PhotoChat: International Festivals
May 3, 2001
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Do you have one favorite festival that you go to every year?
I like the Crop Over Festival in Barbados. That's a lot of fun, because not only do they have people parading around, but they also have a huge sound stage in a stadium, and that's where this picture of the man in blue was taken. At night, they have bands playing even louder than they play during the day, and it's just incredible to experience this Caribbean music. If you shoot at night, I recommend taking fast film--ISO 200 or 400--or if you have your digital camera, set your ISO to 400 or higher.
Has anyone ever asked you to take his or her photo, or do you always have to ask the subject?
Some people ask me to take their photos. I find that people at these events are, basically, exhibitionists. They want to be seen and be photographed. This girl in the green here, I was talking to her and taking pictures off to the side, and she said, "Oh come on! You can get a better shot," and she posed for me. I got this nice picture. As far as do I always ask, most of the time the music is so loud in the parades, you can just gesture with your camera, and people will let you take their picture. People can tell I'm a professional, because I have all the gear, but there are hundreds of amateurs there with their cameras, too, taking fun shots.
Do you only take pictures of the performances, or do you like to take pictures of the people watching the performances, and the backstage stuff?
I like telling the whole story, so I do all of that. As far as backstage stuff, in Barbados, I was right by the stage, and I got some really nice shots of the performers getting ready. What I do at a festival is get there maybe two hours before it starts, and I get pictures of the people getting ready and putting on makeup, as you can see in this picture here, and that's fun, too. That tip telling the whole story is really important, no matter what type of event you're covering. Be it a festival or a family get-together, take lots of different types of pictures, close ups, wide-angle shots, candids, and posed pictures. Tell the story.
What is your top tip for festival photo taking?
Be there! Be there is the top tip. Next, before you go, practice at home using your camera, to a point where you can adjust every setting in the dark, because at some festivals, you will be shooting in the dark. Especially practice using your flash, because at festivals, you often run into very high contrast situations where the subject is in the shade, backlit, or is wearing a mask. So the first tip is to be there. Before that, you must know how to use your camera. Also, because you're going to be photographing people, you can't be shy. You have to be in the parade. You have to be in the action. You have to be--to use a popular expression--in their face. So if you're not used to photographing strangers, practice that at home, too. Another tip is that when you get to a festival, try to talk to local people, either a concierge at a hotel, or just some local person to help get an overview of the festival. Speaking of festivals, there's a great web site that tells you about festivals around the country, and it's www.festivals.com.
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