Each year around the world the period around Mardi Gras sees what seems the endless list of Carnivals and festivals around the world. Some of those carnivals in Europe have been organized for decades. Each of these events have some different layouts . Some of them are March in the streets where one often has to stay behind barricades, some better seem from above …All of them have something in common . Bigs crowds of people wanting to make pictures of the participants and their costumes. Having shot professionally the Venice carnival three times over a period covering two decades , I thought it might be useful for photographers who are planning to cover this event in the future to read some of my advice to avoid some major hindrance when shooting the event. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind for a photographer covering the event :
1./ Start your day early. During the carnival, if you want to get to photograph the nicest costumes without a huge crowd of cheesy tourist who are only interested in selfies , forget about doing any great images on piazza san Marco after 10am.If you get started around 7 or 8am, you will have a more productive time.After that make sure you do not stick around . Instead move away from the Plaza to find some nice squares with less crowds and models in costume who would be ready to take the shot YOU have in mind.
2./ Be original, be inspired, be aware. When one attends the carnival for the first time, the feeling can be a little bit overwhelming. So many gorgeous costumes in an environment which is highly photogenic by itself. The natural reaction would be to try to be everywhere at the same time , to do everything fast. Take a deep breath and just focus on the kind of images which are the most important to you. Costumes move around the plaza for the first 2 hours after sunrise so you may get more than one chance. And above all, do not lose sight of your surroundings. On one of my last mornings in Venice, we were blessed with an incredible light. There was this tiny square which was literally caressed by the morning light.The water from the laguna was reflecting light like a mirror and creating shadows around the bridge and the gondola. As I was making the picture hereunder I must have seen dozens of photographers passing by and none of them seem to be aware of what was happening right in front of them…
3./ Do not forget : this is a two-way street.. People wearing traditional venetian costumes create and manufacture their own costumes for weeks before the carnival. and here they are posing for photographers for hours regardless of the temperature. If you spend an extended amount of time taking photographs of a given group, please volunteer sending your models some of the best shots by email.
4./ Forget the flash for a minute, will you ? I will readily admit to experience some frustration sometime when photographing costumes. At times, I thought I was being trapped between silly tourists who feel the curious need to be included in EVERY single picture they make with their phones and the advanced photographers with their big cameras and big zooms and who shoot costumes with a flash regardless of the light and the distance to the model. This produce this plasticky-looking images that seem to appear on every postcard or self-made calendar. Try natural light once in a while and get more spontaneous and more pleasing images
5./Do not be paranoid about pickpockets and your gear… Yes, there are pickpockets in Venice but no need to be paranoid . A few simple steps would ensure that you do not get separated from your precious equipment. As a frequent traveler (including a lot of long-distanceflights), I usually carry my photo equipment in a backpack but on this trip I made the decision to use a shoulder bag with top access for my photo stuff. All last week in Venice, I was litterally going from one spot to the other , including many occasions when you have to get on your knees to make some room in the crowd to get the picture you want and to get a more original point of view. By having a shoulder bag with top access you can quickly get the camera and/or lens you need and not miss the “moment” . Plus you do not have to carry all this equipment around your neck , looking like a dork with all these cameras banging against your stomach. I would advise againt carrying the camera around your shoulder . Like the wallet in the back pocket that I talked about in my other article , the camera around the shoulder is the worst way to avoid pickpockets. Although I still have my true and tried Domke FX , I bought a new shoulder bag for the occasion because having top access was a must for me . Outside pickpockets it is also a good way to avoid dropping cameras on the Venice cobblestones because you forgot to close the bag in the excitement of a picture . As you probably by now (or by reading again the name of this blog) I spent a considerable amount of time , studying all current models of small to medium shoulder bags with top access before making my decision. I went for the Tenba dna 13. This is a very good shoulder bag and I will be publishing a full review of the bag in the near future.