Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Wagah Border & Amritsar (Part 4)

Hello and welcome back to Part 4 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. If you had been following, I think you are now very familiar with a traditional Indian Sikh wedding.

At the conclusion of the wedding ceremonies and parties, I had two days to spare before embarking on my solo journey from Chandigarh to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. Some of the guests of the wedding (residing in the same hotel) wanted to make a trip further north to visit other places and that's where we decided to visit the Wagah Border (called Wahga border in Pakistan) to witness the Wagah Border Ceremony, as well as Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple (Sri Harmandir Sahib) during this day trip.

  • Attari Village - Wagah Border (Border between India and Pakistan)

A point to note, that in any countries you intend to visit, it is always good to be prepared; know the routes you'll take, distances between the places you will be visiting, mode of transport, have spare batteries for your mobile devices etc.

As our day trip was rather impromptu, there wasn't exactly any plans. All we did was to book ourselves a transport and off we went. Mind you that the Wagah Border was about 270km away from Chandigarh and Google Maps had it for 5 hours travelling time. With this information, we got up bright and early, had our breakfast and departed the hotel at 9:00am with our spirits and mood high from the past few days of partying.

Well, Mr. 'Murphy' (Murphy's Law) always has a way of making fun of people. Well, we certainly didn't plan to get stuck in traffic for close to three hours on the road. The vehicles were stationary and terribly close to one another that at one point of time, I was able to help myself to some sugarcanes which someone was transporting through my opened window. Traffic was just horrible! 'Why are we waiting' and 'Are we there yet?' kept on playing in our minds. 

So eventually we did arrive in the village of Attari. Make a rough guess as to what time we got there? If you guessed 5:00pm, you are absolutely right! We spent 8 solid hours driving from Chandigarh to the village of Attari where the border is situated. But, we humans love making lemonade out of lemons right - we did admire the beautiful countrysides, tasted raw cane sugar straight out from the machine, had ice cream which costed us SGD$0.50 for a cone which would have costed SGD$2.50 or more here in Singapore.

As if the 8 hours journey wasn't the worse that can happen, the flag lowering ceremony (Wagah Border Ceremony) was about to start at 5:30pm which meant that everyone in the bus only had 30 minutes to run 500 metres to the border gates in order to witness the ceremony. As we had with us a few older folks, running for them was out of the question so they had to give this ceremony a miss or catch it from afar from the huge electronic and pixelated displays. I did not want to miss any photo opportunities hence there I was literally making a mad dash to the gates.

Oh, and as if the 500m dash within 30mins was straight-forward? I couldn't be more wrong! 

I had to dance my way pass the crowd of hundreds of people just to reach not one but two security lines for body searches where I again needed to squeeze and shove my way to the front (in case you didn't know, shoving, pushing and squeezing is the norm in India) to have my body searched quickly. Security was really tight - they didn't allow any kinds of bags, cigarettes, lighters, sharp objects etc - the heighten security was in place due to a suicide bombing attack which took place in year 2014 during the daily border ceremony in Pakistan. Thankfully foreigners holding foreign passports (make sure you wave it up in their air when nearing the checking and segregation areas so that the officers could see you and redirect you to another faster lane if necessary) were allowed to use special (tourist) security lanes that would eventually get me to the border gates within 15 minutes.

Do enjoy the next few photos I took when I was at the Wagah (Wagha) Border Ceremony.

Personally, I can't help but think about the years of conflict India and Pakistan have been in when witnessing the Wagah Border ceremony. Despite their tense relationship, both countries still come together every sundown to produce an enthusiastic and pomp ceremony marking the nightly closing of the border. I can only hope that relationships between both countries will improve for the sake of the the well-being of their people. 

Saw this sign while leaving the border. Security threat is ever so real in this part of the world hence we must never take the security we enjoy at home for granted. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

  • Amritsar - Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple)

After witnessing the Wagah Border Ceremony, we left the village for the city of Amritsar to visit the Golden Temple. The journey from the border to Amritsar took us about an hour and we were very glad it was only an hour given that the traffic leading into the city was by no surprise, horrible. It was about 7.20pm by the time we arrived in Amritsar.

Feeling famished but wanting to make up for lost time, we hurried along the busy roads leading to the temple and it was along the way that I heard from Mr. Charan that within 2km radius of the temple, the food were all pure vegetarian - for a moment, my heart sank - "I need my meat" I thought to myself but quickly disregarded this point because all I wanted was to get to the Golden Temple quickly.

Congested roads in Amritsar. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

After arriving at the Golden Temple, we had to deposit our shoes as no footwear is allowed within the Temple premises. Given that it was winter, you can just imagine how cold the marble floor was to the touch of our feet. But the cold in our feet soon gave way to a feeling or sensation that I felt while staring at the golden temple.

Along with a few others in our group, our jaws dropped as we stared in awe at the Golden Temple. The gold from the Temple gleamed straight in our eyes so much that a pair of shades would help us see better. It was as though we had finally seen the heavenly light shining down on us from the heavens above (ok, I was being dramatic here). 

I recall vividly on first stepping into the temple, feeling a deep sense of respect and privilege - that for me as a foreigner, and of a different faith, was able to set foot into the holiest of holy places of the Sikhs. And I am really thankful for that.

Enough said, below are some photos from Sri Harmandir Sahib (Golden Temple). Enjoy. 

Having seen this holy place, I have to admit that although the time spent in there was short (I didn't get the chance to enjoy the free meals or lodging provided or enter the Golden Temple), I truly enjoyed every minute of my time there. I found it rather hard to leave such a peaceful, extraordinary and stunning place.

Hold it hold it.. do you really think the day trip is done? Absolutely not! I have a little more to share regarding this 2 days 1 night trip. Yes! You heard me right. Our day trip became a 2 days 1 night trip.

Here's what happened - It was about 9:00pm when we decided to finally make our trip back to Chandigarh from Amritsar. Remember I said that we were all famished? Well, we had to grab a quick bite. For me, I tasted vegetarian McDonalds for the first time (OMG it was quite awful) and the rest of the guys got vegio pizza to takeaway and eat on the bus as we had a 4-hour journey ahead of us. We got back onto the road at about 10:00pm and was scheduled to arrive back at our hotel by 02:00am the latest (as advised by the driver).

As we headed back to Chandigarh, Mr. Murphy again decided to pay us another visit - this time with a punctured tyre on our transporter. WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM US MURPHY! Thankfully a gas station was close by where we got some gas and had the tyre replaced. The time was 02:00am and all of us were already exhausted, the driver then informed us that for safety reasons (he's on his spare tyre), he was only able to travel at 50km/h back to our hotel. All of us just sunk into our seats sighing in disbelief but had to resigned to fate on what had happened to us in that past 19.5 hours. In all, we arrived safely back at the hotel at 04:30am. What an eventful day it has been for all of us who signed up for this day trip.

Some pictures to document the incidents while coming back to the hotel.

So, I've finally come to the end of part 4 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. I do hope that you've enjoyed my blog posts so far. In part 1 of my blog post, I did mention that I'll cover my trip to India in 4 parts. Well guess what! I've got a bonus Part 5 for you that will be up by next week. Do continue to stay tuned to my blog for more updates.

Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to:

  • keep God in heart and mind at all times
  • live honestly and work hard
  • treat everyone equally
  • be generous to the less fortunate
  • serve others

Have a lovely mid-week everyone!

Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Traditional Sikh Wedding (Part 3)


First up, I have to admit these posts have been the longest ever written on this blog, but it is with utmost pleasure writing and I reckon this is one of the best ways to share my excitement and adventure recently in India. Although it is not quite possible to be very exhaustive, I hope the memories captured by my lens will share more than just a thousand words.

So, welcome back to Part 3 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!

I firmly believe that documenting an event like this will give guests and visitors alike the chance to reminisce and relive the moments during the wedding, or feel like being at the wedding itself even though one may be physically in front of the computer. And that's the power of still images - where photographs are a means of keeping memories fond, timeless and sometimes, priceless - because you can never re-create an exact moment that was captured on camera.

If you recall from the previous two parts, there were pictures from the Haldi ceremony, the Mehendi party, the Sangeet and the Traditional Sikh wedding (Anand Karaj). Hence, in today's post, I will be covering the finale of the wedding - the Grand Wedding Reception.

It was one of the most extravagant, classiest and opulent wedding receptions I had attended, with the venue being somewhere in the outskirts of Chandigarh. One could have mistaken that this was an event fit for a Maharajah! Which comes to my next point - What goes on during a wedding reception?

No prizes for guessing! Yes, it was time to eat up all that delicious gourmet, make merry and most importantly, to put on your dancing shoes and dance the night away! Having been to wedding parties before this, I can surely conclude that the Sikhs really do know how to P.A.R.T.Y.Y.Y.Y!! It was incredible! Where did they get all their energy from?

The pictures tell a brilliant story, and I guarantee you will enjoy them all! Presenting - the Grand Wedding Reception!

At this juncture, I have pretty much summed up the few days of a traditional Sikh wedding in India. This assignment has definitely given me a greater appreciation of the Sikh culture and tradition. In globalised Singapore, we may live locally but we may sometimes be able to celebrate such events globally, and in this regard, it is beneficial for one to be constantly mindful towards the customs and traditions of any wedding, festivals or events one attends. It is also a good practice to do your own research, or perhaps even consult the host to on things like attire, and some do's and don'ts. This will prevent any inadvertent insult/offence to people of that culture.

If you are still in the mood, and are craving for more, here's a sneak peek into the next blog post! I will be sharing some pictures of my trip (with some of the wedding guests) to the Wagha Border to witness the Wagha ceremony, followed by a trip to Amritsar, the spiritual and cultural centre for the Sikhism, and end with my solo journey to the Taj Mahal. In the meantime, stay safe and have yourself a wonderful mid-week!

Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Traditional Sikh Wedding (Part 2)

Welcome back to the second part of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India. In this post, I share my personal experience during my time in India, from shooting the Sangeet, to the traditional Wedding Day, to the continuation of my trip (I was in India for a total of 14 days).

So, having accepted the assignment in India, I thought to myself that the chance had arrived for me to visit the Taj Mahal, which happened to be a destination on my bucket list. In all my overseas assignments previously, I strive to come home to my family, and to get on with editing and other works, right after they were done. But in this case, I chose to stay on, and went on a solo trip to visit the Taj Mahal. It was also my first solo adventure without the missus.

In just about any country I have visited, I was very sure to encounter people living in the streets, or just living below the poverty line. India was no different. In fact while on my way out of New Delhi, my taxi drove past a really huge landfill (some locals call it 'Trash Mountain'), and people were actually going through the mountain of garbage for items they could resell just to make a living!

But what heartened me was that although the gap between the rich and poor is wide, some people still care for others. At one of the parties, I actually asked what would become of all the leftover food, and the response was, "We will share it with the poor."

Here is a picture of some of the underprivileged children enjoying hot food from the party.

Underprivileged kids given hot food to eat. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

Now, let's head back to the parties. I did mention in Part 1 of this blog post that a traditional Sikh wedding is all about prayers and parties. Well, each party held their own significance - just like the one that I will talk about - the Sangeet.

  • Sangeet Ceremony

A little fact I found out about the Sangeet was that the ceremony is the mother of all pre-wedding parties. It is the epitome of a grand event which includes the festivity of songs and dance, decorations, lavish gourmet food and bringing together wonderful guests of all ethnicities; dressed up as if they were attending the prestigious International Indian Film Awards (IIFA). 

Just to exaggerate slightly, everyone at Sangeet was so sharply dressed that if anyone were to make an entrance into the party escorted by an envoy of bodyguards or photographers flashing away, I would think that they were some super star like Hrithik Roshan or Aishwarya Rai - stars worthy of my rushing over for a selfie! To be frank, I personally believe that the people who graced that night's Sangeet were really good looking.

Anyway, Sangeet is also a time where family members and guests put on choreographed performances for the bride and groom's enjoyment. Thinking back, it is no wonder the Sangeet is indeed THE most memorable part of the wedding and I dare say that this event would definitely leave a lasting impression on the guests who have attended. It sure did for me.

Do enjoy these photos.

Hope you are enjoying the above photos so far. Writing this blog post and posting pictures of the Sangeet makes me reminisce how much I had enjoyed myself even while documenting the whole ceremony.

To add, after the Sangeet Ceremony, the next day was to be the traditional Sikh wedding conducted at the Gurdwara. Let me tell you that in all the weddings that I have covered so far, this traditional wedding left me with the fondest of impressions. Why you might ask, well - 1st: I've never seen a groom make an entrance to a wedding venue on a horse. 2nd: The sheer number of people accompanying the groom all the way from his home to the wedding venue just blew my mind. 3rd: being a photographer from Singapore, heat and humidity is something that I cannot avoid so wearing a full suit to a shoot in Singapore is quite unheard of, so to cover this whole event during winter and in a full suit, was literally a first for me.

As a photographer, not only would I go where the job takes me, I do what it takes to get me THAT photo. (Photo credit to Mahesh. Taken from his Iphone 5)

  • Traditional Sikh Wedding (Anand Karaj)

On this very morning, guests and family members of the bride gathered early outside the Gurdwara to wait upon the arrival of the Barat (groom's family). At this juncture, the bride had already arrived at the Gurdwara and was ushered into a private waiting room until the main ceremony begins.

Please pardon me if my facts are not as accurate, but if my memory serves me right, upon the arrival of the groom, both families do come together for milni (meeting) before the ardaas (prayers) commences. This prayers are important because it signifies the start of a happy occasion and the milni serves as formal introduction to relatives of each family where garlands are playfully exchanged between family members of both the bride and groom.

The main event; Traditional Sikh wedding (anand karaj also known as 'Blissful Union') takes place in the gurdwara darbar. In here, family, relatives and friends from both sides pay their respects to the Guru Granth Sahib before taking a seat in the darbar.

I shall let my pictures do the talking from here, shall we? Below each picture is a little description.

Thanks for staying with me all this way! Very proud of you! I hope you have enjoyed my write-up and the mesmerising pictures. I'll cover more about the wedding reception as well as my solo journey from Chandigarh to Agra in the next two blogs post. 

In the meantime, have a great week ahead and stay tuned for Part 3 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!

Kelvin Luffs Photography in India - Traditional Sikh Wedding (Part 1)

Hi again! It's been quite a hiatus on my blog. But I have been very hard at work in the last 10 months at Kelvin Luffs Photography. For the very first time on my blog, I will include pictures taken from my mobile phone to depict the behind-the-scene situations I had encountered during the trip. This post will totally be different from the previous posts because it will include my own personal opinion, views and thoughts during and post-assignment.

So back in December 2015, I flew for the first time into India, New Delhi and my assignment was to shoot a traditional Sikh wedding in the city of Chandigarh, further north of New Delhi.

Prior to making this trip, I encountered people who were really negative about the county of India. They were questioning, why why why? Why India? Some comments I received were; India is dirty; India is unsafe; there's nothing in India; you are going to get sick the day you arrive, etc. When I accepted this assignment, I knew it was time to debunk any kinds of stereotypes that people have tried to impress upon me. As a professional photographer, it is my duty to go anywhere the job takes me. And I wanted to see and experience how the India was like.

  • Arrival to New Delhi and onwards journey to Chandigarh

After 5 hours 40 minutes in the air, I finally touched down at New Delhi's Indira Ghandi International Airport. Quite honestly, the staff at the airport were not very welcoming. It had taken 1.5 hours just to clear customs and I couldn't help but feel it was parallel to some of the negative feedbacks I had gotten earlier. Apparently many tourist were caught up with e-visas and visa-on-arrival issues. So lesson here - always have your visa done at the Indian Embassy in your own country before the flight into India to avoid such problems.

World's Number One airport? (Image taken with IPhone 6+)

The bride and groom were expecting guests on the same flight as I was and had arranged for taxis to drive us into Chandigarh. The estimated time from New Delhi to Chandigarh was about 4 hours 30 minutes (NOT), all in, we took a 7 plus hours drive to get from New Delhi to Chandigarh.

Having hit the 299km/h mark on my Suzuki Hayabusa on many occasions in the last 11 years of riding, the experience I got while in this taxi was one of the most harrowing I have ever experienced in my life.

Could you imagine a fully-loaded 7-seater vehicle roaring down what seems to be a highway at 160-180km/h with the driver seemingly having a blatant disregard for the safety of anyone, let alone the passengers in his vehicle? Then as the sky turned dark, the driver shockingly continued speeding down the unlit highway at 160km/h on the fastest moving lane, only to come to a sudden emergency stop - because a COW was crossing the highway! Whew, I have never felt more relieved in my life reaching my destination in one piece.

It's a common sight to have a vehicle fully loaded with passengers and their baggage placed atop the vehicles. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

  • Chandigarh and Sector 17 Shopping

Unlike the actual day weddings I cover in Singapore which are usually done in a day or in exceptional cases, two days, a traditional Sikh wedding can take up to four days long! That's four full days of formalities and parties leading up to the traditional wedding day and wedding reception. 

As with all the photographic assignments, I do make it a habit to arrive early (1-2 hours earlier locally) and in this instance, I arrived three days ahead of the first scheduled event. This is to ensure that all my equipments are in working order, and for me to locate shops selling camera equipments in case any of my equipments were damaged en-route or stolen (which I have personally experienced back in 2013) needing replacement. Unfortunately there aren't any rental service in that part of India so buying would be the next best alternative should I need to.

In any part of my overseas assignments, I think the part I love most is getting to know people. Getting to know people surely has its perks - they share with you information which may take you to places to meet any needs you may have (for me, they are camera shops and tailors). Loving the jacket which was tailored to my liking and costing only SGD$70.

Please pardon my distorted and frowning face in the picture above. (Image taken with iPhone 6+)

  • Pre-Wedding Prayers & Party

Prayers before the actual wedding is actually rather common across most cultures. Whilst each differs in their own ways, the goal is the same - that is to give blessings to the wedding couple. Here in the next few photos, you'll be able to see Akhand Paath - the reading of the entire Guru Granth Sahib. You will also be able to see that the home (of the groom's parents) where the Akhand Paath was hosted had been cleared of furniture, and clean white sheets spread on the floor with fresh flowers placed beside the Guru Granth Sahib. 

At the conclusion of the prayers in the groom's house, it was time for the family members, relatives and guests to dance along with the couple to the Gurudwara (Temple) to collect water. So what happens here is that a special jug called the Gharoli is used to collect the water from the temple for the groom to bathe in later on.

Did I mention that a Sikh Wedding is all about prayers and... PARTIES? Yes, it was literally non-stop partying and boozing and here are some pictures from one of the many parties leading up to the wedding.

  • Haldi Ceremony & Mehendi Party

Some facts about the Haldi Ceremony which I learnt while I was covering the event - Haldi ceremony is basically an act of smearing turmeric paste onto the bride and groom's body and the significance to this ritual is really to ward off evil spirits that may affect the union of the groom and his bride.

Apart from warding off evil spirits, the paste serves as a cleanser for the body and soul and signifies the bride's preparation to be welcomed into adult married life.

This Haldi ceremony was definitely a mood lifter because it's when the bride can have some fun amidst all the tension and chaos of planning her wedding. Here, friends and family of the bride (including me) can take part in it and apply the haldi paste on the bride. 

Mehendi Party or better known as Mehendi Ki Raat is when the gorgeous bride-to-be adorns her hands and feet with different designs made out of henna. The entire ceremony is one that's filled with endless fun and laughter as every family member and close friends of the bride and the groom can have the mehendi done on themselves too.

Even I had the privilege of getting a small mehendi done on me by the groom himself. Haha.

I hope you are still following by now. It will be easier if I break this article up into a 4 parts for your easy reading. For now, do enjoy the above photos and stay tuned for Part 2 of Kelvin Luffs Photography in India!

Celebrating Massimiliano & Demptna's Wedding Day

Celebrating Massimiliano & Demptna's Wedding Day

Follow me on my journey as I present to you on how I capture life's biggest moments through the camera lens.

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Alvin & Mabel's Solemnisation

A secondary school student recently asked during my talk (invited back to Greenview Secondary School) about becoming an entrepreneur - why I chose the path of becoming a photographer? Well, this question hit me really hard and as I paused for a moment to think about my response, I can see the anticipation the students had in their eyes regarding my response. Here are the reasons I responded with:

  • I get to capture and preserve memories for people
  • Being a photographer allows me to slow down, observe and appreciate the beauty of my surroundings
  • I get to witness love, warmth and affection
  • Lastly, I get to connect with people

Therefore in my line of work, I am always very privileged to meet with many people. People who are in love, people who love their unborn child, people who love their families and many more. I have to count myself as being very fortunate to be an indirect recipient of their love, warmth and affection because it helps me improve on my personality as well.

Alvin and Mabel was definitely one of those couples who portrayed so much love and affection for each other that they inevitably made me reminisce the time I took my vow together with my wife.

May the both of you flourish in each others' love and affection.

Destination Pre-Wedding: Nicholas & Fion

I got a call one morning in late December last year from Nicholas asking if I was willing to accept a last minute booking to shoot their pre-wedding in mid January 2015 of which I gladly accepted.

Basically the couple had already booked a short getaway to Batam, Indonesia to escape the hustling and bustling rapidity at work. So in the midst of planning for the trip, an idea struck the couple that since they were already heading to Batam, they should also get their pre-wedding shoot done there.

While places like Bali and Bintan are common places where couples travel to to have their pre-wedding photos taken, not too many have ever considered Batam for their shoot as most people do not perceive Batam to be as beautiful as it's neighbours.

Well I have to admit that this perception did cross my mind while I was doing my research. Perhaps by pure coincidence, I chanced upon this phrase while doing my research; it read - 'When life gives you lemons, make lemonade' though more philosophical than photography related, it hit me like a tonne of bricks. It basically reminded me that I must make good of whatever that comes my way. Throw me anywhere in any conditions and I'll still give you stunning and memorable pictures for keep.

To those of you who were wondering, yes some of the pictures were shot right smack in midday when the sun was directly above us and there were also instances where I had to shoot directly into the sun - at times the glare was so intense that I had to shoot with both eyes closed and completely trust my equipments and technical knowledge fully to get The shot. 

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure.

With that, I shall conclude this lengthy post with a Wefie with my clients after a day's shoot. Have a great weekend everybody!