It has been quite commotion recently in Singapore, when the news hit the headlines that the area of Geylang called Lorong 3 will have to be handed back to the state by their owners.
Like in UK, there are many schemes of property ownership in Singapore: you can own the land of your property of just have a lease for a certain time (generally 99 or 999 years). In that case the owners of the properties had a 60 years deals and they have been informed for a while. Most of the houses are sublet to foreign workers, and some also house some places or worship.
This is not a walk down memory lane with charming old houses presenting architectural interest, home of families and smiling old folks. This is rather a set of shabby terraced housed built in 1960, in various states of dereliction. Of course the areas as a historical and Social interest and is worth documenting.
It is hard to believe this “new normal” has already been in place for 7 weeks. A quick heads-up for the near future : a phased “unlock” will start from first of June, the only sure thing is that schools will reopen on on a rotational basis. So it looks I will be able to write a few more of these posts.
I did not take the camera out of my bag this week, or did not even took a bag. Finally today, I decide to put the M262 + 28mm Cron around my neck on my walk to Chinatown to collect my dinner.
Excellent light when crossing from People’s part to Chinatown
The old Samsui woman seems lonely without any tourists around. I hesitated taking pictures of the stalls of Chinatown, all curtains pulled down, but the light was not great.
On the area in front of Chinatown Complex a few old folks were hanging around in relative self distance.
In front of the Buddha tooth relic temple, the incense burner was covered with a cloth, an unusual sight,
Finally I think I managed to capture the new life of the F&B outlets adapting to the crisis by offering take away and delivery, Above in front a a Korean BBQ, delivery men waiting on social distanced chairs.
And below patrons waiting outside the popular Kok Sen local eatery in Keon Siak Road.
Or a Japanese restaurant spelling out loud.
It seems that the female figures will be masked for a while on the pictures
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 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.
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.
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.
The parade involved a group of people walking the whole city center area around the temple. Carrying alms as above.
Dancing as the sound of a band, plating from the top of a lorry.
There i some support for the guy carrying alms or umbrellas, the pink bucket is for quench his thirst.
The birthday boy and the older lady below are paraded on cycle rickshaws.
More dancing …
The auntie had a lot of energy and good sense of rhythm.
I am not sure if they are strictly singers or also MC’s my command of Thai is very poor.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.
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.
Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.
For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.
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.
A small write up today, and I will avoid the temptation to make another complete roll review (although in fairness I was tempted).
The flea market that use to seat in Sungei Road east of the city center has been closed for building a MRT (the local term for underground). What used to be coined as the “thieves market” has slowly moved to Chinatown in the heard of the city.
I am not sure what the authorities think of it, but here is another attraction in one of the tourist hubs of the Lion-city. These guys sell mostly old junk, and it’s rare you will find anything you might want to bargain for … actually as odd as it seems I bought for 2$ a record of Industrial Music, and one of the sellers (not sure how to call them) actually has a few interesting cameras.
You will find old watches and Buddhist artifacts and amulets, and for the rest … you’ll see for yourself.
Sure this will come a popular spot for street photography.
The 4 shots above were taken in a rainy afternoon, with Ultrafine Xtreme 400 iso with the Leica IIIc and the Summaron 35mmF3.5, probably 1/60 second and f3.5.
As I am here I also add as a bonus three earlier shots done on the same film with the Leica M4 and teh modern Summicron 50mm v5.
The Gurdwara dukh Niwaran Sahib is situated in the north part of the city of Patiala in Punjab, 80 km from Chandigarh.
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.
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.
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.
I always enjoy seeing people working; here partaking in the cleaning and preparation of the next day ceremony.
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
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.
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.
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.
The crowd after the ceremony is eager to partake in ice cream, pop corns
It gets dark quickly, and there is nearly one km of little stalls stretched along the car parks.
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.
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.