When it comes to camera bags, everybody has their own unique collection of gear and supplies. Four of my items may seem rather unusual to you. They are not photo gear or accessories but to me they are essential:
A towel – Actually many times I carry two of them, a small white towel and a fancy compact one. Summer heat in Georgia, and I’m sure elsewhere, can lead to perspiring hands. There is always something that needs to be wiped.
A white umbrella – It is useful in inclement weather, makes a fine light diffuser, and can serve to minimize wind for close-up photography. This may be my most important “accessory”.
A large garbage bag – This is useful as a kneeling pad in damp or muddy conditions. It can also be used as a poncho should a sudden rain squall hit.
A white t-shirt in a kid’s size – This makes a fine backdrop in close-up work, but more importantly I use it as a cover for my camera. The hot summer sun can be brutal. A hot-to-the-touch camera is uncomfortable and I image that the innards can suffer as well. My illustrations below show how I cover my camera. The neck straps go through the sleeves. The shirt can remain on the neck strap and the camera can still be used. It can be positioned so the viewfinder is accessible through the neck hole while the lens looks through the bottom of the t-shirt.
Those are just four of my essentials, others are likely similar to what every other photographer carries.
Festival are fun – there is food, entertainment, art, and much more. For photographers it is a cornucopia of photo opportunities. Street photography along the midway and the nooks and crannies with visitors, vendors, and performers enjoying their day. Dancers and musicians are great subjects for interpretive imagery. There is art and food. It just goes on and may seem overwhelming.
You can choose to put on your photojournalist hat and prepare photo stories. You can practice environmental portraiture of musicians, dancers, and other performers. Close-ups of art and food.
Gateway International Food and Music Festival 2017
There are challenges. Lighting for example. You can’t re-arrange the sun and clouds, you have to find ways to make the best of it. Georgia festivals “feature” strong daytime sunlight with deep shadows. Often dappled sunlight and shade provide difficult challenges.
As photographers we are just visitors and should be as unobtrusive as possible. Don’t bring flash equipment to lighten up the shadows. Plan on bringing out the details in post-processing.
Peachtree Corners Festival 2017
Peachtree Corners Festival 2017
Don’t get in the way of the audience around performers. That means stepping aside and finding a perspective that allows you to capture the subjects in more expressive compositions.
Peachtree Corners Festival 2017
Festivals are not a good venue for using tripods. Plan on doing most of your work hand-held. Monopods can be very useful, especially towards evening as the light gets weaker.
So many photographers are introverted. I’ve always been quite shy. I put up a good appearance at seeming to be outgoing, but at my core, I’m most comfortable being in peace and solitude.
That’s what makes Street Photography so exciting; it pushes me to get out of my comfort zone. I have to risk approaching people, then face the possibility of rejection and even the potential of a less than favorable reaction. But the reward is that I occasionally get a photograph that tells a story.
Recently I was reading about how the selfie craze has opened up several new areas of dangerous activities that didn’t exist before this phenomenon. Two examples were that national parks now have to issue a warning advising people not to try to take selfies when they stumble across bears in the wild. Several people were charged by bears while trying to get the perfect ‘bear selfie’ image capture when they encountered a wild bear. The other example is of extreme selfies where people will climb to the top of tall building towers so that they can get a selfie of their dangerous exploits. These thrill-seeking opportunists have resulted in several deaths when the inexperienced and untethered climber loses their footing.
For me, Street Photography is the antithesis of the selfie. It is the photographer capturing a moment in time that tells a story with a simple image.
I had never been to St. Paul Minnesota until recently, so early one Sunday morning in St Paul I took a walk with my camera. Using a BlackRapid camera strap that lets the camera hang by your side and allows you to very quickly reach for the camera and take a photo in a single arm rotation. (The BlackRapid really transformed the speed of my street photography).
I noticed two young girls playing in the street. The older of the two was diligently working on capturing an airborne image of herself. She had enlisted her younger sister who participated by begrudgingly taking picture after picture of her older sister. The two young girls were contrasted by the girls’ mother and grandmother quietly chatting in the corner of the image. I snapped a couple of pictures of them and then approached their mother. I explained that I was a photographer. I gave her my business card and showed her the photograph. The most rewarding part of this photograph was that not only were they delighted to get a copy of the image, but her husband was an enthusiastic film photographer, so we got to connect when we talked about our love for film as a photographic medium.
I was prepared to delete the images if this mother had not approved of the photograph. That was a risk that I was willing to take. I didn’t ask for a model release because I didn’t believe the image had any stock photo value.
I find that fairs are a great place to visit for any photographer who would like a practice arena ripe with a variety of subjects. Festivals will present a spectrum of emotions. You see the joy and enthusiasm of shoppers when they find that perfect ‘something’ that they can’t resist. You will see a competitive and argumentative side of people as they haggle back and forth over price. You can observe the tepid emotions of cautious shoppers who want to keep looking for ‘something else’ before they commit to a single purchase. Occasionally you will see fear and even terror in the vendors’ faces when the wind picks up, and the storm clouds approach. The vendors are playing images in their minds of the last time this happened and how they had to fight to hold down their canopy structure.
Last year at the Dawsonville Moonshine Festival, the weather turned unseasonably cold and wet. Turnout was much smaller than expected and the exhibitors struggled to stay warm and dry for the duration of the festival. These two young gentlemen just picked a spot, settled down and began to sing and play. They were pleased that someone would take notice of them and they were delighted to be photographed.
Some guidelines should be followed if you are to be an active street photographer at a fair.
•Always be sensitive to the products that exhibitors have on display. If it is artwork, they would usually prefer that their artwork is not photographed, because people might copy their original ideas.
•It is better to make eye contact with someone you want to photograph. Visually confirm that you are pointing a camera in their direction. Someone withdrawing would be an indication that they would prefer that they not be included in a photograph. (note: this can often be overcome if you take a minute to explain your objective).
•If a picture looks like it has commercial potential, make sure to have a model release. There are now several phone apps that will allow you to digitally capture this permission.
•Share your work with your subjects to let them see what you are doing and let them be comfortable with their image.
Generally, you will find that people who participate in festivals are warm and outgoing, so you can be confident that you will have a welcoming reception from most people.