Monday, March 24, 2014

Holi Festival Take 2

Last year, I experienced Holi Festival, or the Festival of Colors for the first time. I was not very sure if I could get into the celebration again this year going in as a photographer, due to the newly imposed rules on restricting DSLR users to enter the festival compound. I pushed my luck and managed to secure myself a media pass (thanks Sunil) and braved myself through the colors and water and grabbed myself some shots. My Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 survived last year's Holi, and I was very confident that it will survive Holi again this year. Therefore, my primary shooting gear was the E-5 and 50-200mm lens attached on it, full time. 

Now for those of you who may not know about Holi, it is also known as 'Phagwah', representing the Hindu month of 'Phalgun' which ushers the spring season, when vegetation begins to bloom after winter. Holi is celebrated to usher the spring season with the brightest and liveliest colors. Many people may only think that Holi Festival is celebrated at India (the origin) or other countries outside Malaysia, but we have been celebrating Holi locally here for over 5 decades. It is a time where everyone comes together, friends, relative and everyone to form a community as colorful as Holi itself. 

The Holi celebration that I went to took place at Shree Lakshmi Narayan Mandir (est 1919), which has been the centre for Spiritual, Cultural & Educational activities mainly for the North Indian community in Malaysia. For more information about the temple as well as the organizer of this event, SDS Youth, kindly visit their Facebook Pages.

It is indeed a blessing to be able to witness, participate and shoot such a beautiful event like Holi in Malaysia. Photography opportunities were calling out from all directions, there were plenty of live action, human expression and emotions and lots and lots of colors to play with.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and ZD 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 or Olympus PEN E-PL5 and Panasonic 14mm F2.5















There were a lot of obstacles faced this year in comparison to previous attempt at Holi. The most notable difficulty was shooting under direct hot afternoon sun as the event started at 2pm. Last year, the sky was cloudy and it actually rained for half an hour, thus creating very diffused flat even lighting, which was pleasing for shooting human subjects, casting minimal shadows and providing very good  lighting for even skin tone. This year this was not the case, the sky was completely clear and void of clouds, with direct harsh, unflattering and scorching sun beaming down making human subjects so difficult to shoot. Whichever direction we point the lens to there would be harsh shadows and easily burned highlights everywhere within the frame. No matter how good the dynamic range your camera has, it was pointless because the lighting condition was already unfavourable, and as much as I wanted to have better light, this is one situation where I do have to work with the limitation and deal with the horrible lighting in whatever other means necessary, eg heavier post-processing. 

Now, onto gear limitations. 

I will be flying to Perth for a photography assignment next week, the last thing I wanted was my gear being killed in action shooting Holi. Those colors and water are hazardous material, and I must plan my gear usage wisely. I know that I do need to use something long, hence I have decided to utilize the older E-5 for a few important reasons: having the 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 lens for long zoom coverage and that the E-5 is an older camera and I would be much ok with it in case something happens (though I also know on the other hand that the camera will survive, knowing how robust the build and reliable the weather sealing is). My initial plan was to shoot entirely with the E-5 and 50-200mm only. I did not bring any other lenses for the E-5. I used the 50-200mm for almost the entire shoot, and it survived color attacks and water splashes. 

Some time toward the later part of the event, the people became less violent (they spray water less and smear color less) and I felt safe enough to take out the PEN E-PL5 with the Panasonic 14mm for wide angle coverage. I did not being the E-PL5 and Pana 14mm just for the Holi, because before coming to the Holi I was atcually meeting some friends who were interested in Micro Four Thirds and I was showing them some of the gear that I had.  It did not come remotely close to consideration to use the E-PL5 because it was not weather-sealed. It would have made much more sense for me to use the E-M5 instead. Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, this was unplanned, and as I have the E-PL5 and 14mm with me, and the situation became safer, I thought why not whip out the wide angle and see what I can do with this different perspective?

It is very, very prudent to carry a wide angle lens. It is VERY important and will give you a different coverage from longer focal lengths. I am glad I did. 












The E-5 and 50-200mm performed well, and as expected, they did not let me down. The surprise here was the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens, I was actually very pleased with the outcome of this lens, it performed above what I anticipated. The images came out sharp and detailed, with good contrast.

I shot everything on the E-5 with aperture priority, in RAW (because I want to tone down the highlights and recover some shadow details) and burst (continuous 5 frames per second). Metering was set to center weighted, and it was good enough for most shots. On the E-PL5 and Pana 14mm, my settings were rather different. I decided to fix F4 (should have stopped down further), ISO200, and then set the AF to Face Detection mode, and just let the camera decide which face to focus on. BAD BAD idea. I seldom use the Face Detection hence I was not familiar with the behaviour, it always chooses the face which was NOT the one I wanted to be in focus in the frame. ALWAYS! You have no idea how many failed shots I have come across until I decided to just stick to manual point selection. By then I have already missed many good opportunities. Sometimes, not only it locked on wrong faces, it actually failed to detect the face at all. 

I have several theories. First one, which is less likely, is Panasonic lenses having possibly some issues with the camera hence the focusing was not optimized (not surprised as this happens with the 20mm F1.7 and 25mm F1.4). My second theory is actually more probably, the faces filled with colored powders actually distracted the camera's face detection calculation algorithm, consequently confusing the camera to decide that these are not real faces. 

Bear in mind I have two issues: Face Detect AF choosing WRONG face (can be the random face of a guy walking pass at the back of the group of people I am taking photo of) and seprately, sometimes failed completely to find any faces despite 3 or 4 human faces dominated the frame. 

For now, I will NOT trust the Face Detect AF. Will choose the focusing points the old school way. 












I have enjoyed myself at the Holi tremendously. The crowd was amazing, and yes I got myself all colored. My hair, my face, my shirt, shoes and backpack, not to mention camera and lens (E-5 and 50-200mm). I managed to keep the E-PL5 and Pana 14mm safe from the hazards of color and water. It was great seeing a community of people coming together and celebrate such an occasion, and the most important theme of the day was having fun, and everything had the one same thought. Being there, witnessing so much outburst of human joy and happiness, such honest expression and very public show of emotion, I just could not stop my cameras from clicking away non-stop. I find it hard for any photographers NOT to enjoy this event. There was so much to see and shoot, the Holi Festival was full of life!





Tennyson and Christine. OM-D E-M5 and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens. Tennyson also shoots with an Olympus TOUGH TG-2. 

And that is me full in colors. Photo Credit: Tennyson Lee

There you go, I have shared more photos than usual. I sure hope you have enjoyed the photos as much as I have enjoyed Holi itself.

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37 comments :

  1. Awesome photos showing jubilation of the crowd.
    SiewKS

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  2. What joy! Your photos shows the fun people had on this festival. I wonder how long it took you and how you cleaned your equipment?

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    Replies
    1. Hey Emilio,
      Thanks for the kind words. I have not cleaned the E-5 yet!

      Delete
  3. Awersome shoot!! I love to view your blog

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  4. Awersome shoot!! I love to view your blog

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  5. You have outdone yourself this time! And the E-5 still is a trustworthy beast, love that zoom, too ...

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Rolf! That E-5 has never let me down. Reliability, that is really important when it comes to camera gear.

      Delete
  6. Hey Robin, great photos reminds me of the old "hippy" days - just kidding LOL!

    DSLR restrictions? Were the event planners afraid that there would be more photographers than participants?

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    Replies
    1. Hippy days!!
      Very true, too many people running around with huge cameras are no fun at all.

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  7. Great pictures as usual Robin, however, I still prefer your last years photos of the festival that were really incredible and were enlisted an official olympus print magazine if my memory is good. Hope the E-5 and your gear are weather sealed otherwise they would suffer from the festivities. But boy I'm sure you had fun.

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    Replies
    1. Last year's photos were different due to the cloudy sky. Not only I had better skin tones and less harsh shadows to deal with, the facial expression were different too, especially the eyes, they did not have to squint like they did this year.
      Yes it was great fun!

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  8. Face detect in scenes with more than one face, very prone to pick wrong face. Use it only for shots with one face. I don't think this is lens specific. For 14mm, I would focus preset a e.g. 2 metres and f/5.6, no AF and shoot wildly, suffer the losses

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    1. In the case of my composition as you can see in many images above, I actually used F4. I am afraid even at F5.6 I might not have sufficient depth of field

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  9. Fuaaaahh.. awesome photos as usual...

    how did you clean your lens and cameras after that? O.O

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    Replies
    1. Ahlost.... Belum clean wor! Maybe wipe with damp cloth or something hehe

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  10. Crazy photos with crazy peoples by a crazy photographer with a crazy Olympus. I like.
    It is always a big pleasure to follow your Blog.
    Cheers dear Robin,

    Pier-Yves

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  11. wah. Really nice photos Robin. U 100% present what is the Olympus color is. Good job my friend.

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  12. Hi Robin, excellent images. Did you have to clean the lens during the event?

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  13. great sets robin! love the colours so much...

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  14. WOW! My screen just exploded! So many wonderful colors and so many great pictures! You owe me new LCD, Robin :)

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  15. After watching some of the news these days it is easy to get discouraged and depressed, even. One visit to your site, watching these amazing and wonderfully colorful shots restores not only the day but also restores some hope in humanity. We are capable of so many wonderful things, and, at the same time, such unspeakable horrors.

    You capture life and humanity as it is - and as it should be. I consider that a great achievement.

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  16. superb colours. i love all your shots.

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  17. Hey Robbin Thats really a good collection of pics
    Hi thanks for the awesome post and I like this post very much. keep sharing the stuff like this may help the people like us.In the mean while check out my work to

    Happy holi wallpapers 2015
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    I wish you all Happy Holi 2015

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  18. Hi Robin Wong, Really great Blog! Thanks for sharing the Holi great picture of the holi festival. The Picture is beautiful and nice. I’m really impressed your great holi photography. At Holi festival get the holi offers and deals for make your holi beneficial and save some money on this festival. Thank You. Happy Holi 2016.

    ReplyDelete