Happy Vietnamese New Year (Chúc Mừng Năm Mới)

February 10 marks the Vietnamese New Year. Many of you may know it better as Chinese New Year, which is the same idea as we follow the same lunar year calendar. To celebrate the New Year, Vietnamese communities usually put on a fair, called Hội Tết. This year, I went to the Hội Tết produced by the St. Philipphe Phan Van Minh Catholic Parish of Orlando, Florida during the weekend of January 26-27. It was great event. There was a lot of hard work put into this event by the Parish volunteers. Here are select pictures from the traditional Vietnamese opening fireworks and lucky dragon dance.

Lucky dragon dance (mua lan)

Lucky dragon dance (mua lan). Nikon D600 w/ Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S @ 1/4000, f/2, iso 100.

The younger lucky dragon performers were my favorite…

The festivities continued indoors with an “American Idol” style talent competition (1st winner gets $1000, 2nd place winner goes home with $500) and general entertainment by volunteer parishioners. All performances were hosted by a couple of emcees, and were very professionally done.

Hosts

Hosts for the Hoi Tet’s entertainment and talent competition

Talent competition included a band, specifically “Mini Band”. It turns out the three girls are from my neighborhood, just around the corner. They were marvaleous.

Mini Band

Mini Band. Nikon D600 and Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S @ 1/100 sec, f/5.3, iso 1600, 90mm, no flash, handheld.

What would an Asian fair be without martial arts performances? The performances by these young, very energetic martial artists were superb and intense.

Martial arts performance

Martial arts performance

The talent competition continued with soulful performances and interpretations of classic American songs, like “Killing Me Softly”…

"Killing Me Softly" performed by James Nguyen Bui

“Killing Me Softly” performed by James Nguyen Bui. Nikon D5000 w/ Nikon 85mm f/1.4 @ 1/1250 sec, f1/4, iso 800, no flash.

and a modern solo dance performance.

Modern dance performance

Modern dance performance. Nikon D5000 with Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S @ 1/800 sec, f/1.4, iso 800, no flash.

This gentleman performed a traditional folk song style interpretation (ngam tho) based on his memories as a Vietnam war veteran. His performance was very heart-felt. I was moved.

Traditional folk performance about the Vietnam war (ngam tho)

Traditional folk performance about the Vietnam war (ngam tho)

Between competition performances were just-for-entertainment skits and vocalist performances, introduced by the emcees.

Lovely co-host

Lovely co-host. Nikon D600 with Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S @ 1/100, f/5.6, iso 1600, no flash.

This was one of my favorite non-competition performances: a youthful interpretation of a Vietnamese folk performance.

A youthful interpretation of a Vietnamese folk performance

A youthful interpretation of a Vietnamese folk performance. Nikon D600 with Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S @ 1/160 sec, f/5, iso 1600, 62mm, no flash.

Our panel of judges includes a nationally famous Vietnamese recording artist and local “celebrities”. They offered really good and useful advice for the talent competition participants, but sometimes their comments were borderline of being too brutally honest. Hopefully the competitors had thick skin. Yikes.

The talent competition judges

The talent competition judges. Nikon D600 with Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S @ 1/30 sec, f/5.6, iso 2500, 180mm, no flash.

Finally, the winners of the judged competition along with the audiences’ favorite were announced.

Talent competition winners

Talent competition winners. Nikon D600 with Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S @ 1/320 sec, f/5, iso 2500, 28mm, no flash.

Hats off to all the competitors and performers! It was an afternoon of great entertainment. I enjoyed it immersely. To see more pictures, click here.

Behind the scenes: For my fellow photographers out there, I love event photography. For the indoor shots, I chose to use the existing stage lights and left off my flash. I had two cameras with me. For the Nikon D5000, I used a fast Nikon 85mm f/1.4 prime lens wide open at f/1.4 aperture, so I was able to keep my ISO setting around 800. For my new full-frame Nikon D600, I used a much slower Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6mm AF-S zoom lens, because I can push the ISO setting to 1600-2500 on the D600 without much worry about sensor noise. All pictures were handheld, with no monopod or tripod. Moral of the story? Try shooting without flash for stage performances because sometimes there is more than enough light. And in those cases, you can capture the stage performances in its natural and full artistic form.

“Chúc Mừng Năm Mới”. I wish you a year of successfully “harvesting the light”.

[(Ô] HtL | like us on facebook

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