When you're on your travels, if you find a festival will be happening in or near to the place you're staying do take your camera to it as these events, even though they can be sometimes tricky to photograph, give you the opportunity to capture vibrant images that are full of energy and life.
Have A Plan
The problem with these types of events is there's usually so much to capture that you can easily end up snapping shots of anything and everything. This approach will get you the odd shot that's good, but your day will run much more smoothly if you have some sort of plan.
If you know what to expect you can make a detailed shot plan then work on getting different angles and viewpoints once you've ticked your list off. However, if you're heading to a show where the details are a bit vague, you can create a more general shot list that'll stop you from getting sidetracked once you're in the middle of the action.
A basic list could include:
Introduction – Take shots that set the scene and tell the viewer where you are, who is there, why etc. However, try not to overrun your shots with too many focal points as if the eye doesn't have something to focus on the shot can be rather confusing and look too busy.
Portraits – As well as taking photos of people who are part of the festival, shoot portraits of those who are there to enjoy the event. Candids work well in crowds but posed shots of the people you're attending the event with can be as equally interesting. Try shooting from the hip to see what shots of the crowd you can capture. It's a bit of a hit-and-miss approach but it can work well when you fall lucky with the framing.
Detail – After you have captured wider shots that set the scene focus your lens on small detail such as frame-filling shots of costumes and food. Costumes often take hours if not days to put together so take the time to focus in on the colours and decorations on them. These close up shots work well when positioned against wider shots of the event.
Creative – Most of the time you'll want your images to be completely sharp and in focus, however as these events usually involve dancing and parades, you can use slower shutter speeds to blur motion which will create a sense of pace and energy in your shots. If you want to freeze the dancers in your frame you'll need a quick shutter speed.
Ending – A row of actors taking a bow, dancers in a parade moving off into the distance or a table now decorated with empty glasses and plates all show the ending of the event you're taking photos at and are a good way, if you're creating an album or photo book, to conclude your travel tale with.
Preparation is Key
If you're making your own way to the event rather than going on a coach, make sure you arrive for the start or if you can, get there before the event begins so you can find a good spot early. If you don't, you could end up shooting over people's heads. If you have time to scout the area for the best vantage points do as once the crowd starts building, finding good spots for taking photos from will get harder. If you don't fancy the elbow fight try and find a spot that gives you a little height over the crowd.
If the event's one that's popular and you know you'll be attending before you get on the plane have a look on the internet and in guide books for tips and examples of shots other photographers have taken. You may get some clues into where's best to shoot from and what's worth capturing.
Some of the following tips may seem obvious now but when you get in among crowds of people and there's so much going on that you don't know where to look, the basic pieces of advice or what tend to be forgotten.
Never leave your gear unattended and only take the necessities as if you take too much gear, moving around and switching lenses will become hard work. A tripod will more than likely get in the way but you may find a monopod will take up less room and will be easier to walk with at crowded events. If you're working hand-held a camera strap will stop your camera getting knocked out of your hands, however be careful if you walk around a crowded location with it around your neck as not only will it get in the way, you could also injure yourself if it gets tugged off your neck.
Be Aware Of The Lighting
Bright sunlight won't do you any favours as you can end up with shots full of harsh shadows and washed out colours. Couple with that exposure problems and you can find yourself fighting to get a decent shot. Later in the afternoon and into the evening the light's lower and more even which is good news for those going to events which have a later starting time. If you do find yourself out in the middle of the day you can try bracketing and add a pop of flash to fill in shadows that dance across faces. This is particularly useful if the people you're photographing have brimmed hats on or are wearing large headpieces that shade the face partially.
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