Thaipusam 2020 – What to expect

2019-05-M6-05-33I am by no means a specialist of Hindu religion, so please forgive any mistakes, I am happy to be corrected. This is a a small guide for fellow shutterbugs on what to expect on next Thaipusan day.

This year Thaipusam falls on 8th of February, it is a Saturday so there is no excuse for not going out and shoot ; and Thaipusam offers many different photo opportunities.

DSC_6791
The Chariot at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (2013 Nikon D700)

The eve of Thaipusam, on the Friday, the Chariot of the temple will take Lord Murugan for a day’s visit to his brother Lord Vinayagar at Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple on Keong Saik Road. Along the route, he stops at several places, including Sri Mariamman temple on South Bridge Road (Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple), to greet the goddess within, a manifestation of his mother. He then continues on to see his brother.

Thaipusam 2010 Kodak Trix pushed 1600
On Clemenceau Avenue (2009 Nikon F4)

The Chariot leaves around 6pm and comes back around 9pm ; then it is parked in front of Tank road temple and visited by many devotees. Later in the night starts the Thaipusam procession : devotees start from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple (Serangoon Road aka SSPT) at 11.30pm.

Inside Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (2016 Leica M4 Cinestill 800)

Doors at Sri Thendayuthapani Temple (Tank Road aka STT) will open at 12.01am on 08/02/2020. You can enter the back of the temple and watch the priests opening the inner shrine, and then let the devotees came in and receive their blessings. The activity is quite low around that time but it gets busier around 2am.

2019-04-M6-04-30
2019 inside STT (Leica M6 Ilford Delta 3200)

Devotees will keep on leaving the Serangoon Garden temple until midnight on Saturday. My usual routine is to reach Serangoon Road temple before 8am. The sun is still very low and and the light inside the temple is dim. The temple and the nearby parking area are used to set-up the kavadis of the devotees and prepare themselves for the procession. Groups are constantly setting up, so no pressure to shoot. All of this happens under canopies to the light can be tricky.

2011 Inside SSPT (Nikon D700)

You can follow one group all the way to Tank Road, or walk a bit faster and move from group to group. Beware, when you reach Clemenceau Avenue, the only way to get inside the temple is to queue with the devotees until you reach the temple. I never did it 10 years, but if you do you will be able to enter the temple by the front door.

2013 Ready to go (Hasselblad 500CM)

If you are not that brave enough, you can walk along the queue of the devotees and arrive at the back of the temple. Where you can see devotees exiting the temple then arriving at the rest are and disassembling the Kavadis. Moments of rest and relief.

2013 After the procession (Nikon F3)

Finally if you go on the path of the procession at night you will see lighted-up kavadis!

I have no idea of what happens at both temples after the last devotee leaves or arrives

L1006570
2018 – Leica M262 – 35mm Summicron asph v2 

So plan for a great day : you can shoot from Friday 6pm to Midnight on Saturday.

A few advises:

  • The Chariot procession can be fun, especially if you spot it in town or upon its return to Tank Road. But chasing it may be complicated.
  • The evening when the temple at Tank road open is interesting, I have been two or three time, I may skip it this year
  • During the day I prefer going the morning like getting ready to shoot at 8am for a couple of hours
  • You can spent another hour at the disassembly area

Practical: the places will be busy, many visitors attend all stages of the event, and many buddy photographers, hot (but I never felt the need to bring water), and yo have to leave your shoes outside of the temples (I don’t mind, but you can also bring flip flops and put them in your bag)

Technical stuff: I shot with DSLR (from 17 to 200 mm), SLR, Leica film and digital and the Hasselblad. This is a busy event, so you don’t have much time to fiddle around. Last year I shot only with 35 and 50mm, with a couple of shots on 28. With 28 and 35 you get a lot of “noise”  in the frame, maybe something around 80mm would be nice if you want to shoot portrait or the actual  moment piercings are performed (I am a bit less interested in this now). People are super friendly but I avoid to be too a nuisance and to thrust your camera in people face, show some respect.

For film: I used 400 ISO for B&W in the temple in the morning , for the night events I used 3200 Kodak TMZ or Ilford Delta and Cinestill 800.

For more information you can visit the Hindu Endowments Board website https://heb.org.sg/

You can see some of my past posts on Thaipusam here.

Thaipusam 2020 – What to expect

Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib – Patiala

L1000246

The Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib is situated in the north part of the city of Patiala in Punjab, 80 km from Chandigarh.

L1000223

It  is the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur came to rid the by then village of a serious and mysterious sickness which had been their bane for a long time. The place where Guru Tegh Bahadur had sat under a banyan tree by the side of a pond came to be known as Dukh Nivaran (meaning eradicator of suffering). Devotees have faith in the healing qualities of water in the sarovar (pond) attached to the shrine.

L1000226

We were very lucky when arriving there late afternoon, as the Gurdwara was preparing for a celebration the next day. Plenty of people where gathering already some very colorful as the young Sikh above. Or the older gentlemen in the following pictures.L1000228

L1000242

L1000249

The gentlemen on the right was here with his family and used to live in what is now Pakistan before India’s partition in 1948.

L1000211

I always enjoy seeing people working; here partaking in the cleaning and preparation of the next day ceremony.

L1000216

We skipped visiting the kitchen this time.

All shots above Leica M262+Summicron 28/50

Below are some film shots, Leica M6, the other summicron, and Kodak TMY 400

Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib – Patiala

Amritsar street photography

Tea merchant

India is a feast for the street photographer, photo friendly people, a lot of color, everything is so different, so many things happening all the time. The tea merchant with his yellow scarf is one of the first pictures I took. Through the window of the car stuck in the traffic jam.

One of the many horse carts around

Soon we had to step out and walk to the golden temple as the traffic was so bad on Sunday. I stumbled on one of the many horse carts with the driver standing up gauging the traffic.

You can read the visit of the temple here.

Rickshaw driver

After the temple visit looking for our car, I came across this friendly rickshaw driver.

In the afternoon we went to Wagah border ceremony; here also the crowd after the ceremony on the way out offers many photo opportunities.

Ice cream

The crowd after the ceremony is eager to partake in ice cream, pop corns

The last pop corn parlor before the border

It gets dark quickly, and there is nearly one km of little stalls stretched along the car parks.

A fruit stall
Some more spicy stuff
“Let’s ride”: the burger stall

There is not enough time to stop at every stall to take some shots of vendors and their patrons. In this early evening, the lights, the fumes and the colors of the stalls make a beautiful composition every meter.

All shots with the Leica M262, Summicron 50mmF2.

Amritsar street photography

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.

L1009716

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)

L1009722

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.

L1009727

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.

L1009729

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.

L1009735

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.

L1009774

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.

L1009807

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

L1009836

L1009840

L1009847

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.

L1009856

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.

L1009869

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.

L1009875

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.

L1009884

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.

L1009904

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

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.

Flickr-1007525

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.

Flickr-1007532

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.

Flickr-1007535

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

Flickr-1007539Flickr-1007550

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

Flickr-1007552

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.

Flickr-1007555
The lake and the “Towers” in the background

Flickr-1007557

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

Flickr-1007560Flickr-1007565

Flickr-1007601
A marmot, the furry local

Flickr-1007611Flickr-1007629

Up the refuge is a small chapel.Flickr-1007636

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.

Flickr-1007633

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

Singapore Photo Walk – March 2016 – Rochor Center

Rochor Center classic view

I joined Bernard Goh’s Singapore Photo Walk outing of March with my son.

Rochor Centre is group of buildings built by the Housing and Development Board of Singapore. It was built and completed in 1977 and consists of 4 blocks painted in vivid colors yellow, green, red and blue.

Rochor Center classic view

This is an iconic building in the east side on Singapore center that can be seen by tourists going to Arab Street or Little India.

The buildings comprise habitations, shops and hawkers ( food stalls). On the ground floor you still can find some religious artefacts.
Rochor Center classic view

Rochor Center classic view

The center has started closing as later this year it will be torn down to give way to a motorway joining the north to the south of the island. A lot of the shops have already relocated, but some are still open. The habitations seems to still be occupied if I can judge by the drying laundry.

Rochor Center classic view

The void desk is a classical feature of the HDB blocks, an open area for inhabitants to congregate and do activities.

Rochor Center classic view

Rochor Center classic view

Our friend Long Siew Leng aka Jumping girl.

Pictures 1 and 2 : Hasselblad 500cm+80mmF2.8, Rollei CR 200 slide film

Pictures 3,4,and 5 : Leica M6, summaron 28mm2.8, Kodak Portra 400

Pictures 6 : Hasselblad 500cm+80mmF2.8, Rollei RPX 100 film

 

Singapore Photo Walk – March 2016 – Rochor Center

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

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 4 – SUKHOTHAI

We had decided to fly from Bangkok to Sukhothai, that was half a good idea as the plane was mid afternoon and staying at the airport we missed nearly a full day of holidays.

Despite its name being quite well known, Sukhothai is actually a very small city. The center is mostly made of hotels and restaurants for tourists visiting the main attraction; the Historical Park.

The Sukhothai historical park is a vast compound of ruined temples just outside the city centre. This is a very large area, better be visited by bicycle as some temples are quite remote. You can easily spend a half day in there. We went for the walking option, but we missed a couple of nice spots.

This man is picking what seems to be algae from the moat surrounding the main temple.

You can find there dozens of temples, shrines and shedis (pagodas), in various states of conservation. You can take hundreds of pictures of Buddha statues in various positions and state of decay.

There are also some nice pieces of water, used for the Kratong festival, which unfortunately would happen a few weeks after our visit.

NORTH THAILAND TRIP – PART 4 – SUKHOTHAI

Moai Galore – Easter island – May 2015

Rano Raraku – Moai quarry

We had the chance to pay a second visit to the quarry where the Moais were carved on a sunny afternoon. The statues were there waiting for us.

The guy above was called “The tattooed Moai” by our guide. He wears a carving of what looks like the westerner boats that came to the island in the 17th century. Was it carved by locals or by un-respectful traveler, that’s another mystery.

Apart from its iconic statues Rano Raraku also offers a fantastic scenery with a view on the ocean and further left the platform with the 11 Moais.

Also the site is beautiful view from a distance.

Camera:Nikon D700
Lens:Nikkor 50mmf1.8 / Nikkor 17-35F2.8 / Nikkor 80-200F2.8D

Most of thee shots make use of circular polarizer, I hope the effect is not too heavy.

Moai Galore – Easter island – May 2015

Singapore Photo Walk – Jan 2015 – Pulau Ubin (1 on 2)

All the rituals are starting again with the new year and the “Singapore Photo Walks” organized by Bernard Goh are part of them.
My son loves them because of the lunch that follows in local eateries; they are quite informal and Bernard makes his best to bring us to interesting places of Singapore; we go some new places and we also revisit some. This is not very technical outing, but discussing gear and techniques is always part of the outing. I realized I am no more the only film shooter ; some ladies came last summer with some Canon or Olympus SLR and last month Mano turned up with a Leica M4-P.
So January was time to go back to Pulau Ubin; Ubin is  small island at the north east of Singapore, 10 minutes from the cost, in the middle of the straight between Singapore and Malaysia. This is my 3rd or 4th time there but the first with the group. Taking the boat is already an adventure, they are some oldish style motor boats that take a dozen people for the ride from Changi Village.
The walk was actually a ride, as Ubin is known as a cycling place among Singaporeans, there is not traffic apart from a couple of local cars and taxis; the island is flat. This is the first time I cycle there, I normally prefer to walk.
Cycling implied that the gear is kept to a minimum. My son took his Nikon p7100, I took the folding Agfa loaded with TMAX100 and the Leica M4 with some Rollei Slide film.
The discovery of the day was the Wei Tuo Fa Gong Temple ;it really made us feel like being on holidays in one of the surrounding countries.
 
The kitchen inside a village (Kampong) house on the island of Pulau Ubin. The man leaving there is selling drinks to tourists cycling by; I think he cooks just for himself.
Singapore is so small we also managed to bump into some friends I have not seen for a while; we dropped out of the group for lunch back at Changi Village and had some Ipoh hor fun (noodles with chicken) at the hawker center.
The  rangefinder of the Agfa is not fixed nor is the winding knob, but the guessometer works just fine thank you.
Second part to follow with the slides soon as they take a good two weeks to process and this week most business were closed for Chinese new year.
Singapore Photo Walk – Jan 2015 – Pulau Ubin (1 on 2)