Last Saturday & Sunday, it was the Thaipusam event. I went to the event with a (large) group of photographers on Saturday evening.

This is also my first time shooting the Thaipusam, not knowing what to expect on the ground, I just went in unprepared…. probably a bad part on myself… I should have read up more on the event before heading into the temple. If I did, I should be able to understand the event better…

What is Thaipusam

Thaipusam Thai Poosam is a Hindu festival celebrated mostly by the Tamil community on the full moon in the Tamil month of Thai (January/February). It is not only observed in countries where the Tamil community constitutes a majority, but also in countries where Tamil communities are smaller, such as Malaysia, Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand and Myanmar.

The word Thaipusam is a combination of the name of the month, Thai, and the name of a star, Pusam. This particular star is at its highest point during the festival. The festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a Vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon Soorapadman. There is a misconception among people that Thaipusam marks Murugan’s birthday; however, it is believed that Vaikhasi Vishakam, which falls in the Vaikhasi month (May/June), is Murugan’s birthday.

Source: From Wikipedia

In the Temple

Upon entering the temple, you can see many devotees busy preparing for the event. Praying to the gods, getting blessed by the priest, preparing the offerings and the milk pots. etc.Export - IMG_1244

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Quite a while later…when the ceremony was about to begin…

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After this point, all photographers were told to leave the temple… But one can still return there after 2am. It was still about 9-10 pm… The large group of us broke up into many smaller groups to relax at either coffee shops or fast food outlets.. But of course, for those not willing to wait on can choose to leave…

While waiting, we shared knowledge and information on photography (from equipment to techniques). It was quite an enjoyable session…. And after only 1 hour, 11pm, many of us decides to return home…. that includes me too…

While on my way to the train station, we realized that the event have already started and the devotees are already on their way to visit the other temples.

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After a couple of shots, I decided to call it a day…. as I am not able to overcome my mental barrier of technical limitation… I wished for a better DSLR body with higher ISO capability…. while retaining the dynamic range. It clouded my mind so much that I decided to call it a day and return to shoot when the sun is up again.

The Following Day

When I reached the temple at about 8am… It was already very crowded! To my knowledge, ever since the previous night, this place was already in this state….

Not losing another moment, I started spamming my shutters at whatever I see….

Prayers to the gods…
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Reeving the blessings after the prayers.Export - IMG_1454

Almost every corner of in temple you can see the piercing being done…
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After the piercing and mounting of the Kavadi, they begin to leave for the other temples
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Pretty much at this time, I have to attend to other family matters, so I left the temple by noon….

I would really like to try shooting the event again next year (if work schedule allows).. This time, with more understanding to the events taking place.

Equipment and Thoughts

For a large part of the event, I was using my 10-22. And for certain shots, 70-200. 50mm was in my bag, but hardly used (other than for the night shoot).

I personally have a “phobia” of shooting night events such as this. Reason being of the high ISO I will have to use and my 500D isn’t coping well beyond 1600. 3200 is fine with indoor lightings but not at outdoor lit by only street lamps.

This is the main reason I chose to return in the day. Which in the day, I have no issues blaming the equipment I used. After all, it’s nearly almost always the person behind the camera that decided how the shot turns out. Clearly my eye isn’t as trained as those photographers I went with. But still, the poison of getting a FF for high ISO is there… I’ll try to hold it down for the time being..

UWA for such events?

Before and after the event, I had an interesting discussion with a couple of another street photographers. These are probably things I won’t have given thoughts about if they didn’t brought it up…

My usual style of shooting is to snipe from far… using a tele lens like the 55-250/70-200. But the shot you get is “what you think is happening from your perspective as an outsider“, while using a wide angle lens like the 10-22, you need to get up reaaaaal close to get the shot. (else your subjects are likely going to look like any small stones by the shore). But by getting close, you can see what they see, feel what they feel“. Certainly, the UWA captures alot more surroundings into the shot… giving it more “feel” of the ground as compared to a telephoto shot that gives nice isolation to the subject.

Well, for a start, I’m not a UWA lens event shooter, the first thing I felt when I got sooo close (I’m almost just shooting behind the person’s ear), was my heartbeat… my heart is pumping real fast -_- It took quite some time to get more used to shooting at this distance. *I still doubt I could do it alone..* But I would like to try to overcome this fear…. and that directly translates to shooting more often at this range..I’ll see how this can be arranged with my fellow photo group…

But for this coming weekend, I may be want to get lazy…. As it’s the last weekend for Spring cleaning for the Chinese New Year… Have lots of stuffs to clear out. I may take some time to go shooting, but probably won’t be as eventful as the Thaipusam.