Thaipusam 2020 on film

Another long post, but I don’t fill like splitting this story up, hey that’s my third post about Thaipusam this year.

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The first Kavadi bearer

On arriving at Farrer park MRT, we met our first Kavadi bearer.

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Pots bearers

And then more devotees waiting for the traffic light.

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The little devotees

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And the older ones

Then when moving inside the temple the devotees are assembling the Kavadis

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or prepare their offerings

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While others use their phones to snap their friends.

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Looking proud
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Family and friends accompany the devotees.

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The drummer
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A member of a Chinese groups of devotees (and a friend of a friend)
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This one goes into a trance.

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Pictures above are taken Ilford HP5 shot at box speed, I used not to be a big fan of this film, but actually I am very satisfied with these results. The pictures after are done with the Kodak TMY 400, not exactly my usual Tri-X, but i generally quite like it.

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Actually I don’t see any difference, so I may shoot more of the cheaper HP5 going forward.

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Still osculating but looking more steady.

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Holly smoke

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One of the priests of the temple

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Preparation is everything

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All shots with Leica M6 Classic and most of them with the Summicron 35mm F2 AsphvII (the last version), processed at the usual lab (well dropped at Ruby and they get the usual guy do the work) and scanned at home with the Epson v800.

Thaipusam 2020 on film

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

Thaipusam 2019 – A roll of Ilford Delta 3200

Nearly one year ago, in January, I went to Tank road in the middle of the night to shoot a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 at the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple for the Thaipusam ceremony.

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The orchestra

Thaipusam is a Tamil Hindu ceremony where devotees walk from Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Little India to the temple in Tank road.

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The priests

It is interesting to shoot the ceremony at both temples ; at Little India where they start the pilgrimage or here where they finish it.

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I favor the little India location early in the morning ; it is already very busy, but manageable. But for a couple of years I go to Tank Road in the evening before ; it is general quiet, the action (if I can say so) is more subdued. Pilgrims flow through the temple, receive blessings and walk out.

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At the back of the temple is a resting aera and pilgrim receive tea and nibbles.

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A Chinese Hindu devotee

This year I tried a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 with the Leica M6 and the Summicron 50mm version 5. The result is quite nice, the M6 does a good job once again, the light meter is working very well once again.

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Giving offerings

I rarely shot the Ilford 3200, but must say the result is quite good. The grain is nice but controlled, the contrast is good. As I said somewhere else I think high ISO film give good results if you scene has a minimum of contrast.

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Collecting ashes

These were shot around 11pm, on the first evening, it is very quite just when the priest open the inner sanctum of the temple. Alternatively, you can come around on the next day and take pictures from pilgrims disassembling their Kavadis.

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The inside on the temple of the day itself is over crowed and their is no shortcut, you have to follow the devotees from Penang road, I am not sure how long it will take. Surely a great experience, but you will need a good couple of hours.

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The friendly volunteer
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Get ready I have 2 or 3 rolls of TRIX that I shoot the next day.

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Walking out of the temple

Get ready, this year the Thaipusam procession is expected to start from SSPT on 07/02/2020 from 11.30pm.

 

Thaipusam 2019 – A roll of Ilford Delta 3200

Sri Lanka – one post of many to come

Tea Plantation workers - Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka
Tea Plantation workers – Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka

So here I am back from Sri Lanka! We did a big tour in only 10 days and that was far too much. The country is big (bigger than Singapore for sure), and there are so many interesting things to see. We mostly visited the archaeological remains and Buddhist monuments from the center, the tea plantations, the beautiful Fort Galle in the south before a quick tour of Colombo.

I took far too many pictures, and too much gear as usual. For those who did not read my travel pots before, I brought the usual travel kit : a Nikon D700 DSRL, a 50mmF1.8D, a 17-35F2.8D, a 80-200F2.8D and a Hasselblad 500CM with the 80mmF2.8, plus tripod, plus small accessories and of course my son’s coolpix 7100.

I disappointed myself on the Hasselblad this time, I only managed to take 3 rolls, including 3 or 4 ruined pictures, but that’s life. We did a lot of driving and did not have much time to wander around in villages and towns. I could not resist to post these two which are the best of the first B&W roll.

Tea Plantation workers - Nuwara Eliya - Sri Lanka
Tea Plantation workers – Nuwara Eliya – Sri Lanka

These Hindu women picking up tea leave in a plantation close to Nuwara Eliya. They are refered by our Cingalese driver as “Indian Tamils” by opposition to the Local Tamils. They are people who came from India (or so did their ancestors) to work in the plantations, I understood that they are not migrant workers as they tend to settle down. (well that’s what was told).

Sri Lanka – one post of many to come