Monday, May 29, 2017

Carnaval 2017

Photo #1

Carnaval 2017 in San Francisco's Mission District is still a go-to event for me, even though I find myself inured to the floats, the bands, and the hustle. These days, I treat the event like a full dress rehearsal for the assignment that will one day produce the Pulitzer-winning image. Case in point: Photo #1 was total accident, taken from across the street. I saw the two "happy faces" making their way to their starting point, and the parade spectator gave me a very spontaneous smile. Alas, not prize worthy.

Point Of Clarification: I'm in the staging areas located just behind the parade's "starting line". I was allowed as a working member of a recognized media outlet. No spectators were inconvenienced in the making of these photographs.

Photo #2

The Equipment: In keeping with my "ready for anything" mindset, I brought three camera bodies. First, my go-to Fuji X-T2 with a 10-24 F 4.0 lens, and a Fuji T1 with a 50-200mm zoom lens. The middle ground would be covered by the third camera. a X100S with a wide angle adapter, giving me a full-synchronized 28mm-equivalent lens, which becomes a 35mm-equivalent lens when the adapter is removed. Photo #2 was made with the X-T2 / Wide Angle combination, with flash.

Photo #3
I decided that all flash photos would be made with the speedlight either hand held, or mounted on a monopod. Photo #3 (and Photo #2) were made with a Fuji X-500 flash, powered boosted with a dedicated Fuji accessory battery pack, and triggered using a third-party Canon compatible flash cable. By decreasing the flash output and under-exposing the ambient exposure, I was able to add some sense of depth by creating shadows without overexposing the highlights. You can see the hint of a shadow below my subject's nose and chin.

Photo #4
Working Up Close: The nice thing about Carnaval is the participants know that you'll be photographing them, and considering their outfits, expect of the attention. Last minute applications of makeup (Photo #4) were frequent, along with costume adjustments and impromptu practice sessions.

While not obvious, this is a flash-enhanced photo. Even on overcast days, a bit of flash helps to fill the shadows and add a bit of sparkle.

Photo #5
The general mood was quite festive, and working in this environment was easy if you approached your subjects with a smile and some complimentary words. Just smiling and bringing may camera into position prompted this friendly wave (Photo #5).

Photo #6
Selfie City: Getting a selfie with a group of young ladies seemed to be the big thing, and the prospect obviously proved irresistible to this young man (Photo #6).

Photo #7

Gelled Flash: I was anxious to experiment with a radio-triggered SB-80DX speedlight in the aperture controlled auto exposure mode. Unfortunately, I mistakenly brought an SB-80DX with a CTO gel already taped in place. I didn't notice my error until I attached a radio flash trigger. Knowing that Photoshop could minimize the color shift, I left it in place, but vowed to carry it only when accompanied by a second flash that isn't gelled. In Photo #7, you can see the warm glow on my subjects, courtesy of the gelled speedlight. I was surprised by how easy it was to accept the warm tint the gel provided.

David Hobby mentioned that he routinely taped a 1/4 CTO gel (less orange) just to give his subjects a "glow". I may start doing that.

Photo #8
Costumes: Costumes can be fun and culturally significant. Here dancers are dressed as Central American folk figures (Photo #8). The long shots were made with a Fuji T-1 and a 50-200mm zoom lens.

Photo #9
I was first drawn to the colorful feather headdress (Aztec, I think) when I noticed this dancer's blue eyes, a bit of a surprise (Photo #9). Again, I used the long-lensed Fuji.

Photo #10
As you can see, the costumes can get very elaborate (Photo #10). Thankfully, there was very little wind, which must have made it easier for the dancers.

Photo #11
Kids. Spend some time photographing kids. Their expressions change constantly, and you have to pay close attention if you want to keep them in focus and properly framed. After a while, you can learn to interpret their body language, and get a sense of when they are about to do something unusual, or change their expression (Photo #11).
Photo #12
Changing Viewpoint: I like to shoot kids from their eye level.  It gives you a variety of backgrounds, reflecting the world from their perspective. Perhaps this young lady is feeling a little lost, surrounded as she is by belt buckles and bare midriffs (Photo #12). Getting hard on the knees, though. I actually saw one photographer wearing knee pads like a skateboarder. Now that's dedication.

Photo #13
I see in this photo (Photo #13) a study in perfection, both in her appearance, and in her expectations. Her expression is one of total concentration as she begins to march, and to dance, in time with the rhythms set by the drummers of her troupe.

Photo #14
Little People, Surrounded By Big People: This young man seemed to be concentrating on remembering the dance steps he'll need to perform when the troupe starts marching, perhaps comparing his actions with those of the more experienced adults (Photo #14). I had set the beam angle of my flash to a setting narrower than the acceptance angle of my lens, allowing me to concentrate the light on the more distant subject (the boy) and feathering the edges to prevent burning out the closer adults on the left an right.
Photo #15
Taking A Break: When you're a stilt walker, where can you sit when you need to relax? These kids found that a rather tall pickup truck is just the right height, as you can see by the youngster at the right (Photo #15).

Carnaval has always been a family event. Strollers with costumed children are common along the parade route. Perhaps this mother and daughter will be dancing together in a future Carnaval, and hopefully, I will be there to capture the wonder, and excitement, the parade will bring.