Thaipusam 2020 on film

Another long post, but I don’t fill like splitting this story up, hey that’s my third post about Thaipusam this year.

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The first Kavadi bearer

On arriving at Farrer park MRT, we met our first Kavadi bearer.

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Pots bearers

And then more devotees waiting for the traffic light.

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The little devotees

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And the older ones

Then when moving inside the temple the devotees are assembling the Kavadis

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or prepare their offerings

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While others use their phones to snap their friends.

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Looking proud
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Family and friends accompany the devotees.

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The drummer
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A member of a Chinese groups of devotees (and a friend of a friend)
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This one goes into a trance.

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Pictures above are taken Ilford HP5 shot at box speed, I used not to be a big fan of this film, but actually I am very satisfied with these results. The pictures after are done with the Kodak TMY 400, not exactly my usual Tri-X, but i generally quite like it.

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Actually I don’t see any difference, so I may shoot more of the cheaper HP5 going forward.

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Still osculating but looking more steady.

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Holly smoke

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One of the priests of the temple

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Preparation is everything

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All shots with Leica M6 Classic and most of them with the Summicron 35mm F2 AsphvII (the last version), processed at the usual lab (well dropped at Ruby and they get the usual guy do the work) and scanned at home with the Epson v800.

Thaipusam 2020 on film

FIRE WALKING CEREMONY – Another roll on Kodak TMZ3200

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Devotees waiting outside the temple

You can read more about the Fire Walking Ceremony in my post from 2014 (here). In short it is a Indian festival honoring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.

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Devotees waiting outside the temple

Devotees go through a purification period and on the day of the festival they walk from Little India where they get blessing and protective amulets to the SRI MARIAMMAN TEMPLE in Chinatown where they walk through the coals of the fire pit. After this they go at the back of the temple where they discard they protection and offer to the god the beads necklace they wear since the beginning of the cleansing period.

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Devotee entering the temple

This is the 3rd time I am going to the festival. As I mentioned in my last post, total respect to the devotees. I went in the evening as usual with my friend Matte Lim.

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Devotee entering the temple

This is my second or third roll of this film. The first attempt was so so. This is supposedly a new film, replacing the old TMZ 3200 discontinued in 2012. I think the film works well for scenes with good contrast and some lighted parts ; if your scene is grayish you wont get much on the picture.

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Devotee entering the temple

It was night when I attend the fire-walk festival but both places where I was had some heavy lights on parts of the scene.

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Devotee entering the temple

The M6 is great for focusing in the night, even with my ageing eyes, also the metering is quite ok. 

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The fire pit (Heavy back-light fooled the meter)

Most shots are done with 50mm Cron (v 5), maybe some with the 35mm Cron (Asph v2), as I swapped the lens between teh M6 and M262 at some point.

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Devotee removing his beads necklace
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Offering the beads necklace

Processing was done by the usual lab and scanning at home with the Epson v800 , scanning is easy.

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I like the grain, which is quite limited and pleasant imo (but my wife does not).

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The 3 next pictures are my favorites.

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FIRE WALKING CEREMONY – Another roll on Kodak TMZ3200

The year of the piggy

L1006363What took me so long to write the next post? Frankly no idea. I probably said that I have a few other projects, like running a half marathon in June and also keeping an eye on the counter of the bike so I beat my mileage of last year. Plus a couple of family,  friends and (yes) work related things adding up.

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Nonetheless I keep shooting, so here are the digital shots of the week end before Chinese new year. These are shots with the now familiar Leica M262 and the not so faithful Summilux 50mmv2.

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The Summilux is back focusing a bit but I think I manage to compensate for it now.

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Traditional CNY outing is in Chinatown, where you can find a lot of stall selling food.

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And  a lot of people hanging around, shopping or not.

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Amazing enough this year is the year of the Pig again, meaning I arrived  in Singapore 12 years ago and completed the cycle of the Chinese zodiac.L1006388L1006390L1006406L1006408L1006413L1006415L1006417L1006688L1006693

The 50mm is a bit tight sometimes as below; I must say I am a recent convert to the 35 focal length.

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Below one of the many murals in town inspired by local life as it was a few decades back.

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The year of the piggy

Another roll of Cinestill 800

A couple years back I participate in the kick starter campaign for the launch o the CineStill 800 medium format film. I ended up (with a slight delay) with a nice T shirt ( (I spare you the picture for the time being) and a few rolls old the said film.

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I have already shot a few rolls and I must think of going through the reminder before they expire. The Hassie also did not get much action this year so I loaded a roll when I went to the Leica User Group Singapore outing to the Red Hill market area.

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Above is the best shot of the roll. This lady sing sings the market for the greatest pleasure of the people around. The film was rated at 640 ISO, the day was a bit overcast but most shots were done about F11 1/250.

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This is the seventh month of the Chinese year and it is the time were the dead visit the world of the livings and displays of religious artifacts as above are common over Singapore, to please them and let them go back in peace.

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We also took a tour of the Red Hill close estate, a public housing estate set for redevelopment.

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I did not manage to shot the whole 12 frames in  the morning, so I went last week in Chinatown to finish the roll on the lantern festival. I shot the remaining frames at F4 1/60s.

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The above is quite OK, the below is not. It is seems a bit difficult for me to measure the light for this kind of scene.

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Shot with Hasselblad 500CM, Planar 80mmF2.8 lens, and a tripod fr the last two shots.

The film was scanned with Silverfast and Epson v800, with bit of white balance and contrast and exposure adjustment in Lightroom.

Another roll of Cinestill 800

Leica M – Model 262 – Back to Digital

So this is it 3 years after borrowing a M9, 2 years after renting a M240 and deciding it was not for me and I better buy a M6 (Which I did), I just turned 50 and offered myself a beautiful M262 and a Summicron 28mmF2.

 

On the first day I went out to the Kong Siak road festival and managed to catch the following shots with the Summilux 50mm VII.

 

A more elaborated review will follow shortly, but it was time to share those.

Leica M – Model 262 – Back to Digital

Calcutta – The potters colony

The first stop of our fourth trip to India was Calcutta, or Kolkata as it is called now.

At first I was very excited to go to India at the period of Diwali the festival of lights, but it turned out that is is more a private event celebrated at home than something you can experience in the street. True, the cities were all lighted-up and people were busy shopping for lights and decorations for their homes. Actually, that week was just after the Durga puja which is a popular celebration in West Bengal, but also the week of Kali Puja which is another big celebration in the area. And particularly in Calcutta.

If we were first struck on the night of our arrival by the number of people sleeping in the street, we were also very surprised to see number of bamboo structures being erected across the city. This, were we told, was for the construction of temporary temples for the upcoming Kali puja.

The next day one of the highlights of our tour was the “potters colony” or Kumartuli. I did not do much research before and was afraid to be inflicted one of the pseudo artisanal attractions you see from time to time. It turned out that the potters colony is the place where these craftsmen are building statues of deities (or idols as our guide reffer to them) for the various celebrations of the hindu year. That week all the colony was busy making statues of Kali for the upcoming festival.


The highly decorated statues present Kali, with a necklace of severed demons heads that she defeated but also stepping on her husband Shiva, she generally has her tongue sticking out. The explanation we were given can also be found on wikipedia:

Once Kali had destroyed all the demons in battle, she began a terrific dance out of the sheer joy of victory. All the worlds began to tremble and sway under the impact of her dance. So, at the request of all the Gods, Shiva himself asked her to desist from this behavior. However, she was too intoxicated to listen. Hence, Shiva lay like a corpse among the slain demons in order to absorb the shock of the dance into himself. When Kali eventually stepped upon Shiva, she realized she was trampling and hurting her husband and bit her tongue in shame.

It is difficult to imagine that so many statues will found someone to buy them; but they actually do. Strolling through the colony you can see statues of various shapes, colors and sizes; but all describing the same scene. You will see idols at various stages of their completion, from gross straw shapes, to fully finished ones. Most of the statues will have their head covered if they are not finished. Artists are painting the fine details of eyes or decorations, some even using spray paint for shades.

All pictures with Nikon D700 + Nikkor 17-35F2.8D, I use a polarizing filter mostly all the on this lens.

Calcutta – The potters colony

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore

Fire walking is a South Indian festival honoring the Hindu goddess Sri Draupadi, who is the wife of the five Pandava brothers who walked on hot coals to prove her purity.

This is the first time I can go to this ceremony. Total respect for the amount of faith, the sense of community and probably the amount of pain going on there.

The devotees arrive from Little India, a couple of km away in groups, some chanting, some with music, some singing and dancing.

They then arrive a few hundred meters from the Sri Maramiam temple and wait in a staging area.  All of this is very well organized; groups are allowed to pass from one area to the next by the organizers in order to organized the crowed. Some devotees told me they were expecting 5000 people.

I have seem this man many times in Thaipusam in the past years, seeing these people years after years in the viewfinder is one of the attractions I find in photographing these events.

I asked one of the Hindu man in the public how do the devotees group themselves; he told me they are friends and make a kind of team that make each of them stronger and helps them going through the ritual. Like a sport team he told me, doing this on your own would be much more difficult.

I did not really thought I could enter the temple, but as I was close to the entrance, one of the organizer asked me if I wanted get inside. I removed my shoes and they even gave me a plastic bag to carry them and I was moved inside the temple. Actually there is a special track for visitors and a different one for devotees.

The track goes along the fire pit, and although we are asked not to stay there too long I could witness two men doing the ritual.

This one above, was walking very casually (so to speak).

This one was more in running mode, you will notice the flower petals he through in the air before starting.

Walking out of the main temple area, people are waiting and resting and going through other stations, I must admit I am ignorant of what the whole pilgrimage consist of after the fire walking itself.

Outside people are resting.

The ground of the temple is covered in yellow power, probably not saffron more likely curcuma, clearly these feet have been walking through fire.

I saw a few times some ethnic Chinese Hindu in Singapore, here is one who was looking to be quite in pain,

I hope you enjoyed this post.

For my Hindu friends if you find a picture of yourself and you are not happy with that, let me know and I will remove it from this album, if you like them, let me know I’ll be enchanted. I am never sure if my schedule allowed but I would really enjoy meeting one of the groups and following you over an extended period of time to produce a photo-book of some sort.

Needless to say that these picture for my own interest in photography and the pleasure of sharing. They are a not for commercial use.

On a side note: I am a donkey sometime; when I pass at the temple on the afternoon I see this older gentleman of a photographer that I meet every year at Thaipusam. Not only did I not take his portrait but I did not ask for his contact. He carries a Nikon F5, if somebody knows him let me know.

Camera: Nikon D700
Lens: Nikkor 85mm F1.8D, only the first one is done with the 17-35F2.8AFS

Fire Walking Ceremony – Sri Mariamman Temple – Singapore