Dateline: Penang, Malaysia
The first milestone passes . . .
Yes, it has been exactly one year since I launched my mega marathon vagabond odyssey. Now there are a mere 3640 days to go before I celebrate my 75th birthday and the auspicious end of the first leg of this particular journey. I figure that a decade of continuous travel will just about have me warmed up. However, I will keep the details of the following 25-year sojourn a secret for now. Suspense can be thrilling.
Ten days ago I turned 65 years old and now it’s time for new beginnings.
Soon I will launch a campaign to radically alter my shooting style.
On October 1st I head back to India, only this time I’ll traverse deep into the far reaches of the sub-continent to places I have never experienced–locales where unique indigenous cultures still exist in a country where it’s estimated there are at least ten million inhabitants who don’t even know the name of the nation in which they reside.
For the next three months I will be shooting environmental portraits in the wild, very few of which will be accomplished with available light. An array of mini studio strobe lights and all the necessary paraphernalia will be part of what I lug into the wilderness. One assistant will accompany me during this expedition. I will encounter limited internet connection. My “Fine Art Photo of the Day” venture may well transform into “Fine Art Photo of the Month.”
Meanwhile, I’ve shot very few images here in Malaysia. I’ve taken a month off to play the role of computer nerd and have spent sixteen-hour days developing three innovative Photoshop actions that could vastly expand the way photographers presently shift their images into surreal infrared effects, dreamy pastel passions and thunderous tonal temptation-like adjustments. Some of these actions involve up to a staggering 761 steps in behind-the-scenes Photoshop instructions that I programmed into the effects, some of which generate up to 35 layers in the new files. These marathon products will save photographers endless hours of experimentation.
The formal launch of GASP Actions has occurred.
However, I did take one afternoon and evening off during this past month to join a local celebration of the “Hungry Ghost Festival” when Chinese Taoists believe the Gates of Hell open and phantom spirits freely roam the realm of the living. It’s believed these moody apparitions from ancient times have been denied access to heaven so they visit the living world in search of nourishment and lost souls. To appease the deceased, current believers offer food, prayers, gigantic burning incense sticks and paper versions of material goods in hopes of escaping the wrath of doom. Today inhabitants of many local neighborhoods set up temporary altars and stages in the middle of the street for boisterous singing performances and mesmerizing light shows, all in the spirit of entertaining ravenous demons. The first row of chairs at the stage must remain vacant to mortals and is reserved only for wandering ghosts.
Times change. Today’s appeasers have excess pocket-money to afford rather elaborate Hollywood stages with rock-star-type pulsing strobe lights, fog machines and boom boxes that can numb ones auditory senses permanently. The rather conservative Muslim government in Malaysia seems to tolerate such excesses for these celebrations but the normally skimpy, flesh revealing attire of rock-n-roll performers in the West is, of course, toned down a bit here.
But the music was allowed to blast away and the hot babes danced into the night.
This stage was one of dozens set up on local streets. Surprisingly, at this particular venue there were only about a hundred spectators. A local resident offered me a beer at his front doorstep so I’d have a good view. He proudly stated that he and several neighbors had pooled their money and were spending three thousand dollars a night for five nights to host this glowing shindig extravaganza, which was mainly for the local residents. Of course, traffic was blocked so as not to hamper the wanderings of disoriented, mind-boggled ghosts.
Here’s a close-up view of a dancer . . .
And then came dragons . . .
Six-foot tall, dragon-faced incense sticks smoldered at makeshift street altars.
And so, my very short respite from computer-thrill-monotony ended and I went back into my little world of creating stupendous GASP Photoshop Actions.
See these books to learn about traveling in Malaysia.