Mid-autumn festival

Lanterns 1

K and I went out with her sister and our nephew and niece last night to ... well, walk around with lanterns, which is what you do on the mid-autumn festival. Don't ask me why: it's a tradition. Or an old charter. Or something.

While we adults obviously had fond memories of lanterns to relive, the kids were far more prosaic about the whole affair. At one point, Sam (the niece) turned to me and said "After the candles go out, we can stop, right?". Obviously lanterns don't hold the same appeal for her as they did for us as children.

lanterns 2

Tradition is malleable, of course. Tonight, as K and I were walking around our housing estate, K asked me what the tradition was behind the various things that the children were doing - like lining up a whole bunch of candles in a row on the ground and lighting them. Or making little piles of paper from spare lanterns and burning them. The short answer was that I didn't know: I don't recall doing those things as kid during the mid-autumn festival. I only remember walking around with lanterns. As for the various displays of incipient pyromania - well, if you give a kid candles, he will light them. Nothing to do with tradition.

, originally uploaded by CATch-up.

Or perhaps there is a link, to something deeper. One of the most compelling sights I saw was a bunch of kids sitting round a pile of burning things, just staring into the fire (see photo above, courtesy of my wife). No talking, no movement, just staring into the flames. There's something very primal about fire that draws us to it, and even with all our conveniences, even with electric light available at the flick of a switch, we're still fascinated by a naked flame.



ampulets said…
got a photog question related to your latest purchase for K - the contax digital...

do you suppose you could have taken those lantern shots with the new contax? create the same shallow depth of focus? Is it to do with manual focusing? using the macro function or...is it just some god-given and hence secret talent?

J and i been toying with that contax camera, but to no avail. Any tips? (hmmm, maybe it's easier to talk this over email or when we next meet...)
wahj said…
It's easier to do it on an SLR, because you can choose your aperture (in this case as wide as possible) and point of focus. It's not impossible to do it on the contax - the easiest way is probably, as you indicated, to go into macro mode.

One of the things about digital point-and-shoots is that they often have very wide-angle lenses, coupled with a smaller sized sensor. This means that it's hard to get a shallow depth of field. In fact, they're built that way, because if you think of it, they were designed for snapshots, group photos etc, where the user expects everyone's face to be in clear focus.

If you look at the EXIF data ("more properties" in flickr) on the two photos, you'll see that the top one (colour) was taken with the D70 with a 50mm lens at f1.8. The bottom was taken with the Sony F707 at f2: the in-built zoom lens was at 9.7mm focal length. The field of view is still much the same, because the CCD on the Sony is much smaller than that on the D70, in effect "cropping" it. This is not related to the number of megapixels: one is 6 and the other 5, but the Sony probably packs more into a smaller area.

But it does affect depth of field. The wider the lens, the deeper the depth of field. A 9.7mm focal length lens has a deeper focus area than a 50mm. If you look at the two photos, the bottom one has more lanterns in better focus than the top one, and the "blurriness" is not as pronounced as you go down the line.

Hmm. I seem to have blabbered a lot here. Tell you what, we'll talk more when we next meet up, ya? Probably easier to show (rather than tell), with cameras on hand.

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