Slough Vaisakhi

The Gurdwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha in the north of Slough is around ten miles – an easy bike ride – from my home, though I always do an extra half mile or so. Slough isn’t a place a visit too frequently, and something about it means I always get lost, despite knowing exactly where I want to go.  Somehow, as usual, I end up in the middle of town on the wrong side of a wide road with a fence down the middle, and have to divert and cycle through a subway.

Fortunately I’d left home early, and arrived in plenty of time, well before much had started to happen. Photography often involves rather a lot of hanging around and waiting, because it isn’t much good arriving with your camera after things have happened – and the only time I’d come to Slough to photograph the Vaisakhi celebrations before I had been just a little late.

Being there early did give me the opportunity to go inside the Gurdwara and take a look around, and as well as taking a few pictures get to know my way around and talk to people.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.
The Panj Piyare process from the prayer hall, swords raised

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Women throw flower petals at the Guru Granth Sahib

I was at the top of the stairs when the procession came out of the prayer hall and made its way down and out to the crowds waiting below; all the time women were throwing flower petals over the Guru Granth Sahib and I joined them to take pictures from their viewpoint as the scriputres were carried to the waiting float.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Most of the pictures inside were taken with a 20mm lens on the Nikon D700, and this enabled me to work in rather crowded conditions. The 20mm is a nice compact lens too, and although in some ways I’d prefer a wide zoom, I’m getting to like working with a fixed lens again.

This was the first real set of pictures I’ve taken with the Nissin Di622 flash, and I was impressed. It just worked, and seemed to keep up rather better with my fairly rapid shooting than the SB800 generally does.  I simply put it on the hot shoe, flipped out the diffuser to cover the wide angle and shot in ‘P’ mode, moving from indoor exposures of 1/60 at f5.6 to outdoors at 1/250 at f18 (at ISO 400.)

I’d tried shooting inside with available light earlier, and at ISO 2000 could work at around f4 and 1/100, but the colour was poor with the fluorescent lighting. On the stairs light levels were higher with a large window adding daylight, but the mixed lighting seemed an added problem. So flash seemed the obvious choice, although I felt a little obtrusive using it. But my previous experience photographing at other Vaisakhi celebrations and a Sikh wedding was that this was unlikely to present a problem to those I was photographing. And I did really want it for those petals.

More pictures from the event – many of those outdoors taken with a Sigma 18-125mm on the D300 – on My London Diary. The Sigma – which I’ve had for a few years – seems more robust than the Nikon 18-200mm, and has similar image quality – very usable rather than really superb. It lacks the VR of the Nikon lens, but I seldom seem to see much benefit from this in practice – and certainly not on sunny days. I have less focus problems with the Sigma, and its one fault is that the zoom ring works in the wrong direction.

Working with two bodies again does make life easier in most ways – though I wish they were lighter and came with straps that could never get entangled!

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