Taoist ceremony in Dihua old street – Taipei – Taiwan

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I was very lucky last march in Taipei to stumble upon this Taoist ceremony while visiting the Dihua street area with my family and local friends.

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I must admit my ignorance of Taoism, so I will not comment much here. Teh following blog post contains quite interesting information on Taoism in Singapore :

http://weecheng.com/singapore/9eg/index.htm

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Various groups are parading their idols or images of gods around the area of Taipei Xiahai City God Temple.

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Most of the groups as below have musicians, Taoism is noisy and colorful, I learned this a long time ago when I arrived in Singapore.

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This group has gods puppets dance in front of the temple.

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Another group was composed of young people dressed as what looks lie warriors.

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This group traditionally rock the sedan chair when the image of the god is carried, portraying their struggle with the superhuman force possessing the chair once the god has come to posses its image.

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Taipei Xiahai City God Temple

All shots with Leica M262 and Summicron 50v4 or 35Asphv2

 

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Taoist ceremony in Dihua old street – Taipei – Taiwan

London on Film

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I spent a week in London recently with my family and brought the usual travel kit (Leica M, M262 and the Summicrons 28mm Asp, 35 Asph v2 and 50mmv5), I brought a nice set of films but in the end I did not shoot much, only a roll of TriX and half a roll of Portra  400. And on digital as we are here I took a mere 300 shots.

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Looking at the TriX shots I am quite pleased; as usually they have been dropped for processing at Ruby photo in Singapore and scanned at home ; but when I was there I was a bit puzzled about what or who to shoot.

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On one hand I am so used to travel in Asia that I am a bit lost in European cities, I am not sure about people reactions to the camera (I like candid shots), but also I think the whole way the big city works need so getting used to. So a bit of frustration. Maybe also my expectations were a bit too high, who knows.

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London as changed a lot since I was last there 14 years ago. The south bank area is so lively now, also packed with tourists and street performers.

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Asian tourists selfy-ing themselves are everywhere, but that’s the same all over the planet. Here at the Borough Market, a place that I never saw before, this is definitely a good area to shoot.

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There are many food stalls there.

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Some attractions on South Bank are using old lorries that are worth a shot imo. I only realized today that the London eye was reflecting on the bonnet of the lorry, I would have framed it better if I have known.

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A morning stroll in SOHO, is also a nice opportunity for people shooting.2019-22-M6-15-22

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Or just window shopping.2019-22-M6-15-27

In the places I never visited before was Ealing Broadway, home of the Ealing Studios who produce(s/d) cinema and television shows.

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Finally another happy discovery was Old Spitalfields Market that I visited the day of the vintage records market.

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A couple more Portra shots below:

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London on Film

Not shooting much in Naoshima

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Kusama Iconic Pumpkin in Naoshima

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The rest of the island contains minor exhibitions in some traditional houses and some outdoors installations.

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We spent a nicely filled 10 hours there and probably enjoyed most of it. Time to take the ferry back to Takamatsu

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Pictures shot with Leica M262 and Summicron 28/35 or 50.

Not shooting much in Naoshima

By the sea in Thailand with the Leica M6

I always found the mix of photography and beach repulsive, the salty breeze, the sand that gets everywhere, hands oily with sunscreen, splashes and the odds of falling into the water,… so much things happening that you don;t want a camera, let alone your precious Leica mixed into.

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Well I must say I am a bit fantasizing here, as an adult the experience of the beach is not necessarily the one I had when I grew up along the shore of the french riviera. A stroll along the water not involving leaving the camera on a beach towel or in a bag in the sun is now more common that is use to be, and if it is a day I intend to go for  dip, I generally take a lesser camera (read MEDIUM FORMAT ON THE BEACH : “LE CABANON DE LA PLAGE” AND MORE)

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The sea side always offer a special quality of light, that works particularly well in black and white.  2018-51-M6-21-05

Also it is an endless opportunity of activities, landscapes and man made constructions.2018-51-M6-21-082018-51-M6-21-092018-51-M6-21-102018-51-M6-21-132018-51-M6-21-14

All shots with Leica M6 on Kodak TMAX400 (The shop ran out of TriX), the first three were taken with the Summicron 50 v5, the rest with the Summicron 28mm Asph v1. Shooting at 400 on this very bright morning means the lenses are completely stopped down and the shutter speed at 1/500s or 1/1000s, which may not be idea technically. My favorite film the TMAX100 would surely have been better, but…

As I am here, on the same roll of film were also some street shots taken in Bangkok on the say back from Hua Hin.

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A young film photog with his Olympus pen, he also shoots medium format.

Below are four shots of the food hawkers around our hotel near Lumpini park.

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A friendly and muscular worker along the Chao Phraya river near the Grand Palace2018-51-M6-21-32

Finally below are two shots of worshipers inside the Grand Palace i think.

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By the sea in Thailand with the Leica M6

Yes another roll of Cinestill 800T (35mm)

I shot the last of my Cinestill 800T 35mm rolls during the last holidays in Japan. This is the last roll from the batch I ordered from UK a few years back when it was first released. I must say that I am quite satisfied with this one.

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The roll was kept a couple of years in the fridge but had also traveled by plane in many occasions, because it is not so easy to make up your mind to shoot a 18$ roll of film rates at 800 Iso and specified for Tungsten light.

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The roll was shot with a Leica M6 camera and one my Summicron lenses, 35, 28 or 50mm.

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Based on my former experiences I rated the film at 640 ISO on the M6 ISO dial and off we go lets shoot happily.

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The first few shots are taken at night in the popular area of Dotombori in Osaka. Neon lights, restaurants and people, that works great for the 800T.

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When shooting at night the M6 meter, which does center averaged measure, will have a tendency to overexpose : your subject is bright surrounded by a lot of darkness, so the reading will tend to overexpose. I generally underexposed by a step of diaphragm or the next speed to get the balance right.

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On the next day we were off to Nara to visit its park and temples and the 800T was still not finished. The following shots were done without filter.

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The above shot has tints that reminds of Portra 400, so it is not that bad. I tried to shot as open as possible which explains the softness. The M6 speed is limited to 1/1000 second so shooting in daylight with a 640 ISO film does not always give you a lot of latitude in term of aperture.

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But shots taken in the shade allows a wider aperture and to play with out of focus.

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The next few shots are taken in restaurant in Takamatsu the main city in Kagawa prefecture.

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The south most part of our trip was Hiroshima where we visited the peace memorial.

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At this point I played it old school and rewind the film which was about 28 shots and store it aside. I loaded a roll of Rollei CR200 slide film and when back in Osaka, I loaded the Cinetsill back again, put the cap, turn the aperture rint to on F22, set the speed to 1/1000 and fires 29 shots to find more or less the point where I was last and use my last 8 frames below:

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Yes another roll of Cinestill 800T (35mm)

Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light – Osaka

The Church of the light is Osaka, is one of the most famous designs of Japanese architect Tadao Ando and it was the highlight of our first day is Osaka.

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Built in 1989, is it located 20km from the center of Osaka. It is a quite small building the chapel which is the original building is only a bit more than 100 sq meter.

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When the parish approached Tadao Ando, the most important point was the lack of funding that was available for the building. That suits the minimalist approach of the architect who also chose to use some recycling planks for instance to built the bench.

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The most iconic feature of the building is the wall of the chapel at the back of the altar wit its hollowed cross from which the light pours.

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Bare concrete, narrow spaces, the emptiness is expected to make room for the spirituality.

 

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The chapel also contains an organ (with rear view mirrors)

10 years later a second building, the Sunday school,  was added on the side of the chapel with similar architectural elements.

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From the practical side : you can visit the web site of the church : http://ibaraki-kasugaoka-church.jp/e-forvisitors.html

You will learn that the church is not open for visits every day and that you have to register online for the visits. (we did). The ladies there were so nice that I don’t think it is  a problem if you forget to do it, but given the time to get there better be safe. The entrance is free but you are asked to make a small donation for the  maintenance of the building

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Accessing the church from Osaka you have to take the train to Ibaraki station (30 minutes) and then the bus the church. All in all it should take 45 minutes to an hour. At the station there are not many signs, you have to take but number two  which starts on the left most bus stop outside of the station when you face outside. There is a taxi stand there, you better ask than wandering for 20 minute like me.

The are plenty of excellent resources on the web of the church itself.

Color shots Leica M262, BW Leica M6+Ultrafine Xtreme 400ISO lens – Summicron 28,35 and 50

Tadao Ando’s Church of the Light – Osaka

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Regardless of the crowd it is a great experience.

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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.

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Flash photography is forbidden or course, so high end DSLR will probably have the upper hand here.

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For this lady renting stools and selling alms this is time to ring the end of the show.

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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.

 

The Alms ceremony – Luang Prabang Laos