Welcome to the blog for Thomas Parry Photography. My purpose is to inform the public about photographic projects I have recently completed as well as those in progress and planned for the future. I will periodically post articles about different aspects of photographing nature, people and places. As I work with new hardware and software tools, I will pass along lessons learned that may aid other photographers. I will periodically write reviews about photographic equipment with which I have experience and books I read that may be helpful to others. I hope you enjoy reading my blog and return frequently. I invite your thoughts, good ideas, opinions and feedback.
| 09 December, 2013 06:41
By Thomas S. Parry
Chinese New Year is a two week spring festival that has been celebrated for over 5,000 years in China. Chinese New Year (also called the Lunar New Year) occurs in the early months of the calendar year, typically January or February and this year falls on February 10th. This is the first of what are 15 days of celebration and the start of the Year of the Snake. Chinese New Year is a time to welcome longevity, wealth and prosperity.
The San Francisco Chinese New Year celebration originated in the 1860's during the Gold Rush days and is now the largest Asian event in North America as well as the largest general market event in Northern California. The celebration includes two major fairs; the Chinese New Year Flower Fair and the Chinatown Community Street Fair. All the festivities culminate with the Chinese New Year Parade.
Having myself been born under the Chinese Zodiac sign of the Snake and having never attended the celebration in San Francisco, I decided to attend this year’s festivities in celebration of the “Year of the Snake.” So, on Saturday, February 23, 2013, I arrived early in the day to explore Chinatown and found the entire area swarming with visitors. There were booths set up with contests and games, food items and long lines of people entering their names in raffles to win a new car. It was fun to explore the many and varied shops in Chinatown. There were individuals and groups performing musical numbers. Of course, a visit to Chinatown would not be complete without going to one of the fine Chinese restaurants and ordering a meal with several entrees and sharing them together.
The fifteen-day celebration in San Francisco culminates with the Chinese New Year Parade. I had read that the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade was named one of the world's top ten parades and is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. Starting at close to six o’clock in the evening with tens of thousands of spectators watching, over 100 units participated in the parade. Many of the floats and specialty units featured the theme of this year's Chinese zodiac sign the Snake. Nowhere in the world have I experienced a lunar New Year parade with more gorgeous floats, elaborate costumes, ferocious lions, and exploding firecrackers. Some of the parade units featured elaborately-decorated floats, high school and college marching bands, martial arts groups, stilt walkers, lion dancers, Chinese acrobatics, the newly-crowned Miss Chinatown USA and the Golden Dragon. Although nearly three hours had passed since the parade started and it was getting chilly outside, the parade was still going on and I waited patiently for the grand finale, which was the Golden Dragon. When he finally appeared, the Golden Dragon was lit up from head to tail and was well over 200 feet long. He was accompanied throughout the length of the parade route by the deafening sounds of more than 600,000 firecrackers!
I learned that the Golden Dragon was made in Foshan, which is a city of more than 3.6 million people in central Guangdong Province in southern China. The Foshan dragon masters formerly made all the costumes for the Cantonese opera, and the Golden Dragon bears many operatic touches, such as the rainbow-colored pompoms on its six foot-long head. It is festooned from nose to tail with colored lights, decorated with silver rivets on both scaly sides and trimmed in white rabbit fur. The dragon, carried on a skeleton of bamboo and rattan, consists of 29 segments. It takes a team of 100 men and women working in rotation to bear the Golden Dragon the full length of the parade route. It is understandable why rotating dragon bearers is so important given the size and weight of the dragon and the strength needed to move it through the streets.
Included with this article is a selection of photographs I made while participating in this incredible event and include images of Chinatown itself, close-ups of some of the parade performers and the parade itself. These pictures, however, cannot do justice to the magnitude of this event including the delicious foods, the smells in the air, the music, the deafening firecrackers going off and general atmosphere of celebration and friendliness everyone feels while there. But, they do give a sampling of what I experienced during my visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown.
Special note: All parade images were shot in available light using a Canon EOS 40D equipped with a Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 L USM lens set to f/2.8 at either ISO 1600 or 3200 extended. Noise adjustments were accomplished using Adobe Camera Raw 6. Rapid action of the performers combined with very low levels of available light made these images very difficult to capture.