The Krewe of Madness


Mardi Gras 1 Krewe of Cleopatra

The picture is the thing. That’s what I say. No matter what happens make your picture.

A wise old professor used to say that sometimes the hardest part of making a picture is getting there. He’s right.

Even if you are working in your own city that is still true.

When I photograph a Mardi Gras parade, I leave home which is very close to the parade route, at least 90 minutes ahead of starting time.

If I wanted to work from St. Charles Avenue (Where the tree streetcars run.) I could simply walk a block and half and be there.

I don’t.

I like to work from the start of the parade where all the little pictures are. Krewes preparing. Marching bands rehearsing. Paraders hanging out. Everyone loves to be photographed and that’s what I do.

But, getting there is hard.

The backstreets are already being jammed up by buses carrying the parade participants.

So, I leave very early.

There is a natural parade line break point on my street. I drive through the crowd when the stoplight changes. I head upriver on St. Charles, I drop down to the parade starting point behind it.

Now, I’m approaching the parade from downriver. I get as close as I can and start looking for parking. Because I arrive early, I usually find a space just about where I thought it was be.

I walk to CC’s coffee house, order and sit. Because I’m usually by myself a group of NOPD sits at my table. I ask them questions about the parade and they ask me questions about cameras.

Knowing them helps on the parade route.

Keep in mind, I do all of this so…

I can find a parking space.

There was a year when I worked eight parades at night. I parked in the same space for eight nights.

Day parades are different. If you are photographing a big one, you might have to arrive at 8am for a noon start.

It’s a lot of work.

Compression. A lot of photographers use telephoto lenses to get closer. I work closer and use them to produce compressed images or graphic shapes.

That’s what I did this time. I crowded as much as I could into one picture.

Working at night both helps and hinders. It forces you to shoot wide open at your widest F-stop. That’s good in this case.

It hinders you because you can’t always get a high enough shutter speed to protect the image from motion blur.

Sometimes that’s a good thing.

If the subject is in sharp focus while everything is moving around them that’s a pretty good picture.

Usually, the whole thing is a crap shoot.

It helps if you’ve been doing it most of your career and know how to compensate for some of it.

The biggest trick is to always shoot about three frames. Bam. Bam. Bam.

The first and third frames are usually out of focus or have too much motion blur, but the middle frame will be sharp and the image you hope for.

That all has to do with the body’s natural motion. Tense. Relax, Relax too much.

Stay safe, Stay strong. Stay mighty. Wear your mask. Wash your hands. Keep your distance. Look after each other. Stay relaxed.

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