2012 Chinese New Year Celebration in Austin

Lion Dance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration - Austin, Texas

Lion Dance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration – Austin, Texas

NOTE: I posted an An alternative view of the Chinese New Year for a completely different take on the very colorful images on this post.

In last week’s blog post, I wrote about how I made a mistake and went to a photo event on the wrong day. I made the best of this by getting some interesting and possibly exotic images at a local Asian supermarket. I was also in search for my dragon image that I wanted to post on the Chinese New Year. I headed up to the Chinatown Center again, yesterday, in north Austin for the Chinese New Year’s day festivities. This time, I definitely had the correct day and place. Even at 10:30am the place was jam-packed with cars. I brought the same camera and lens setup as last week, the Canon 7D with the 70-200 F4 and my trusty Olympus E-PL1 with the 20mm lens. If you account for the various crop factors, I had a setup that covered 112mm to 320mm with my Canon and 40mm on the Olympus. Turns out the combo worked out great. From behind the ropes surrounding the performance area, I was able to get closeups with my zoom and use my E-PL1 as a wide-angle. Later on, I also used my Olympus exclusively when I was able to walk up close to the action.

Musical Performance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Musical Performance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Ellen Chang, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Ellen Chang, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dancing, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dancing, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Drumming, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Drumming, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

The festivities started at 10:45 am with some traditional Chinese music. The two stringed instruments set the mood and the pace and action continued to increase from the opening performance. The music was followed by dancing and then drumming. Of course, there were the usual martial arts demonstrations.

Martial Arts, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Martial Arts, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

More Martial Arts, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

More Martial Arts, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

I haven’t been to one of these events in a while. Interestingly, many of the performers seem to be from the Austin area, including a large contingent from Summitt Elementary School which is part of the Austin public school system. Back 5 years ago, the performers came in from Houston so it definitely seems like the Asian population is Austin is growing. The dragon and lion dances were the main attractions of the Chinese New Year celebration. After a bit of research I discovered that the participants parade the dragon around on poles. The multicolored costumes worn by two people are the lions.

Dragon Dance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dragon Dance, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dragon Dance Closeup, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dragon Dance Closeup, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dragon Dance Performers, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Dragon Dance Performers, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Intensity, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Intensity, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Big Head Buddha, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Big Head Buddha, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lee Leffingwell, Austin’s mayor came out as the guest of honor, lighting the fireworks for the finale. The action shifted away from the makeshift stage to the back. The crowds at this point were 5 – 6 levels deep in most places. I somehow was able to escape from the stage and moved over the the backside where the firecrackers were in full force. The smoke and noise were so loud, it started to disperse the onlookers in the back. The people in the know had ear plugs which really is a necessity. Luckily for me, a blog reader suggested that I bring ear protection, something that I definitely would not have thought about — thank you, Jack. I was easily able to slip to the front right, right on top of the small explosions. By this time, I switched exclusively to my Olympus Pen camera. The 40mm lens was perfect for catching the up close action. I probably would have gotten even closer but the lack of eye protection made me hesitate.

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Mayor Lee Leffingwell, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance and Statues, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance and Statues, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Big Head Buddha and Fireworks, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Big Head Buddha and Fireworks, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

After the main firecracker lion dance, the performers shifted to several locations around the shopping center. A large firecracker performance occurred in front of the Asian supermarket that I visited last week, intimidating some of the customers. After that, smaller firecracker lion dances erupted in front of the various smaller stores throughout the complex. Between the smoke and fast action, it was a bit of crap shoot to get great images. With all the mini-explosions near me, I didn’t have my usual time to compose the shot. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the performance of the cameras. The lenses I used worked great for me and by having two cameras I didn’t have to change lenses. Certainly a plus in this very smokey environment. Incidentally, my Canon 70-200 f4L and the Panasonic Lumix 20mm f1.7 are my two favorite lenses. It was nice to put them through their paces on the same shoot.

I was a bit out of practice carrying the 7D with the 70-200 and the 430EX external flash. This is my heaviest combination and after a while my back started to feel the weight. I guess I need to work out more since my light weight mirrorless setup is making me soft. I may have look a bit strange with 2 cameras, with a dramatic size difference, around my neck, but it worked for me.

Lion Dance and Supermarket, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance and Supermarket, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Three Lions, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Three Lions, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance in Parking Lot, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance in Parking Lot, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance and Fireworks, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

Lion Dance and Fireworks, 2012 Chinese New Year Celebration

I’m not sure how this New Year’s festivity compares to the traditional celebrations in Asia but for a few hours I felt transported to another place. I’ve talked about seeking out other ethic celebrations in your hometown before on this blog. Whether it is the Dia de los Muertos celebration or the Chinese New Year, it is great to be able to shoot a different and diverse slice of American life. For the readers that have such opportunities, I encourage you to go seek out your local celebrations.


The photographs were taken with my Canon 7D and Olympus E-PL1. Please make sure to click on a photograph to see a larger image and hover over the photo to see the exposure details.

Some more information on the Lion and Dragon dance teams. Here are links to the Texas dragon/lion dance team and the Summitt Dragon/Lion Dance Team just in case you are interested in the groups or thinking about partaking in new year’s celebrations.

117 thoughts on “2012 Chinese New Year Celebration in Austin

  1. Great pictures. You captured the action very well! I really like the intense looks of the dancers faces and the fireworks shots. I actually know some of these guys. If you wanted to point them towards your site, the Dragon Dance team is called the Texas Dragon Dance Team – they are located at http://www.tddt.org – I danced with them 3-4 years ago.

    1. aFrankAngle, Thank you. I think its great to be able to share the different culture throughout the world. It’s also nice that the US has this much diversity.

  2. Really great pictures.

    As pointed out, the moments have been captured brilliantly.

    Happy Chinese New Year, it’s the year of the Dragon I believe!

    And that girl is really pretty!

  3. Thank you everyone for all the likes! After a year and a half of writing this blog, this is the first time I’ve been been “Freshly Pressed” quite an honor.

  4. Ohh thanks for sharing with us your experience! I love the variety of colors. Gotta love those Chinese New Year celebrations!

    I think this week is pretty much the last for celebrating Chinese New Year, and I’ll be attending a few festivities myself:)

  5. Happy New Year 2012, Year of the Dragon. What is the population of Austin for those of Asian descent? I don’t view Texas full of alot Asians….at least we don’t hear much about them here in Canada. So maybe things have changed?

    My partner actually will be visiting Austin tomorrow and some locals will be taking him around by bike. They are all cyclists….just as I am also.

    Am also at @ http://www.velo-city2012blog.com where you can see not New Year’s images, but info. on the size of the Metro Vancouver’s Chinese population.

    1. Jean, the Asian population of Austin is still small but growing. I found this interesting article from the local newspaper, the Austin American Statesman

      “Asians have come a long way in sheer numbers, too. New census data show that although Asians represent just 6.3 percent of Austin’s nearly 800,000 residents, the Asian population has surged by 60 percent since 2000, making it the fastest-growing group in the city by percentage, at triple the rate of Austin’s overall growth . At 49,560 people in 2010, Austin’s diverse Asian population ranked second in the state, behind only Houston.”

      Here is the link to the entire article:
      http://www.statesman.com/news/local/asian-population-surges-in-austin-1460337.html

      Welcome to Austin, I hope you have fun.

  6. Austin has so much to offer…what an amazing place to be…..I missed this Year’s Chinese New Year in Houston…So, this is like my way of celebrating it, with the fantastic, colorful, festive, jubilant images that leaps to life.

    1. You are so Right, I am an Austin Native, but have spent the last 10 years in London, & now Miami, So your amazing pics, brought me right back to the center of cultural diversity!

      Happy New Year from Miami. All The Best for 2012 and Beyond!
      924COLLECTIVE.WORDPRESS.COM

    1. Rangan Datta, read both of your posts about the Chinese and Chinese New Year in Calcutta. Very fascinating. Thanks for the feedback. Maybe the version here in Austin is a bit commercial? Still nice that they are having the celebration.

  7. Very nice pictures. I am not an expert in photography, but I can tell you captured the moments so well. Especially, the girl playing the instrument and the martial art kid. Thanks for sharing. Happy Chinese New Year.

    1. aacohen97, thank you. Isn’t photograph and photo-blogging fun. It does take a bunch of time but I’m enjoying myself. I’ve visited your site too. You have some great angles, some bordering on the abstract. Great stuff.

  8. How exciting! The photos are amazing! Thank you for sharing. 🙂 I didn’t really celebrate Lunar new year this year – we just had a romantic dinner for two. Although, I will have my first Lunar new year celebration in Taiwan next year. xD

    1. whatsaysyou, thanks for you comment. I’m pretty excited about Freshly pressed. No sure how difficult it is to get on again but I’m sure enjoying it right now.

    1. 7theaven, thank you for the design compliments. It took me a month or so of tweaking to get my main wordpress blog, my gallery and my mostlyfotos photo blog to have a uniform type of feeling.

  9. I grew up in Austin and there was certainly not a substantial Asian population back in the days I lived there. How things have changed!

    I love the first shot (3 lions) and how contemplative the girl on the stringed instrument looks. My favorite may be the 2 Big Head Buddhas with the lion and all the smoke/sunlight. It’s such an interesting shot. But all your photos are wonderful, colorful, and evocative.

    Thanks for posting these. It brought me back AND gave me food for thought. Austin is still a dynamic place!

    1. Julee Celeste, Yes, the Asian population apparently is the fastest growing ethnic population is Austin. Up to about 6 -7% according to the Statesman. Hard to believe. Thanks for stopping by.

  10. wow. This is very typical scene for chinese traditional new year but everytime its amazing and fun to see. Beautiful pictures from the angle. Love it !

  11. Very cool photos. I’m studying Mandarin and our student and teacher community got together to celebrate the New Year (we’re also getting together this week, for the Lantern Festival).

    My city (Porto, in Portugal) doesn’t have a very large Chinese community so the festivities were’t nearly as spectacular as those you’ve photographed so well. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Isn’t it great that you can live in Portugal and study Chinese and chat with someone that lives in the United States and appreciate the Chinese festivities in Austin. The positive side of global communication. Thanks for your comment.

  12. This looks so much more Chinese than it did here this year in Shanghai…. Maybe I was at the wrong place… There were a lot of fireworks though!

  13. You came away with a lot of great shots! I feel like I was vicariously there. I thought about going to this but, well, you know how I don’t like being in crowds. Thanks for documenting the event so well.

  14. Great Blog post! I’m from New Zealand, and it’s great to see how CNY celebrations are done around the world. You have captured a good feel of the event through your photography 🙂

    Great stuff!

    Winston.

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