Ecce Homo – Easter in Braga, Portugal

As Easter week approached I kept trying to figure out which Easter celebrations, among those which were close-by, I could photograph. Yes, I’ve been quiet for too long after India, and I needed to dust off my camera. The options I pondered included Seville, in Spain, but in the end, for various reasons, I came to Braga, which is where I’m now.

Braga is in the north of Portugal, and has a strong Easter tradition, perhaps the strongest in the whole country. I’m glad I came here – it’s probably less crowded than Seville but its celebrations don’t seem less photogenic and intense – also Braga is a bit closer to Lisbon and I assume it’s less expensive.

During the Semana Santa in Braga several religious events take place, but I only had a limited time and so I picked the two days when the biggest processions are held: Thursday, yesterday, and Friday, today.

Last night I went to the Ecce Homo procession. Ecce Homo in latin means “Behold the man”, which is supposed to be the phrase Pontius Pilate pronounced while showing Jesus to the crowds before his crucifixion. The symbolic value of the procession is to commemorate the condemnation of Jesus. The procession was led by the Farricocos, the hooded people you can see in the photos below, and followed by a marching band playing a melancholic, sorrowful soundtrack, plus people dressed in biblical costumes.

Most Farricocos hold poles with a little tray at the top, filled with burning pine cones – these torches are also the reason why the procession is sometimes called Procissão do Fogaréu (Procession of the small fires, or something similar). Some Farricocos walk in the middle between the two rows with baskets full of pine cones to refill the torches when needed. The Farricocos at the beginning of the procession hold a stick with some rotating stuff on top, when they move the stick in a circle, the rotating stuff, well, rotates… and makes noise. Damn! I don’t know how these things are called, but look at the 9th picture below  🙂 UPDATE: I found out they are called “Matracas” which in English translates as “Ratchets” – these are musical instruments played by percussionists.

When I shoot festivals I’ve shot before, like some saints festivals in Sicily, I can sometimes anticipate the moment, as in choosing a good point of vantage before action happens, knowing what to look for, and stuff like that. I couldn’t do that last night – although I read something about the Ecce Homo procession (I saw some photos of it too), it was my first time shooting it and so I was in a sort of “exploring” mode. Other two challenges I encountered are low light shooting and focusing speed. My current equipment is quite good, but in certain situations I still miss the low light capabilities and the speed of my old digital reflex camera (a Canon 5D Mark III) and its lenses. In relation to low-light shooting, I had to embrace my main limitation, namely the slow shutter speed I got even at 6400 ISO with my lenses wide open – as a result of that thinking, when I knew I was going to have movement blur, I moulded my visual ideas around movement blur, rather than rejecting it. Re focusing speed, unfortunately there was little I could do, and I missed a couple (well, more than a couple) of shots while the lens was still hunting for focus.

During last night’s procession I haven’t seen much display of emotions (with one or two exceptions as you can see from the photos) – but I’m told tonight’s procession, called Enterro do Senhor (trad: Entombment of Jesus) will be a sad one, with no music a much more sorrowful atmosphere. Perhaps I’ll see more emotions later on. In a way or another I’m looking forward to shooting good stuff tonight 🙂

Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014
Braga, Portugal, 2014