2010 Ghost Festival TeoChew Chinese Opera

Kinda Spoky - I bet auntie is telling some ghost story here.
Alright I promise there will be no more travel blog post for tonight. :"D It is the seventh month of the lunar calendar, and for Chinese, it is going to be the month for the "Hungry Ghost Festival". During this month, Specially on the fifteenth day, the realm of the living are open and both Taoists and Buddhists would perform rituals to transmute and absolve the sufferings of the deceased. Activities during the month would include preparing ritualistic events and performance for the gods as well as the spirits.And the TeoChew and Hokkien Chinese Opera has been one of the main event during this month and it will be carried out at a lot of areas and district around the town.

More photos after the jump...

After I got to know that there might be some TeoChew and Hokkien Chinese Opera in town, there is some small project that pop up in my mind for this event. Wondering around town, finding the locations of the next Chinese Opera. (Thanks to Chin Kok and Calvin for their eyes and ears on the info of the latest location on all this event performance. TQ!!). :"D Anyway, this is more like a small outing for me. I have decided to bring my speed lights along for some location lighting this round.

I have tried to get in touch with a few person in charge to get their permission to go backstage for all the opera performance (But I have not been entertained after I inquired and explained to them about the project that I plan to go for). In the end, I got to know that there is actually one at the place near my housing area. So, I decided to go and try my luck on the first day I got to know about it. Arriving there, going up the backstage and manage to find 1 or 2 persons to engage with. Finally and luckily, they are happy and really excited on what I planned to do, they even allowed me to bring my gears (and lighting equipments along for my little project - Oh yes, I have confirmed with them multiple times telling them that I will be setting up light stand here and there and they are totally alright with that). :"D They even explain to me like when will everything be ready, or a better time that I should be there to seen everything that is happening at the backstage. :") There goes the first step.

Very serious and prepare for the show

Make up in progress - layers by layers.

Tuning the instruments - with cigarettes on my hand

Some costume

Eye Shadow Drawing

Curtain changer with labels

The night have come, I decided to go early and have a feel on the flow of the event. (At least to get an idea and what could I do to make everything more comfortable for them as well as for me). I can see that they have started to getting their make up ready very quickly and you could see that actually this is not an easy job. (They will took like around 30-40 minutes to get their makeup ready). And I also realize that they are not the local TeoChew Chinese Opera. Most of the cast members consists of people from Thailand, China and some minor local people. Everything is in a very very fast pace when it is getting closer to the performance time. And for me, I think I have decided to go for some natural lighting shoot (to keep as it is) as well as some strobe portraiture shoot for the folks. :") (And you gonna love the contrasty colors that is on their costume as well the make up)

Yup it is getting dark and the bulb is lighten up

Be Prepared - in Large

Carefully and Attentively - in Large

Tidy Up - in Large

Friendship (The guy on the right a bit camera shy though.) :") - in Large

Formality - in Large

Strength - in Large

In Focus - in Large

Getting ready for the next show

Lipsticking - in Large

Everybody is on stage - only the two of us here. :)

Cheers- in Large

One of the performer from China

Let the drum rolling

Remember me? - He is the same guy as above (Strength) playing different cast here. - in Large

RM3 for a mask, anyone?

I left after 1.5 hours after I realize that the performance paces have been getting faster and faster (and I could feel that I somehow has disturbed their movement in the small area). Anyway, I am glad that things goes well (I am a bit nervous at the beginning of the shooting wondering if I will be able to get the right shoot on the spot with the time and location pressure that I have). Thanks to all of them for have willingly pose for me as well as allow me to complete my little project that I have in mind despite of their busy and fast pace performance schedule. This has been a very great experience in deed. :") A big thanks to all of you~! ;"D

Lenses Used:
Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 (on most of the strobe shoot)
Sigma 50mm F1.4 HSM (on most of the natural lighting shoot)

Speed lights Used:
Nikon SB-800
Canon 580EXII
Phottix Atlas for remote flash triggering
All speed lights are attached with a 1/4 CTO gel

For those who are interested, the full series could be view here. ;)


  1. Wow!! Interesting! Can see the sweat of the performer!
    Like the make up.. :) so consistent!

  2. Thanks B&G. Glad that you like it. Yeah, the make up is pretty consistent. Not to mentioned that each of them is doing their own makeup though. :)

  3. 很久没有看潮州班/福建班了咯……
    很怀念小时候去看的 tok tok chiang... 哈哈

  4. 哈哈,我好像是第一回看。。。感觉很不错。:“)





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About Me

Chiat Hau is a portrait and wedding photographer based in Penang, Malaysia. He started his photography journey by shooting strangers' portrait on the streets of Penang and around the world whenever he travel. Observing life and culture through the viewfinder, Chiat Hau has found a passion for framing his subjects in a natural, cinematic and yet photo-journalistic fashion. Capturing precious moments in both commissioned assignments and personal projects.