On Friday after work, I wandered up to Albert Park, and was just in time for the opening of the lantern festival.

I stood around with a group of people looking at a stack of double-happies rigged to go. In the distance someone was making a speech about diversity. Then a series of bangs echoed around the park, and the double-happies exploded. People took photos of them, but, well, you can’t really photograph loud bangs. Visually it was a giant cloud of smoke.

The lights came on, so I wandered around and took photos. My amateur advice for taking photos of decorative lanterns at night boils down to these four points:

  1. Deactive your flash. Your camera may be jonesing to flash, but remember, you’re taking a photo of a light, so you don’t need to bring any more to the party.
  2. Get up close to the lantern. Don’t zoom in from afar, physically walk as close as you can get. That’ll help use all the light from the lantern and make nice bright, colourful photo.
  3. Don’t get in the mode of documentarian. Often small features of the lanterns are more interesting than taking a full-length photo.
  4. If you’re getting blurring, go with it. There’s sure to be a Flickr group that is hot for Chinese lanterns with a bit of artful motion blur.

As I was walking around, I heard a middle-aged woman talking to her husband. They were passing a line of Chinese-clothing-shaped lanterns that were strung along as if on a clothes line. “Clothes line – a bit of a Kiwi touch there,” she commented. Yes, because they don’t have clothes lines in China.

There was a stand called No Chinatown, where visitors were invited to fill in a survey about whether Auckland needed a Chinatown. It could have easily been run by the council or a community group, but it was actually an art project. OMG – edgy. It seemed like they were taking the piss out of the idea that for Auckland to be a world-class city, it needed a Chinatown. Hey, forget a Chinatown – bring back the Hobson Street opium dens!

There was a stand giving out free books on Buddhism. I saw a group of 40-something woman all snap up one called “Diet and Health”, which attempts to entice punters to the world of vegetarians with such anecdotes as, “When I first started on a vegetarian diet, I had blisters on my chin. They contained a very toxic liquid waste causing sores whenever it came into contact with the skin.” Toxic waste?! What, was she eating veggies from the Love Canal farmer’s market?

But most importantly, the pork buns were good, in a food stall kind of way. And that is as good a way as any to see in the year of the fire pig.

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