Sunday, June 3, 2018

Carnaval 2018

Things must be pretty bad when the lead photograph from San Francisco's Carnaval 2018 is that of a twelve year-old Dachshund who happened to take a liking to me. This was a grab shot, since I hadn't planned on encountering a subject so anxious to leap into my lap, and almost instantaneously decided I wasn't worth the effort. Luckily the autofocus on my Fuji X70 locked on quickly, but my lighting, a hand-held NikonSB-80 wasn't well positioned.

My Camera D' Jour was a Fuji X70 which worked well enough, although it is a small camera which can makes adjusting the camera difficult. This year I was making a conscious effort to use some of the techniques of practiced as a film shooter in the early 70's. One of the earliest techniques was Zone Focusing. In practice, I would chose a shooting distance (remember, auto-focus hadn't been invented yet), determine the proper flash output for that distance, and adjust shutter and aperture accordingly. Since I spent a lot of time with leaf shuttered cameras, I got used to flash synchronization speeds from 1/125 to 1/500 of a second, a convenience that the X70 afforded me. When these adjustments were made for, say, five feet, I'd simply position myself at that distance from m subject an fire away. With a little luck and lots of depth of field I would usually get a properly focused image.

This shot was made with the camera held at eye level and the flash held high overhead. I connected the two with a neutered Nikon SC-17 flash cable. The camera was set to manual focus at a distance of 5 feet. I just step up to my subject and encouraged her to walk towards me. By walking backward, I kept the proper distance and made the shot.

The system worked just as well at greater distances where the flash served as a fill light, rather than a key. Here the camera's tilting LCD monitor to position the camera low to the ground for what is essentially an up-shot. With the flash cable stretched to full length, my light is positioned high enough to cast a chin shadow and minimize over-exposure of the dancer's legs. Unfortunately, I was pretty much guessing at composition, since glare prevented me from composing my images accurately.

When hats are involved, a lower angle is a better better, lest my subject's eyes be lost in the shadow of the hat's brim. The white pants are a little "hot", since they are indeed closer to my speedlight than my subject's face.

Fuji XT1 with 55-200 3.5-4.8 lens, no flash
I made this photo without flash and with the exposure in the auto mode. Since 90% of the frame is lit by some light bouncing off the building behind me, the exposure appears very even except for the highlights provide by the back lighting. An image so composed doesn't have to bright highlights on the subject's face, and is rather flat.

Fuji XT1 with 55-200 3.5-4.8 lens, flash used
This year it was harder to find a "money shot", one that would be happy to have in my personal collection. I really like the way the strong silver lines bring the viewer to the dancer, something of an homage to the psychedelic spiral patterns used in posters during the seventies. The fact that my subject is not facing the camera doesn't draw attention away from the pattern that radiates from behind her.

You can see from this photo taken in 2017 that the costume is worn like plumage, and and is strapped to the dancer's back and guided with a twin handle bar arrangement.

Alas, no great work of art emerged from this year's Carnaval, but it was still fun.And while the images may tend to resemble earlier efforts, the drummers, the marching bands, and the dancers still make it a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning. Who knows, next year I might not even bring a camera.