The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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The alms ceremony in Luang Prabang is a unique ritual that makes the charm of this small city. It is a also a well know one and pictures of the monks lining the streets of Luang Prabang at 5am are famous worldwide. I could not attend it the first time I was there 10 years ago, but I made sure to see it this time.

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The little lady above lives on the other side of the street, where I am shooting from. The people on her right on the first picture are tourists (Korean, Thai, Chinese?) renting a stool, and buying alms from the merchants. So this has become a real touristic attraction, many stools are ready for Buddhist tourists or anybody who want to participate, and the non participating are legion.

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I try to keep a safe distance and show respects for the monks but as usual this is not the case for everybody. This is a bit frustrating, but I generally prefer to miss a shot than to fight or be a nuisance. All of this spoils a bit the ceremony for me, but it can be that I am just a tad difficult.

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I may stand corrected but what make it unique is the fact that monks from the 7 or so monasteries in town go out in the street to collect alms in procession, rather that visiting houses of people who will donate food.

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If you are out in the street at 5h30 you can assist roughly to one hour of procession, and i f you follow the rules you can approach the monks up to 3 meters.

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We were sitting on the pavement of the main street and it is quite busy. I think there may be many “spots”, like places  where the procession turns who may offer better photo opportunities, same from the exits of the monasteries of the path along the river.

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Outside of the center you will see random people waiting for monks from place to place, which surely would enable a closer encounter with this local customs.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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We enjoyed very much sitting opposite the lady-from-across-the-street as we regarded her devotion more authentic. But this is quite subjective and I don’t want to be judgmental.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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Color shots taken on Leica M262 with 50mm F2 Summicron v5, Black and white taken with Leica M6 classic and Summicron 28mm F2 Asph on Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO film.

 

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The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

Zhoujia Qingming

The Lion dance troupes from the Zhoujia style go each year to Bright Hill temple for Qingming celebration to honor their founder. The Zhoujia is a special form of Lion Dance, which is very energetic, founded in Singapore, there are very interesting videos on the history of this martial art, coming from the south China King-Fu. Mister Li, in his 80’s is he current master and the son (or grand son) of the founder

The Qingming or Ching Ming festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day in English (sometimes also called Chinese Memorial Day or Ancestors’ Day).

The troupes gather at the bottom of the slope getting up to one of the temple courtyards (for those who do not know Bright Hill temple, it is a massive compound), they run up one by one up the steep slope (and very sunny last week).

The lion dancers perform around the yard at the sound of drums and pray as different shrines before ending before a table laid with offerings. They then move aside and align waiting for the other troupes to parade as well. A total of 6 groups were present this day.

 

Afterwards there will be some common praying to the ancestor, Kung-Fu demonstration , a full minute of full strength drumming and a final tour.

Not very easy to shoot action with the Hassie.

Hasselblad 500CM+80mmF2.8
Cinestill 50D

Zhoujia Qingming

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

Quite a different athmosphere from GURDWARA DUKH NIWARAN SAHIB when crossing the city we came upon the “Kali Mata Mandir” the “Black mother temple”.

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This beautiful temple is said to be very popular and we preferred to visit it in daytime, before the crowd.

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Devotees are already coming to offer they prayers and ask for the blessings of the black mother. With a bit of discussion with the priest I was allowed to take a couple of pictures of the Divine Mother Kali and the priests (The statue was brought back from Bengal in the 1900’s)

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The Kali shrine opens towards the outside of the compound; through it you enter a courtyard surrounding the temple below.

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At the back of Kali shrine is another shrine of what I believe being the goddess Jyoti; the Hindu goddess of light and the “Vel”. She is the daughter of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati and is closely associated with her brother Lord Murugan .

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People of the temple are collecting offerings for various causes. I gave some rupees I had left for one of them, although I am not sure what it is for.L1000275

I had none for the next ones which were a bit unhappy about the fact.

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The part if the temple below contains an older Shiva temple that opens once a year only, an old local gentleman told us he visited it only once in his life.L1000285

Finally we found  a group playing music and singing in the temple hall; I cannot tell if they were playing for the gods or rehearsing for later ceremony, but they seemed to be very please of our short attendance.

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You can visit http://maakalidevimandirpatiala.com/ for more information

 

Outside the temple a rickshaw rider waits for customers

All shots Leica M262 with Summicron 50 or 28; Rickshaw rider is Leica M6, Cron 28mm and Kodak TMY400

Kali Mata Mandir – Pathiala

The Fire Dragon – Part 1

“it all started as a riot”

 

I felt very lucky last week when a friend of my wife told us a bout a fire dragon performance organized by a temple in Balestier area in Singapore. In 9 years here I have never seen such a thing and was very thrilled to see one.

The Fu De Gong temple is located in Kim keat lane, very easy to access by bus. I have been told by the friendly member of the temple that this is a taoist temple. I did not see the actual temple as we arrived at night fall and the premises were covered by the tent hosting the celebration.

There was maybe a couple of hundred people attending, on one side of the tent was a stage with a Cantonese opera (or wayang) on the other side a large shrine and in the middle an area for the performances.

When we arrived a very good quality lion dance was in process and we enjoyed for a good half hour until the riot begin. From the end of the road the Dragon was approaching; with music and flames; until it finally enters the tent (but that’s another story)…

The Fire Dragon – Part 1

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Lao Sai Tao Yuan; is said to be the oldest troupe in Singapore performing Teochew  opera or Wayang.

These shows are generally performed for the 7th month or during Chinese thanks giving during the mid autumn festival.

They are particularly friendly and you can go backstage to take pictures while they dress-up and do the make up.

All shots with Nikon D700 and Nikkor 85mm F1.8.

Lao Sai Tao Yuan – A Chinese Opera – Singapore

Thaipusam 2013

The wheel of time made another full circle and the Hindu festival of Thaipusam is back again. as it is based on the lunar calendar it falls on a Sunday this year which is just great for having a look and taking pictures.

I wrote in the past about Thaipusam and you can find on Wikipedia some information about the meaning of the the celebration. Let’s just say that in Singapore it is a 4 km pilgrimage between Serangoon Road (in little India) to Tank Road, that devotees walk to thank the gods or to ask them for a favor (and then they will do it the following years to thank them). Pilgrims generally carry burdens, from simple pots of milks to heavy Kavadis. The most spectacular aspect of Thaipusam is that the Kavadis often pierce into the bearer’s flesh, but also some other piercing rituals are performed.

Beyond this, Thaipusam is a great opportunity to actually see faith in action. Apart from photography I am looking forward to this event for its atmosphere and just being there. A lot of spectators attend the event, and in Singapore it is a big photography circus.

The event follows generally this schedule:
– the day before, the Silver Chariot carrying a statue of the god, is traveled in town and comes back in the Tank Road temple, where people gather to pray.
– very early in the day itself, devotees go to the Serangoon road temple where they prepare themselves before the pilgrimage, involving the complex construction of Kavadis
– the pilgrimage itself is a 4 km walk to tank Road, Kavadi bearer dance to the sound of music and are supported by relatives
– In Tank Road, pilgrims go inside the temple to ge the blessing
– outside the temple is the area where Kavadis are disassembles and pikes removed from chicks, tongues, and other body part.

This year i was lucky enough to be able to go to Tank Road on the Saturday, then in the Sunday morning to see the first Kavadis being disassembled, then to Serangoon Road and then back to Tank road in the afternoon.

Serangoon road, between 8 and 10 AM is the best spot for me. Nicer atmosphere, enough light, same photographers I see every year.

This year I brought the Hasselblad and these are the Hassie shots you see with this post. It’s not so easy to shot moving people, but I think the keeper ratio for the 2 rolls is fantastic. I used some Rollei RPX 400 ASA film which I find also just great, the grain is so thin.

I also carried the D700 with a couple of lenses, that will be for the next post.

Camera: Hasselblad 500cm
Lens: 80mm F2.8 Planar
Film: Rollei RPX 400 Pan
Digifilm: Epson v500+Adobe Lightroom 3.6

Thaipusam 2013

Temple in Penang

Temple in Penang
Mosaic on temple roof in Penang

This is a close up shot of the roof of a temple in Penang (Malaysia). The mosaic is made of broken piece of coloured china bowls.

Picture was taken with the D700, I have brought along the manual focus zoom Angenieux 70-200 F3.5. Not as practical as the nikkor 70-210 F2.8D, but a bit lighter. I realy like the look of this picture, really film like; the vigneting is out of the box. One funny thing, the focusing works the opposite way to the nikkor lenses so your have to turn your focusing ring the opposite way to what the rangefinder indicates.

Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Angenieux 70-200 F3.5
Post Processing: Lightroom 3.3

Temple in Penang