Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

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.

Eve of Vesak Day in Brigh Hill temple – Singapore

A morning in Myanmar

During our trip to Chiang Rai one of the most exciting activities available is to walk into Burma, for a few hours only. Driving one hour from our resort in Chiang Saen (already one hour north of Chiang Rai), we arrive in the Mae Sai checkpoint where it is possible to cross the border and enter Myanmar at Tachileik.

This in the Shan State; Tachileik boasts 50000 inhabitants.

Crossing the border is allowed provided that you leave your passport at the border and pay a nominal fee. Overnight stay is not permitted and I read that guesthouses in the border areas of Myanmar are not allowed to host foreign tourists.

The area close to the checkpoint has a busy market where Thai and Chinese tourists like to shop, for cheap counterweight of handbags, watches and so on. We rode a tuck tuck outside of this area in a more rural side of the city with its food market.

Aside from the usual colorful street life, a nearby covered market, shows more food stalls.

But also some fashion shops; tailors, housewares,…

A few streets from there, a Buddhist monastery, hosts young and old monks who were having their lunch when we arrived. There we could witness the ceremonial of meals, who its first, who last who eats what is not eaten by the others.

The main attraction in Tachileik may well be the replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Situated on a small hill. There are a few tourist / devotee stalls outside and food stalls on the parking.

One of the food stalls around the pagoda.

I tried one of these sweet pancakes, delicious. Grilled for you on the spot on the ground of the parking.

Our guide was very knowledgeable or the area and spoke fluent Burmese which made the experience very enjoyable.

3 hours in Myanmar, a new Stamp on our passports, time to head back in Thailand.

All shots with Leica M262 and Summicron 28mmF2.

A morning in Myanmar

Chiang Saen – Thailand

So I finally shot the roll of Velvia 50 that has been sitting in the fridge for nearly two years. As around 20 SGD from the shop plus 13 for processing, this does not come cheap so I was waiting for an occasion to put it at good use. It made the trip to Chamonix last year but flew back to the fridge due to terrible weather in french alps.

I finally used it during the recent trip in Sunny Thailand. I used a Leica M6 classic and most of the pictures here are done with the Summicron 28mm. The film was shot at box speed.

Scanning the slides does probably not give them justice, I think that slides are better projected or printed in Cibachrome (who remembers this?) Here they look like nice digital shots, what they are at the end of the day. Scanned on the Epson v500, they look very close to what I can get out of the M262.

For people my age (50+), shooting travel on slides, reminds or the time where our dad or uncle keen on photography was bringing tons or slides from exotics places he visited and embark us for then boring evenings or projections (including oddly synched soundtracks)

Nowadays I the slides are shoot are mostly Rollei; they are more affordable. Both Rollei and Fuji have color casts one scanned, Fuji in the pink , Rollei on the yellow. On this set of late afternoon pictures in Chiang Saen, the cast is quite pleasant and I did not try to correct it too much.

The meter of the M6 (with new batteries) is doing a good job as only one slide of the roll was badly exposed. Counter-intuitively, slides who are notorious for being picky with exposure are better shot under exposed, the opposite to print film which likes to be a little over.

Chiang Sen, is situated in the most northern part f Thailand inside the Golden Triangle notorious for opium trafficking and more. Situated 1 hour from Chiang Rai and 5 hours drive from Chiang Mai, it is  nice city along the mekong where the 3 countries (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand) meet.

I read once that in the 21st Century, slides are the only serious reason to still shoot film. This may not be totally true, but it is probably the type of film which competes the best with commonplace high end digital image.

Chiang Saen – Thailand

Sydney on Film

I went “down under” for the first time last school holidays. I was now carrying the “new” travel kit:

  • Leica M6
  • Leica M262
  • Summicron 28F2
  • Summaron 35mmF2.8
  • Summilux 50mmF1.4v2
  • Elmarit 90mmF2

5 or 6 rolls of film (I just shot 2) and small accessories.

I overcome (temporarily the urge to by a new camera bag by loading all of this is the very big Crumpler 8Mio and for day to day walks to put in my suitcase a Crumpler 1Mio. The later can fit one body with a lens and an extra lens, my wallet and phone, the second body goes around the neck.

On circular quay there are always a few buskers including this group of aboriginals, playing didgeridoo along with disco beats.

The fish market is packed with Chinese tourists.

Men’s biz : a trendy barber in one of the galleries in central Sydney.

Sydney on Film

CENO2 Graffiti Artist

This is the second time I bump into CENO2  over the past few years he is a Singaporean graffiti artist that lives abroad, apparently often in Chicago.

This time again I saw him working on a mural at Somerset Skate park in central Singapore. This was one of the first days where I was carrying around the M262 and Summicron 28.

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Back two weeks later I saw he had already replaced his drawing with the two followings.

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These were taken with the old Summilux 50mm V2 mounted on the M262.

You can learn more about Ceno2 at https://www.facebook.com/Ceno2Artkhalytis/

 

 

CENO2 Graffiti Artist

A couple of hours with a Leica M9

Mrs B with the Noctilux at F2
Mrs B with the Noctilux at F2

 

In Luxembourg for a few days I had the chance to borrow a Leica M9 from my friend Herman. The camera was passed to me with the Summicron 28mmF2.0 and the Noctilux 50mmF0.95. It was feeling like Christmas in July! As I am planning to rent a M240 + Summarit 28mmF2.8 when back in Singapore this is a very good opportunity.

Theatre de Luxembourg Summicron 28mm
Theatre de Luxembourg Summicron 28mm







Theatre de Luxembourg Summicron 28mm
Theatre de Luxembourg Summicron 28mm

Owning a Leica M4, the Camera feels familiar. It is strange not to have to carry a handheld light-meter with a Leica and not to have a winding knob. The internal meter with its red arrows indicating the over or under-exposure is easy enough to use but probably needs some time to get used to as it’s quite different to other camera’s I own. The speed selector enables an “auto” mode, which enables Aperture priority as in many SLR’s, this is really a great feature. The ISO selection also enables auto mode.

Menus are quite simple, I managed to configure the setting for the Summicron which is not a coded version (ie not recognized automatically by the camera) and change the picture resolution.Gelateria Summicron 28mm

The access to the battery and the memory card by the bottom plate is more funny than anything else. For a few hours I did not need a lot of access, just changing the card for the session.

The optical rangefinder is great, on the 100 odd pictures I took none was out of focus (although not all were artistic).

Le Pacha Summicron 28mm
Le Pacha Summicron 28mm

The Noctilux is awesome, but frankly it is bulky so expensive that I was frightened to drop it. With high iso available do the average shooter (aka me) needs .95? I’ll try my old Summilux 50mm1.4 soon and see how it fares for indoor and night shots.

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Nothing to say on the Summicron, I love the 28mm on full frame, full stop. This lens Is a bit on the expensive side and I will rent the twice cheaper Summarit, albeit F2.8 only, with the M240. There is not much visible distortion on the pictures, BUT the lens does not come with a viewfinder and the camera viewfinder full field is about 35mm. This is probably not an issue for casual shots, but it is a bit frustrating.

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One negative point: some of the grey areas in some of the pictures are showing some artifacts. I will check carefully during next try how often this happens.

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A quick conclusion: this was a very good but short experience, I am now looking forward to renting the Leica M240 this week-end, nearly 3 days shooting in Singapore I will also have the opportunity to test my older lenses. It is a bit early to say if this a definite buy or not.

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A couple of hours with a Leica M9