Daily Inspiration #439 by Kelvin Ng Kiah Boon

Dear Steve:

My name is Kelvin. I visit your blog every morning. I get a lot of inspiration from your blog in order to start my day. I am not a Pro Photographer, but an enthusiastic photographer who work in a Chemical Industry. I treat your site as my morning newspaper to know about the photography world. I will continue to visit here.

I have a little story to share…

I used to watch the Chinese Opera with my mom together when I was a kid. I enjoyed watching the performance, but I never got understand what they sang about. Now I am 42, Sadly, the Chinese Opera is less popular among the new generation in Malaysia. The number of audience is getting less, and only the senior citizen who is still enjoying the show. I remembered during my childhood time, there was always full house in front of the stage.

Recently, I have the chance to take some photo about the Chinese Opera again in my hometown Penang, Malaysia. As usual, the show is organized to celebrate the Hungry Ghost Festival in the Chinese society (Wikipedia: Hungry Ghost Festival).

This set of photo is mainly captured the backstage activity of the Chinese Opera. How they prepared before they delivered the show. I captured their make-up activity, practicing, resting, and the moment to get on the stage. Unfortunately, they spent so much time for the preparation and only to please the small number of audience every night.

I spent three evening and used only Fujifilm X100s to take the photo. I took the photo in RAW, and processed the file in Lightroom with VSCO film effect. I took the shot in wide open, hardly stop down. The ISO was stayed at 1600 most of the time; some were pushed up to 3200 or 6400. I enjoyed using the 35mm equivalent focal length, not too wide and not too long, just sufficient to cover most of the scene. The fixed lens was wonderful, it helped to clear my mind and not to think about what lens to change next.

Gladly, I got the chance to record history, before the Chinese Opera disappeared from the Chinese society in Malaysia. I attached only 3 photo here, but you can view the rest of the photo on my blog HERE.

My blog: www.kbphotographyblog.com

Chinese Opera-9

Chinese Opera-16

Chinese Opera-18


  1. Hi Kelvin,
    when I was visiting China years ago I was faszinated by the Chinees Opera too; the shots on your web site are amazing and I enjoyed them, thanks for sharing these wonderful shots with us

  2. I really liked the first photo, the subject has a great look and the photo shows a lot of personality. The second one is interesting too. You did a good job in difficult lighting (lots of strong point light sources behind the subjects), and it’s good to see someone making nice work with a Fuji X camera.

  3. Your post is indeed inspiring. It is the thing that we as photographers are supposed to do. That is as visual recoreders of life. My compliments. Love the first image the best of it’s lighting. The second phot for it’s emotional appeal. Thank you for sharing.

  4. 42 ? You look younger like 26 hahahaaa . That camera is something special right ? . I really like the pictures . the new leica yummy

  5. I’m doing a little pro-bono work tonight for a local non-profit. I had been dividing my time between out front and backstage. But there will be another photographer there tonight so I am going to spend all my time backstage. I also have an X100S but will be pairing it up with the X-E1 and the XF 1,4/35mm. Thanks for the inspiration! And I agree with NicHughes, I like the first one best!!!

  6. Enjoyed your pictures. Love the film look using VSCO. Beautiful article about a fading art. Now because of your pictures and Steve’s awesome Daily Inspiration column, we get to know about this art form from the other side of the world. Thanks!
    When I visit Malaysia, I will make it a point to attend a Chinese Opera

  7. I enjoyed these pictures, thank you.

    On another note, I would also like to thank Steve for running the Daily Inspiration. It is educational, inspirational and artful arm chair travel that I am looking forward to every day. A nice daily antidote to the news further down on my Yahoo home page…

  8. I lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and every year the square in my local town (Sai Kung) was taken over by a bamboo-built Cantonese opera stage. Can’t say I ever really got to appreciate the music (some cultural barriers are just too big!!!) but I loved the visual drama. These photos bring that back. The second photograph in particular, with it’s backstage/frontstage contrast is lovely. Thanks.

  9. I lived in kl and kuantang late 60’s and early 70’s and your photos brought it all back in an instant! Magical country! I remember seeing shadow puppet show on side of road and parents pulling over for an evening of gamelan and puppetry and it has dwelt in memory as a magical moment ever since

    • It is different now in KL city compare to the 60s and 70s. I hardly see shadow puppet show anymore. If you have the chance to visit Malaysia again, please drop me an email. You can join our group here for photo walk in KL city.

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