Like each year I get the usual flash from the side shots, the closeups on the performers using a longish telephoto and the wider view with the audience close by using a wide angle.
Like each year I try to do new things, try out new techniques and equipment in a situation that is one one hand very difficult, with people packed tight trying to see the performances (and it is so hot and humid this time of year!) and on the other hand this setting is great because, unlike candid street photography, you can feel free to take as many pictures as you like, try new things at length, and the results are usually interesting even if unconventional (something that doesn't always go well on fashion and model test shoots).
So the first day I took only my 50mm 1.4 lens (that I am growing very fond of) and went with a few friends. I didn't want to be very intrusive and use any large lenses, both because I wanted to be light on my feet and move around, and also to see how far I can go with it.
I found that at ISO 3200 and with plenty of pixels to throw away with my Nikon D610 I could get away with using ambient light and a fixed focal length for almost anything.
The 50mm is great for getting really shallow depth of field along with a wider angle that gives a sense of depth to the viewer.
At some point I started using the flash-on-a-pole to get the background dark as I like it. I find this both illuminates the performers in a much more interesting, directional light and also gets rid of the background that was just random buildings and people and trash cans and stuff.
In contrast, I could easily shoot ambient and get more of the background, when it was appropriate like in this shot of the crowd.
I quickly found Odelia, that shows up every year in a new, original costume, this year even winning the festival's competition for best performance.
I did get some interesting shots that day, but I felt like I didn't really get the full potential without more serious closeups, better lighting and maybe some experimental stuff. So I came back for the third day with much more gear, determined to do something new.
The first thing I did was put on my 11-16 Tokina lens and mount the camera on a monopod, using the wireless control from my phone to shoot at a high angle. This was something I wanted to try for a while now, getting the areal view of the crowd.
You don't need perfect focus or composition at such wide angles. Even so, the wireless kept disconnecting and I ended up shooting blind with the wire remote, so only a handful of shots were useful from this attempt. I did get some interesting angles for Odelia, that always gets her show on a platform so tall you really need such a setup to get her at eye level.
Then I switched over to my trusty 105mm for the closeups, set the flash on a monopod (where it belongs) and got back into my comfort zone. What can I do? I love the results with this setup. I think it pays to have a 16mm and a 50mm for some of this work, but comparing the results from those lenses with the 105mm closeups I just can't help but go back to the same old technique.
Chocolate Piggy (a performer from Portugal I think) in two versions, the 50mm with the smooth bokeh background and ambient light, compared with the 105mm closeup with the side light.
This cool biker dude (I think also from Portugal) with the same two versions from the two different days.
A few more closeups because I just love the way these came out:
This "cartoonnete" was another great performer from abroad, and her costume was used for all the posters for this year's festival. She was really good - very expressional and funny.
This dragon lady was also really cool:
One more for Odelia, on the carousel...
Finally, I also want to tell you about my newest discovery... This girl, only 13 years old, an aspiring actress and recently also a model for me... She had a really cute take on the mad hatter from Alice, and instantly I knew I wanted this girl for my projects.
She's really beautiful and you will read all about her in following posts. But that's a different story for a different time...
Some more images can be found on my facebook page...
Thanks to all the performers that put their time and effort again and again into this festival. All we need to do is come and take pictures... See you all next year!