful images Joe…

Jomi Garrucho says:

on February 2, 2010 at 12:39 am

Amazing images of your journey. thank you very much for sharing.

Ed Baumgarten says:

on February 2, 2010 at 6:32 am

What a great ‘target rich’ environment………

Kalvin Khoo says:

on February 2, 2010 at 10:53 am

Hi Joe,

Welcome to Malaysia Joe. It was pretty stunning on your shots, this will be your first time to experience how it looks like in Thaipusam. Basically, i just dropping by your blog every day to check it out what new, well and you got the nice shot in Malaysia.

By the way, thanks alot for making workshops and seminar in Malaysia. I wish i can join one of them but i have some financial problems and i can’t make it. Lastly, i’m from penang.



niki says:

on February 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm

since when are you shooting with the “new” d3s ?

Gilbert Wong says:

on February 2, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Awesome shots Joe~! See u this Sat in the KL Seminar hot Shoes Diary~! Excite~!

Ehab says:

on February 2, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Great shots. planning to go there with a friend this month :)

KALBO says:

on February 3, 2010 at 4:32 am

These are amazing shots. I love the colors in these photos and the expressions on the individuals faces.

Euro Traveller says:

on February 4, 2010 at 5:17 am

Simply Amazing !!!

I was in Malaysia 5 years go and it is such a great country. I miss the people, the food and how people lives.

We need more update…please. Bringing memory back! :-)

Denise Hickox says:

on February 5, 2010 at 8:57 am

Amazing photos!!!!! Your work never disappoints. I can’t wait to see more.

shawn chamberlin says:

on February 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

malaysia seems like an amazing place to capture photos. anywhere you can discover new cultures, you’re bound to find new things you’ve never experienced. i love the photos you’ve gotten so far.

syam says:

on February 8, 2010 at 6:09 am

Hi Joe,

Glad that you’re in Malaysia and I take some of your photos to my blog as my greetings to you.

David Jr (Malaysia Asia) says:

on February 9, 2010 at 3:12 am

Amazing pics Joe. Love the 3rd shot and the piercing cheek shot! Glad you had a great time in Malaysia and I really enjoyed your workshop on Sat. Hope to see you again in KL.


hfng says:

on February 10, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Awesome photos. Glad you survived the humidity.

karl bratby says:

on February 12, 2010 at 4:35 pm

super pics joe…

harry eldridge says:

on July 13, 2010 at 11:58 am

Incredible photo of that Hindu cleansing. Magic.

Karthik says:

on May 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Great photos as usual.In India too we have similar Hindu festivals named “Panguni uthiram”.
Check the photos:http://www.flickr.com/photos/10050074@N05/sets/72157626323108254/

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