Images of Thaipusam 2008
Thaipusam 2008 was, like Thaipusam 2007, a happy photographic outing for me.
This was the first time I photographed this Hindu festival with my new digital camera, the Fuji S5 Pro.
And when I later thought about it, I realised it was also practically the first time I shot with the S5 Pro in bright sunlight -- because ever since I bought the camera in November 2007, the weather in Singapore had mostly been either rainy or overcast.
Having the Fuji S5 meant a few worries taken off my mind.
Firstly, I did not have to worry about running out of film -- like what happened last year when I finished shooting a roll and could not find my friend David who had offered to help me carry my camera bag with spare film in there. More than that, I did not have to worry about accidental wrong settings that could lead to over- or under-exposures.
Another major worry taken off my head was camera shake. This had been the bane of all my previous Thaipusam and Vesak photography sessions, as I tend to shoot with a long telephoto zoom lens and, in the excitement of the moment, I often forget to hold my hands steady.
New improved technology meant that the shutter -- the entire camera -- operated more smoothly and caused less camera shake. Plus, the latest digital cameras allow shots taken at high sensitivities of up to ISO 3200 (in the caseof the Fuji S5 Pro). As it turned out, I did not have to set the ISO higher than 400. And this was one of the rare shots that had camera shake -- which, in this case, accentuated the drama ot Thaipusam:
This next photo might be a Thaipusam cliché. But as my photo buddy Hin Mun once commented to me, a cliché still has merit if it is well-executed. I believe this is well-executed:
Below is another extreme close up, made possible by the longer telephoto lens.
Personally I like this much more, with its less clichéd composition and subject. But I had to crop this second picture slightly to achieve the desired composition. The original had a bit more space to the left and on the top.
This youth providing music support, however, looks downright sad -- which was a contrast to the lively and upbeat music he was providing. I title this photograph Miserable Music. I hope whatever was troubling him has been resolved.
For some reason, this year's crop of Thaipusam images seems to suit a black and white rendition.
I had, back in 2006, shot a roll of black and white film but the results were not at all good and I did not have a single photograph worth showing. But this year, nearly all the good shots came out looking better in black and white.
And the black and white images were all done simply during raw conversion, using Fuji's HyperUtility raw conversion software. I did not need any of the more sophisticated methods for converting color images to black and white.
Here is another, which is one of my favourites from this year's selection.
My other favourite, and the top choice of friends who have viewed my Thaipsusam images this year, is, of course, the main picture at the top of this page. It is such a simple picture, just a pair of hands at rest. The rich colors of the Indian sari (traditional Indian dress).
Here's another pair of hands. The lady was holding the strings that a devotee used for pulling a chariot with skewers pierced into his body. In that sense, she was helping to pull the chariot, hence I title this photograph Helping Hands.
Interestingly, a few photographer friends commented that my earlier photographs of this Hindu festival were much better, both in terms of image quality as well as subject matter / composition.
I was too excited about the results from my new Fuji S5 Pro to notice, but when I looked again, I have to agree. The older pictures taken on slides had richer, more lively colours -- even though they were subsequently scanned. The original slides looked even better.
For me, the most interesting comment came from one photographer whom I have not met. One of my friends, who works as a professional photographer, showed my Thaipusam pictures to his American boss. The American photographer felt that I was "less adventurous" and "playing it safe" this year. He also felt that I was "not having as much fun" compared to previous years.
I thought his observations were very perceptive, although I would not agree with them completely.
I feel that Thaipusam has become less exciting over the years. Maybe it was because that I have been to the same temple to take pictures year after year -- to the point that I can even recognise some of the devotees (such as the one in the blurred picture above).
But the temple has certainly become less crowded, with fewer devotees. I remember when I first went there in 1981, the placed was jam packed. This year, it wasn't exactly crowded. By the time I left just before noon, the temple grounds were, in fact, relatively quiet.
As for me being less adventurous, I think it was more a case of being "lazy". I was content with being able to use my telephoto zoom without camera shake and so I did not bother to attempt wide angled shots. I was also "lazy" in going to the temple late, reaching there past 10 am whereas in previous years, I had gone as early as 7:30 am or, at the latest, by about 9 am.
Partly, I had some writing work to complete in the morning before I set out. Also, I had become more relaxed and less anxious. Apparently, it showed. Let's see how I approach Thapusam 2009 next year.
Note: I have decided, starting with this page (uploaded on February 16, 2008), to present no more than seven different images on one page.
This arose from a chat I had with my friend who works as a professional prhotographer, where he mentioned that when he interviews job applicants, he asks photographers to bring along a portfolio of only six images. I thought it is a good discipline, to show only the best few. But I identify more with the number 7, as I am a 7 in numerology terms. So I give myself that one extra image to show :-)
If you are a fellow photographer, you might wish to exercise similar restraint and not "show off" too many.