Thursday, August 4, 2011

Photographing Caribana 2011

This past weekend my friends and I took a trip to Toronto for Caribana.  Caribana is largest caribbean carnival in North American and outside of the Caribbean.  It is a 2 week long celebration of Caribbean culture highlighted by a huge parade attended to by over 1 million people.  During the parade bands mad up of people in costumes “playing mas” march down the road to music played on the back of huge flatbed trucks with stacks of speakers on them.  

The music is loud and energetic.  The people are many and enjoyable.  Everyone is out there to dance in the street and have a good time.  The costumes worn are elaborate and colorful.  Each band has a different them which goes a long with the design of the costumes.  The amount of work that goes into these costumes is incredible and what comes out is amazing.  It’s truely a sight to see.  

While this year (and probably many years to come) I didn’t particpate in the band wearing a costume, I was able to find my way into the media area, and shoot with the professional photographers.  It was a good experience.  Here are some things I thought of while out there, to help me and anyone else who can use them.

1. Bring water and snacks.  It was really hot out there.  The parade goes from 10-6, and there isn’t a lot of shade in the middle of the street.  From what I could tell the media section did not get any special treatment with regard to water or snacks.  I didn’t stay with the media the full time, but for the 3.5 hours I was out there shooting, I got drained quickly.  I had a camelback which I neglected to fill before i got there thinking I’d be able to fill it there.  I do believe they are a big help to anyone out there though.

2. Have at least one extra battery for each camera you bring.  At the minimum one extra battery.  Some people have two cameras with different lenses, I only have one.  Even worse I only had one battery too.  After over 500 shots in 3 hours, I had made it about half way through the bands, and my battery started limping.  I almost missed getting shots of my friends who were in band 6 of 12.  My camera died shortly after they showed up.  I wish I had an extra battery or two.  I got a lot, but I think I missed out on a lot as well.  One thing I didn’t realize until after, is that the parade is kinda in two parts.  There is the first section where they band puts on a small performance in front of some judges and then is judged, and there is the part where everyone is dancing in the street having a good time, for the next 2.5 miles.  I missed out on a lot of action shots during the second part, because my battery had died.  

3. Have a lens that can shoot really close up and one that can shoot medium range, or one that can do both.  I took my 55-200 and my 35-70.  I used the 55-200 most of the time, but there were moments where it would have been nice to have an 18-55 so I could get really good shots of people’s faces.  Where I placed myself I was in the middle of the band as they came off the stage area.  the 55-200 was good for when they were on the stage area, not so good when they are standing 2 feet in front of me.  Some of the media people there had 2 cameras, sadly i’m not one of them, but next time I hope to be more prepared.

4. Always be on the lookout for good shots.  All around us there was action going on.  Sometimes it would be people in the band dancing together, others it would be people in the crowd dancing with people in the band.  There were little kids in cute costumes, there were grown men in fully painted costumes.  Not only the costumes, the range of colors was amazing.  Finding ways to capture all of them only makes the experience that much more fun and challenging.

5. Have fun.  I noticed several times when people in the band would walk up to a security guard and start dancing on them.  Everyone is out there to have fun and a good time.  So put on a smile and have a good time.  No one wants to be out there in the head angry or bored.  Enjoy yourself and the culture and have fun taking pictures at the same time.

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