Wagah Border Ceremony

The lowering of the flags ceremony at the Wagah border between India and Pakistan is a daily event attracting crowds of locals and tourists alike. It is a well oiled affair and when following a few basic instructions if very easy to attend.

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From the Indian side, once you reached to the last parking before the border you will have to walk 1 or 2 Km before getting to the venue. You need to carry your passport if you are a foreigner, which will bring you to a separate seating area (more later)

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You cannot carry much apart from cameras and wallet. No bags are allowed, I read that bringing in water is not allowed, but you can buy some inside.

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I carried 2 Leica M bodies with lenses and the 90mm in my pocket, my passport, cell phone and wallet without problem.Note that cell phones are not working in the area.

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The venue looks like a stadium with the actual border being at the center. The crowd can go as high as 2000 people from the Indian side.

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The event starts at 5h30pm and last 30 minutes. You need to arrive well in advance ( we were there by 4h30pm ) to secure a seating;  I was told that some people were sent back on the day we were there.

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The ceremony is a show of rivalry and cooperation between the two countries, It starts with preliminaries of Bollywood style music played full blast, and displays of flags.

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After a moment the guards will enter the arena and do their show.

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The crucial bit is the seating, the area reserved for foreign passport holders in quite close to the border and on the top of the seats, this has the advantage of giving us some shade (the sun sets in the Pakistani side and it became very hot at some point), but the view of the Pakistan side is quite limited.

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Also you are quite far ways form the show; the pictures here are done with the 90mm Elmarit on the M262, they give a good description of the event but are not great. Also keep in mind the light it not great and goes down, I needed higher ISO (400, then 640 then 1000) and also the place is very dusty.

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Can you do better? Well yes: hang around until the top sits are full so you can sit lower and have a closer / better view. But the border guards are trying hard to make you sit at the right place.

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At the end of the show it is possible to go close to the border and have a shot or two with some Indian guards.

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I am not a great fan of demonstrations of national pride, but this was really fun. I was a bit concerned by the security aspect, being so close to the border, but it did some seem to bother the many foreigners that were present and I it did not feel unsafe there.

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All shots done with Leica M262, Elmarit 90mmF2.8

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Wagah Border Ceremony

On the road to the Lac D’Allos

One of the exciting bits of our small outing in France southern alps was going to the Lac d’Allos, a place I did not visit in more than 20 years. Allos is a ski resort 2 hours drive from the sea, situated at 1500 meters of altitude with highest slopes around 2500.

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The side of the valley of Verdon opposite the resort is part of the Mercantour natural reserve and its highest pic, Mont Pelat is 3050m.

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One of the popular walks is to go up to Lac d’Allos. This lake situated at 2300m is the largest natural high altitude lake in Europe. It covers 60 hectares and has a depth of 50 m.

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Flickr-1007537From the last parking place, the walk is an easy 45 minutes uphill until the majesty of the lac and surrounding mountains appears.

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When reaching the lake there is a high altitude refuge, providing food and drinks during the day and shelter for the night.

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From the refuge, a lot of path are available, with various distances and difficulties, I walked a few of the in my teens. If you pass by the area and like hiking, this is worth your time.

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The lake and the “Towers” in the background

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You can have another hour of pleasant walk around the lake, admiring the scenery, flowers, drift wood, or marmottes (marmot in english).

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A marmot, the furry local

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The weather even in early July can be treacherous and we had some rain that day, forcing us to retreat in the refuge. Remember that as easy as this walk is, this start to be the realm of high altitude.

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Inside the refuge you can always hope to make some nice encounters and engage in interesting exchanges. Here Gilles from Lille, was walking the mountains for a week. He likes to play music and use it to exchange with people he meets.

 

All shots Leica M262 + Summicron 28 asph or Summicron 50 or Elmarit 90mm F2.8

 

On the road to the Lac D’Allos

Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

For Buddhists Vesak Day marks the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. This is my very first time at Bright hill temple ; it is a huge compound in the center of Singapore.

Bright Hill temple also known as Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, is famous for the “3 Steps 1 Bow ceremony” on the eve of Vesak Day.

Above are monks who are opening the procession. The ceremony starts at 5pm and takes 2 and half hours to complete ending with the monks back in the main hall blessing the devotees with water.

Monks are followed by lay people who will queue all evening and a big part of the night. One people I know said he will go at 3am.

Below people queuing at the start of the procession

 

The main halls are also the occasion to pray and give offerings; mostly candles.

During the day itself, ritual is generally the bathing of the Buddha.

Most shots done with Leica M262 and Summicron 28mm, close ups with Elmarit 90mmF2.8.

Some film shots (with black border) done with Leica M6 on Fuji Xtra 800ISO with same lenses.

How to get there: Bright Hill is quite central  (like in the middle of the island) but may take some time to reach. You can get a bus there (check gothere.sg) which will take close to one hour from CDB or take a cab (more of less 15 SGD).

Devotees and temple staff are quite photo friendly, so as long as you are decently dressed and don’t go in the middle of ceremony you feel welcome to shoot. There is actually a small crowd of photographers.

Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

Sydney on Film

I went “down under” for the first time last school holidays. I was now carrying the “new” travel kit:

  • Leica M6
  • Leica M262
  • Summicron 28F2
  • Summaron 35mmF2.8
  • Summilux 50mmF1.4v2
  • Elmarit 90mmF2

5 or 6 rolls of film (I just shot 2) and small accessories.

I overcome (temporarily the urge to by a new camera bag by loading all of this is the very big Crumpler 8Mio and for day to day walks to put in my suitcase a Crumpler 1Mio. The later can fit one body with a lens and an extra lens, my wallet and phone, the second body goes around the neck.

On circular quay there are always a few buskers including this group of aboriginals, playing didgeridoo along with disco beats.

The fish market is packed with Chinese tourists.

Men’s biz : a trendy barber in one of the galleries in central Sydney.

Sydney on Film

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day four, Monday)

So this is (was) Monday and time to bring back the camera to the shop. I woke up early and decided to walk there armed with the old Summitar 50mmF2.0 and the Voigtlander 21mmF4.0 Color Skopar.

First stop is at the Hong San See Temple on Mohammed Sultan Road.  The M240 shows no mercy for the WWII area screw mount lens : it is obvious the lens back focus; as I said yesterday no point using it if not with live view. The back focusing problem is visible even on the location, so no bad surprise when going back home.

Yes on the close and wide open shots the lens shows some “character”…

A bit frustrated I follow my journey along the Singapore river and put on the Color Skopar.


It is almost midday, the sky is cloudy as usual, so the light is not great. The colorful Alkaf bridge looks very dull on the above. Including the fact that the pictures are coming out with a wide purple band on the right side, even with the leica 21mm profile selected, this is really a no go.


The above is a bit better, but also required a bit of tweaking in Lightroom to remove the purple fringing on the right side.

 

CONCLUSION

So time for conclusion, I have played with the M9 and the M240 this summer, used some new and old lenses and…

1- I won’t rush to buy it: I think this is the most fair assessment I can do: I can probably afford to go to the shop and get a M240 + an Elmarit 28mmF2.8 but my test did not convince me that I really need to do it now.

2 – No mercy : the M240 has no mercy for lesser lenses : you may be lucky with a gem of an old lens, but clearly for me all these old ltm lens I have are useless. No point getting such an expensive kit to produce such below par shots. The weather in Luxembourg and Singapore is quite different but the 28mm Summicron results were far superior to the Elmarit.

3 – Back to film : Do not be mistaken, I really enjoyed the experience, going through the 800 to 900 shots of the week end was a bit painful, I could have done some things better and I may try again next year. Meanwhile I think that I would be more tempted to get a newer Leica film camera and a nice lens like a Summicron 35mm and wait before going digital. But meanwhile the meanwhile, I’ll go back to “junk” gear and Nikon digital. On a side note, I have been shooting recently with the D700 and 1980’s manual lenses again and unlike the Leica I am amazed by the results.

 

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day four, Monday)

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day three, Sunday


This morning I am very adventurous and I try to mount my old LTM lenses on the M240 using some 5 bucks adapters that I own. I have tried the 50mmF3.5 Industar 22, the 50mmF2.0 Summitar, the Jupiter 35mmF2.8 Jupiter 12 (the one that goes so deep inside the camera) and the Canon Serenar 135mmF4 (the bad version) The good news is I did not break the camera and all lenses can fit. I would not bother you with some test shots as I did not make a very scientific test but here are the results:

  • The Serenar does not focus at all, but with Liveview can produce some acceptable pictures
  • The Jupiter seriously back focuses
  • The Summitar back focuses slightly
  • The Industar, probably focuses alright but picture quality is really crap

This said they can probably be focusing problems can be used with LiveVew; if ever you can use it. I found myself having problems focusing with the screen in bright light and I need my reading glasses to do so. This is another lesson for me: LiveView on the go is not really for rme, why would I want a rangefinder if I though otherwise?

So I finished playing and walked to Little India with the Summilux and the Elmarit. First stop Tekka Market.


Once again the pictures are taken at a too low speed. Color rendition is fine for me.

Next I change from the Summilux to the Elmarit and walk to the “” temple when there is a celabration

I spend a while trying to get a nice shot of this musician,; I really like the focusing of the Elmarit; unlike the Summilux which have such a long range. Another cool feature of the M240 is the continuous mode, really handy for street or travel type photography.

I made several more stops on the way back home and in the afternoon I take my back to take some pictures of east coast park and the sea side. On the way back, Right on time I rode back via the new sport hub (below)

I pass by gardens by the bay for the sunset over Marina Bay Sands

This was a nice day. I just  forgot to bring the LTM adapters to try the Color Skopar and the Jupiter outdoors, but that’s life.

Final round of shots tomorrow morning before giving back the camera.

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day three, Sunday

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day one, Friday)

This is it, I finally found a way to get my hands on a Leica M240 without breaking the piggy bank : I have rented it for a week-end. I never really thought of renting camera gear, but actually that makes a lot of sense. I managed to have 3 days to play around with this expensive toy for a fraction of the cost. I rented a M240 black and an Elmarit 28mmF22.8 here in Singapore at Camera Rental on new bridge road for less than 400 SGD where the combo costs something around 13K. Quite effective, oh did I mention this is my birthday present (the rental).

So this is it, it is nearly 4pm on Friday and on the way to work I collect the beast. As I said in my last post I borrowed a M9 and Summicron 28mmf2 a few weeks back so I am not overly surprised by the first contact. There are however a few immediate differences:

  • the screen in larger
  • the shutter is a loss less noisy (I could not figure out why the M9 had to make so much noise)
  • the Elmarit is so small, the idea of its price makes me laugh, nobody would ever believe it

I have brought my old Summilux 50mmF1.4 and tries it in the shop, it looks to be working well and frankly it will hardly leave the body.

On the way to the office I stopped at the Yueh Hai Ching Temple  and take a few shots, the weather is overcast and sun quickly going down anyway, so nothing exceptional.

I tried a few portraits while in the office with the available light. Wide open the results are a bit soft and probably suffers from some little camera shake due to the slow speed set by the camera. Yes I made the mistake to set the speed to Auto, I did not realize until later that instead of cranking up the ISO the camera lowers the speed until it reaches 1/focal length. But as the Summilux is not recognized by the camera the lower speed is not calculated (I think) so some shots were done at 1/12th and 200 ISO: ridiculous.

Later I go outside for a walk and take some handheld shots of Marina Bay with the 28mm with manual settings, clearly that fares a little bit better.

I have big plans for the Saturday, so I go straight to bed after work.

Leica M240 – A rented friend for a lonely week end (Day one, Friday)