If I am in Penang during Thaipusam I try to cover this amazing event. Thaipusam is a Hindu festival. To explain it fully would take up more space than I am willing to give it here. But simply put – it is the celebration of the occasion when Hindus believe the goddess Parvati gave her son Murugan a vel or “spear” so he could kill the evil demon Soorapadman.1 The way in which these people commemorate this occasion, what gives this festival it’s unique… ah… shall we say charm? Devotees will often pierce themselves with small “vels”2 and carry kavadis or “burdens” up to a temple. The kavadi come in two forms – a pale of milk or a large carriage sometimes carried on the devotee’s shoulders or sometimes supported by long pins anchored into the body. Vels are often pierced through the devotees cheeks or tongue as a sign of devotion. One of the main attractions for the participants and the official start of the celebration is a silver carriage or chariot that carries a solid silver idol of Murugan from one temple to another on a long route. It is this same route devotees must travel with their kavadis. Believe it or not, that is the short version.
Thaipusam is celebrated in Kuala Lampur, Singapore, parts of Thailand, and of course, here in Penang. The largest of all these celebrations is held at the Batu Caves in Kuala Lampur. But, one of the most accessible Thaipusam events for photographers is the one held right here in my community of Georgetown, Penang. Every year the crowd seem to grow. This year I wanted to show the crowds and give a sense of how packed it is and how the crowds seems to pull participants along. I thought the best way to achieve this would be to use a slow shutter speed and let the blurred movement of the crowd emphasize this movement. This worked to a degree, but the crowd didn’t seem to blur as much as I wanted. To achieve the movement I wanted I used the multi-exposure function on the Fujifilm X-E2, combined with long exposures, often as much as 30 secs. By using the multi-exposure function, this gives you time between exposures, ensuring that the movement will be doubled on the frame and thus creating the desired effect. For the image just above this paragraph I created a composite in Photoshop by using two consecutive frames. I did this because I captured the movement of the flame in one frame around one side of the chariot and the in the next frame around the other. Buy combining the frames I was able to get the flame to almost completely circling the chariot.
I often say on this blog, a good photo is a blend of skill and luck. Such as the above image. This is a pan shot I did from the top floor of the local fire station (A special thanks goes out to The New Straits Times photographer Michael Ong for getting me into the fire station). I exposed this at 1/6 of a sec while panning without a tripod. I hope you enjoy these and they give you a sense of the crowds.
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Learn more about these fantastic workshop opportunities:
- Kashmir Valley Photo Trek and Workshop - June 8- 15, 2015
- Photography Tour of Bhutan - Sept. 18 - Oct. 10, 2015