As per my recent post Saturday was Thaipusam ; Thaipusam is a Hindu ceremony to honor the lord Ram. In Singapore devotee carry burdens and pierce their flesh and walk a 4 km procession to thank the god or ask for a wish to be granted. Most devotees do it every year.I was loosely leading a small group of buddy photographers this year as Thaipusam is a great photography opportunity. Participants are very open, there are colors, action and emotions.
The procession has started at 7pm last night, and when we get at Farrer park MRT devotees are already walking along Sernagoon road, pulling or carrying their burden.
The most interesting part for me is getting inside the temple and assisting to the preparations.
The devotee above will carry a Kavadi.
The preparation starts with offerings as above.
Kavadi carriers often have chains or pots attached to their flesh , or spears as below.
Other devotees like the group below are carrying posts of milk along the pilgrimage road,
This guys is fainting of having trance.
This is the second year I see the man below.
After the Kavadi is set-up the cheeks and tong are pierced.
You can see fire, smoke and photographers (my friend Matte above)
Each devotee is accompanied by friends and family, giving a warm atmosphere of community, support, friendship.
On the way out many of the Kavadi bearers will dance before leaving the temple. This is a very impressive feat, I tried to capture this using a slow shutter speed.
The group below is one of the two groups of Chinese devotees I met over the years.
I was able to show them a picture of 2013.
Below is the other Chinese Kavadi bearer.
Thaipusam is a great opportunity to take pictures of members of the public as below.
Finally I got to Tank road temple for a few last picture. This is a great place to see the devotees getting rid of their Kavadi and piercings.
And for a final picture this man finally arrived looking grateful to his big friend (very big) who is taking care of him.
All these shots with Leica M262 and either Summilux 50mm v2, Summicron 35mm Asph v2, Elmarit 90mm F2.8 Oh I also had the M6 body and shot 2 rolls ; be ready for another post next week.
I 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
This is one of the last rolls of 2019, finished on the 31st December morning.
It is a Kodak Portra 400, shot with the Sumaron 35mm F3.5 lens on the Leica IIIc.
As usual I shot the roll over two weeks, I was lucky on the first day to stumble upon a ceremony at Hong San See temple around the corner, where deities coming from China to be worshiped here were sent back home by the lion head lorry. A few moments later I went to Sri Layan Sithi Vinayagar Temple in Chinatown for a the temple consecration ceremony after its renovation.
December is a wet month in Singapore, umbrellas are out (and colorful).
Pre-Christmas the Orchard road shopping area was busy.
At the “wings” watering hole in Clark quay I finally managed a decent picture of girls in uniform. I just printed it for them, to give away next time I walk by. This was shot wide open at 1/60 or 1/30.
The newly opened Funan mall with its climbing wall is just around the famous Peninsula shopping center with its many cameras shop and my fav lab.
I like the Portra for many reasons, I think it is very good for shots as above with muted colors.
Christmas is also an opportunity to visit churches for office or to watch the Christmas cribs.
Finally on the 31st of Dec, I carried the M4 along, to finish the roll. This was to Chinatown again with a group of photographers. Weather was just great.
I must say I also love the Portra for its saturated colors.
All shots, Leica IIIC, with the Summaron 35mmF3.5 LTM lens and assorted 35mm Viewfinder. Kodak Portra 400
Scanned at home with Epson v800
Dropped for processing at Ruby Photo (not sure who does the actual processing)
I am cleaning a bit of my backlog, and found on my work-space some remaining pictures of our Taiwan trip back in Feb/March.
The only day we decided to take a tour with our friendly guide was also the only rainy day of the trip so it ends up being a no so great experience.
We took off from our hotel in Daan and headed to the North West, to visit what I believe is the Wufeng Lin Family Mansion and Garden. A historical house and garden from a rich Taiwanese family.
This is a very nicely preserved house, a quite interesting visit, not a good as the Lin Family mansion in Banqiao district but still a nice thing to see.
We then drove down to see the change of the guard at the National Revolutionary Martyrs’ Shrine, but we arrived too late, and the rain started. Continuing further west we stopped in Beitou, a suburb of Taipei known for its hot springs
The place made its living through mining and hospitality, including bath and spas.
There is a very nice museum is an old bath house, including the beautiful pool below.
At this point we headed along the Tamsui River to the fisherman’s wharf for lunch. We did not find anything much exciting, had a sandwich and then a long walk, without rain, before finding our car again.
The last stop was Tamsui old street, that we reached after visiting the interesting Fort San Domingo, showing an interesting display of the colonial times. By then the weather started to be very.
We nevertheless spent a good hour walking along the Tamsui River and through the old street with a stop at the beautiful Longshan temple, above and below.
Finally, after a nice Taiwan beer in a dry place, we happily headed back to the city and our hotel ( probably the rain stopped along the way ).
All shots Leica M262, Summicron 28/50/35, it was another day where the weather was not enticing to pull out the M6 and play with two cameras.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The rest of the island contains minor exhibitions in some traditional houses and some outdoors installations.
We spent a nicely filled 10 hours there and probably enjoyed most of it. Time to take the ferry back to Takamatsu
Pictures shot with Leica M262 and Summicron 28/35 or 50.