Shooting in the Dark – Chinese Lantern Festival

We have a vibrant asian culture in CHCH, which makes for a tasty range of ethnic places to eat and great places to buy produce and supplies. To celebrate Chinese New Year they have a Lantern Festival, have dancing and other performances, cultural medicine and practices and of course many great things to eat. Prior to the quake it was held in Victoria Park, which was a venue that was far too small and poorly situated to do it proper justice. This year they held it in a corner of Hagley Park, with many trees to be put to great use, and the river flowing along one corner.

It has LOTS more space to fit everything into, and easy to get to, and lots of parking space. I got there after 9, had to walk a distance from where I found a parking spot, but it was a lovely mild and still evening. There were streams of people walking in and quite a few coming out. The thing I noticed most about the event was the vibe, everyone was there to have a nice night out and enjoy themselves, and it felt very positive. Many children were delighted by the lamps and sculptures, the teenagers were out in force with their smartphones, and it felt good ๐Ÿ™‚

ChineseFestival-2690Fire Dancer

There was a big crowd up by the first bridge, and at first I thought there had been an accident, but no this guy had taken advantage of the evening crowds and setup busking with fire. I took my tripod on this trip as I knew it would be required if I was going to get sharp shots, as it would require slower shutter speeds. I had a lot of fun experimenting with this guy, and just as I got it about right, he doubled his spinning speed and I got this great pattern as he spun around whirling the sticks, lit at both ends.

I had seen them setting up the lights as I drove past the previous days so I knew they were using the trees and the river, so I decided to walk along the river from the road side as it was less crowded and safer with my tripod


The first sculpture I came across was a Zoo exhibit – this beautiful tiger shows how detailed the painting and designs were, and they were lovely all lit up in the dark. The tiger was very popular so I couldn’t get a closer shot of his face which was a shame. Behind him was a zebra, and ostrich with his head down, and oddly a cactus!

ChineseFestival-2735Tiger Tiger Burning Bright

The new venue in the park was brilliant for this event, lots of trees to hang lamps in, and string strands of them for a really festive atmosphere. Lots of space to put up sculptures and for a change, enough room for everyone to see and enjoy them. Very many of the visitors were discovering the difficulty of shooting brightly lit subjects in a dark environment. I heard many claims of “its not working” and lots of flashes going off. And many people posing in front of the sculptures being either unlit or blowing out the background with use of flash. I imagine there were lots of disappointed viewers of their images once they got to see them on a computer screen. I had plenty of opportunity to shoot safely with the tripod, no one tripped over it, although I did feel that some reflect strips on the legs would be a good idea for next time.

ChineseFestival-2763My favourite display, I have a thing for snails

There were many different lanterns hanging in the trees, red ones, fringed ones, zodiac styled, lanterns. I particularly liked these coloured ones


The best sculpture of the evening was this lovely chinese dragon. This image is an HDR of 5 shots processed in Oloneo

ChineseFestivalDragonHDRjChinese Dragon

My trick with shooting all of these was to use Tv mode and experiment with timing of shutter speed. Some of the brighter images were shot anywhere from 1/25th to 1/50th of a second. The less bright sculptures were down to 1/5th of a second. I just kept changing the speed till I felt I got a well exposed image. The tripod was a necessity, as I have learned the hard way that I cannot handhold that steadily for this kind of image. I also had the ISO set to about 1250.

All images were shot in RAW, imported into the LR4 beta. Nearly all are completely unprocessed further, just output to JPG. I am very impressed with the colour representation in LR4, its much brighter and truer than LR3 usually produces for me, and I felt no need to process these further. Except for the HDR images, which were processed in Oloneo.


About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
This entry was posted in Camera Adventures, For Beginners, LR & Photoshop, Tech Tips, Waffle and Burbling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Shooting in the Dark – Chinese Lantern Festival

  1. Sara says:

    Great photos! Looks like a lovely evening! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Kiwigypsy says:

    Great shots! I remember the Lantern festival in Auckland and now wish I had a camera at that time.

    • lensaddiction says:

      The Lantern festival is a good opportunity to play in the dark with your camera – the tripod was a necessity tho ๐Ÿ™‚

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