The origin of sky lanterns have changed over the years. The Chinese (according to Wikipedia) are known to have started using it originally back when the ancient Chinese wars were taking place. That could go back to A.D. 6th Century or so. They used it to send up a signals and had written messages on the lanterns to communicate to other war forces.
As it seems to have evolved now, that most of the festivals will have the person(s) writing their wish or desire on the lantern, and then sending their lantern up into heaven, or to the sky.
I recently attended a massively attended sky lantern festival in our local area, and it was held out away from the major city some 40 or so miles, where the stars were already brighter than you would see away from the city, and the impact of a large amount of these sky lanterns going up into the sky at one time would be amazing.
They had a countdown of lighting the lanterns at about 10pm and then the audience would release them all at once.
How to take photos of all this low light situation? Taking flash photos of this event would totally ruin the atmosphere of this type of event. Yet, you want to be able to freely roam around the crowd and capture the feeling and the effect of the individuals trying to get that lanterns, with their dreams written on them, to work. So, I went all the way with my camera shooting at an ISO of 6400 !! My aperture was set as open as can be at F3.5, and then my shutter speed was letting me use a good shutter speed so I didn’t have to worry about blurry photos, mostly around 125 to 250th of a second.
To capture the smiles on faces and the accomplishment of their lanterns ready to go, is what you want to do. And then, at this festival, I think there was somewhere between 12,000 to 15,000 people there to do this festival. What does it look like when you have that many lanterns in the sky at once?
Can pictures do justice to this amazing event? Well, I’m not sure. It’s kind of like looking at an amazing landscape photo. Sometimes, if you are there in person, it seems more spectacular. But, photos can do a great job of capturing it in a 2D format for us to remember for a long time.
While we were waiting for the 10pm launch, we certainly had a party as well. A little fire that we could gather around and roast marshmallows and hot dogs and have a good time as a family and friends:
So, at least we can all learn from this that even in almost total darkness and just the light of what you have around you, you can take photos without flash using a high speed ISO setting, with great results.
SOME MORE PHOTOS OF THE EVENT: