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Küssnachter Klausjagen: Santa, whips, lanterns, bells and horns.

Küssnachter Klausjagen is a unique cultural event that takes place annually on, or around, the 5th of December, kicking of at 8:15pm with a gunshot.

The event is a procession that winds through the streets of Küssnacht, from 8:15 pm to approximately 10:40 pm, punctuated by a short halftime break for refreshment. Leading the parade are several adept individuals wielding whips, who skill-fully carve a path through the throngs of up to 30,000 spectators lining the streets. The proficiency exhibited in handling the whips is evident, in that it appears that the only discomfort experienced by the crowd was due to the resounding crack echoing from the whips impacting their eardrums.

Following this, what stands out as the highlight for most onlookers is the segment featuring over 200 participants adorned with massive ornamental lanterns known as "iffele" on their heads. Some of these lanterns reach towering heights of up to 2.5 meters, boasting highly intricate coloured panels resembling stained-glass windows that radiate illumination from within. The creation of some of the larger and more intricate lanterns demands a substantial investment of time, ranging from 500 to 700 hours.

In constant motion—spinning, jumping, and weaving through the procession—the lanterns create a mesmerizing spectacle. However, capturing this dynamic display on camera poses a challenge, especially without the use of flash, which is prohibited. While video is feasible for most modern cameras and mobile devices, still photography requires specific settings. The swift motion of the lanterns necessitates a minimum shutter speed of 1/100, preferably 1/200 to 1/250 to prevent motion blur. Adhering to a maximum ISO of 6400 requires wide apertures ranging from f/1.2 to f/2.0, ideally f/1.4, accompanied by a deliberate underexposure of 1-2 stops. Even with top-notch equipment, many shots often require significant post-processing for noise reduction.

The wide apertures, although desirable in various settings, result in a very shallow depth of field, which may not always be ideal for the lanterns. An out-of-focus lantern can become more of a distraction than an artistic element. While some high bokeh shots may work well, the challenge often lies in capturing the spinning lanterns when they face the camera within a narrow distance range.

Following the lanterns, the procession includes Santa and his helpers, fortunately carrying torches, making them easier to capture. However, the subsequent 1500+ participants, adorned with horns or bells, are unlit and prove challenging to capture in high quality, both in stills and video, unless illuminated by someone's illegal flash, torch, or a random street light.

When it really got dark, the best thing to do was to put down the camera gear, immerse myself in the experience, and to simply enjoy the festivities with a beer, glühweine, and a bratwurst or two.

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