Taoist ceremony in Dihua old street – Taipei – Taiwan

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I was very lucky last march in Taipei to stumble upon this Taoist ceremony while visiting the Dihua street area with my family and local friends.

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I must admit my ignorance of Taoism, so I will not comment much here. Teh following blog post contains quite interesting information on Taoism in Singapore :

http://weecheng.com/singapore/9eg/index.htm

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Various groups are parading their idols or images of gods around the area of Taipei Xiahai City God Temple.

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Most of the groups as below have musicians, Taoism is noisy and colorful, I learned this a long time ago when I arrived in Singapore.

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This group has gods puppets dance in front of the temple.

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Another group was composed of young people dressed as what looks lie warriors.

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This group traditionally rock the sedan chair when the image of the god is carried, portraying their struggle with the superhuman force possessing the chair once the god has come to posses its image.

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Taipei Xiahai City God Temple

All shots with Leica M262 and Summicron 50v4 or 35Asphv2

 

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Taoist ceremony in Dihua old street – Taipei – Taiwan

You can’t hurry love (About the VC Color Skopar 21mm F4)

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A few weeks back I was in Riceball Photography shop where our friend Leon tempted me with the new Voigtlander 21mmF3.5. This is a beautiful lens, particularly with the metal hood attached. I had a try on my M262 in the corridor of the mall (below) and also a week later on the M6 (above).

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I was very enthusiast about the test shots, very sharp, no distortion to my eyes, no color shift on the digital sensor, unlike the test I did of the old Super Angulon F4 a couple weeks before (see below).

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At a price of about 800USD, even when adding the hood (100USD) and the finder (200 USD for 21-25 metal finder), this is a steal for a bout a third of the price of the next Leica lens.

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VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

At this point I came back to my senses and remembered that I bought a 21mmF4 Color Skopar back in 2013, to fit the Leica IIIc. This lens did not get a lot of love for the following reasons : the plastic finder is shait and was replaced once and repaired twice, the color banding on the digital bodies is awful, more subjectively I have a bit of difficulty with the 21mm : I always end up with skewed perspectives that I don’t like very much and also, yes, 21mm is very wide.

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Street shot : VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder : 21mm is wide but gives very dynamic shots

So the reasoning was that, as I have a 21mm already, why not try to address the finder issue first and if I still don’t love the 21mm then there is no point getting a new one. Of course that does not address the digital issue, but everything in its own time.

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Vertical framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

So lets hunt for a 21mm finder. There is a bit of  choice on the market : the plastic VC, the metal 21-25 VC, the old Leica in plastic or metal version, the Leica Universal Wide Finder. Ken Rockwell vouches for the plastic version of the Leica, but I ended up with the VC metal version that Riceball provided me in two weeks.

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More vertical framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder

The VC metal finder is a nice piece of kit. It feels very good in the hand, (it better for about 200 USD), fits the cameras (IIIc, M6 and M262) and provide a nice view. I immediately tried it on the digital body and on two rolls of film. and I must say I am pleased with the results.

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Horizontal framing checked, VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder
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More Horizontal framing ( VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder)
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More vertical and back light( VC21mmF4 on M6 with the 21-25 VC finder)

So now what about the 21mm? Well I will probably have to shoot more before I decide, but already I think going back to my VC 21F4 by buying a new finder was a smart move : shall I love the 21mm and get the new lens, I already have a finder, shall I want to sell it I have a full kit now, or maybe I can just stick with the 21F4 for a  while.

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The 21 is very (very very) wide, the three street shots in this page were taken at about 2 to 3 meters from the subjects and they feel like I was miles away, so I will really need to step very close for my candid shots.

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I generally shoot 28, 35 and 50 Summicrons, so I must say that F4 is not mindblowing, but this is minor. On another hand the 21F4 is very tiny and pleasant to use, so I feel very comfortable when walking around that I look inconspicuous.

On a final note about the color shifting on digital bodies, some of the Leica profiles help correct it, I think one the 28mm F2.8 profile provides better results that others, have try.

  • Film color shots done on Kodak Portra 160NC with Leica M6 Classic
  • B&W shots done on Kodak TriX with Leica M6 Classic
You can’t hurry love (About the VC Color Skopar 21mm F4)

Not shooting much in Naoshima

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Kusama Iconic Pumpkin in Naoshima

Naoshima is an island town in Japan’s Seto Inland Sea, it has been a long time project to go there, as it hosts several arts museum built by Tadao Ando as well as a famous hotel made by the same architect.

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This year we finally made the trip to Osaka and on the way to Hiroshima we stopped at Naoshima. Getting there seems difficult at first, but in the end it is quite easy, you take the train either to Takamatsu or to Tamano and ferry to the island.

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The Benese house hotel is full 6 months in advance so we had no chance to stay there. We then decided to sleep in Takamatsu and take a ferry for a day trip in Naoshima. Takamatsu is a secondary town, with a big hotel “JR Clement” (a bit expensive for what you get) and a few restaurants where you can manage in english. It also hosts the garden-museum of Isam Nogushi which is well worth the visit.

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A day is Naoshima is probably enough, the Chichu museum hosts some art pieces made to measure and the Benese house museum has an awesome collection of modern and contemporary art. The Lee Ufan museum is also worth the visit, although less well know if you are not into minimalist art. We took a bus to the Chichu Museum with is the furthest palace from the ferry and walked our way back from there.

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The subtle architecture of Tadao Ando is beautiful and invite to meditation. All the buildings are no photo, so you will see here no photos of the them. And I must say I did not miss being surrounded by people taking selfies, not that the place is packed though.

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The rest of the island contains minor exhibitions in some traditional houses and some outdoors installations.

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We spent a nicely filled 10 hours there and probably enjoyed most of it. Time to take the ferry back to Takamatsu

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Pictures shot with Leica M262 and Summicron 28/35 or 50.

Not shooting much in Naoshima

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

Ceremony in the street in Hua Hin – Thailand

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This a somewhat long post (30 shots) of a ceremony I came across in the streets of Hua Hin in Thailand during Christmas break. Getting of the main temple in the center of the city we came across the person above dancing of a building at the sound of loud reggae type music. 02

This happen to be in the honor of a your man turning 20, the one you can see with a shaved head in some shots after.

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I am not a specialist, I believe this guy is going to become a monk for a certain  time. Kids in Buddhist countries often spend some time in monasteries for their education but in Thailand they cannot spend any time as a monk until they reach 20 and it seems this is quite mandatory in a man’s life.

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The parade involved a group of people walking the whole city center area around the temple. Carrying alms as above.

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Dancing as the sound of a band, plating from the top of a lorry.

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There i some support for the guy carrying alms or umbrellas, the pink bucket is for quench his thirst.

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The birthday boy and the older lady below are paraded on cycle rickshaws.1415

More dancing …

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The auntie had a lot of energy and  good sense of rhythm.

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I am not sure if they are strictly singers or also MC’s my command of Thai is very poor.

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That was a very enjoyable moment, I really love shooting these events, and the lovely Thai people seemed not to matter my presence.

  • Color shots: Leica M262+Summicron 35mmF2
  • Black and White shots: Leica M6+Summicron 50mmF2 + kodak tri-x
Ceremony in the street in Hua Hin – Thailand

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.

 

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

CHANDIGARH – THE CAPITOL COMPLEX

 

The Open Hand Monument

So here we are on the last day of our trip, on the road to visit the Capitol Complex; the heart of Chandigarh, designed (partially) by Le Corbusier in the late 1950’s. An ode to modernist architecture that we have been longing to visit for years.

Palace of Assembly

Well not quite; aside from the bad planning (in my own opinion) of our travel agent, visiting Chandigarh is a bit more complicated than we thought. So apart from the 3 sites cited in my last post, there is nothing organised to visit the habitations buildings and finally you have to go through a guided tour to visit the Capitol Complex.

The Shadow Tower

This is not quite all : the two main buildings on the Capitol, the High court and the Assembly are in use (why should they not be after all?). So you cannot enter the High Court and you are lucky (we were) to enter the Assembly ( but no photos inside).

Punjab and Haryana High Court or palace of Justice

Add bye the time the guide assembled the small crowd of tourists we started our visit by mid morning, time was starting to be short and the light was quite bad for taking pictures.

As you can see above the high court is in use with layers in their work outfits.

Palace of assembly

In the opposite site of the plaza from the Hight court, the Palace of Assembly has a better lighting. It is overseeing a large pond and offers a spectacular view.


The holes in the front walls give nice perspectives and see through views.

Patterns on the assembly walls, reminding that man is the scale of the construction.

Getting out of the Assembly House the inevitable Ambassador car, now a civil servant official car, which used to be common taxis.

Mister Mohan

Our visit was accompanied by Mister Mohan, from the tourist Police who turned out to be a friendly person.

A few more things:

  • For the habitations buildings there are no restrictions to go and visit them, ask inhabitants,… we met some passionate french people who were spending a full week there. But Chandigarh is a big city so you better plan for what you want to see.
  • You can “pass by” on a road at the back of the Open Hand monument, in  a certain distance, without getting into a tour and then be able to take picture at better moments (I did not)
  • The tour of the Capitol Complex is a bit rushed through, you are not welcome to wander around or take too long with your photography nonsense,
  • You do not see on the pictures, the parking lots, the vans, the 20 Spanish tourists of our tour, the barriers,…
  • How did I manage to take so poor pictures of a site I longed to visit for decades? It shows (if needed) that some skills need working on.
  • Camera geekerry : color shots Leica M262, black and while Leica M6, Summicron 28 and Summicron 50
CHANDIGARH – THE CAPITOL COMPLEX