Strange enough, I've been invited to do talks on travel photography, which spans from landscapes to festivals, cultural & social photojournalism. Oddly, I receive more questions about the camera I use than any other topic. This suggests photographers are often gearheads than becoming the artist behind the camera.
While it is true that there are common rules to follow, I observed this complicate the process, reducing art to science. Reading them actually does improve your photography, but they often don’t frame the dynamics of storytelling and in the end transforming your pictures to snapshots.
From a hobbyist standpoint with little training on commercials and editorial assignments, I am unfortunately keen to focus on the experience and attitude, and not on the camera matrix. Here are some pointers I'd like to share to you if I may. Where to Begin
Visit museums, heritage sites, cultural centers and communities and ask for their calendar of activities. Aside from the internet which most regional tourism offices and travel blogs propagate, travel pamphlets area available during travel fairs. Join curated museum tours or start with a local church tour.Follow Where Most Tourists Go
Local government invests heavily on their festivals and is often supported by national tourism office as well private companies to attract visitors. This translates to grand festivities encompassing every aspect from accommodation, travel packages, attractions and events.Buckle Up For A Different Ride
Key to an enjoyable travel and festival experience is to become a good spectator. Performers may have perfected their routines within months of preparations but this doesn’t guarantee a photo-finish show, as there are lots of possibilities that may halt a 100% performance.Wake Up Early
Be early to catch the preparations. Festival preparations normally exude a higher-level excitement, as participants, their support groups and you are still fresh and relaxed. Familiarize with the performers if there’s an opportunity, chances are, they’ll recognize you when the actual parade or performance takes place.Shoot Details, Patterns and Colors
Pay attention to details and colors and watch out as things happen all at the same time. Sometimes, the details tell the story better than the landscapes.
Know how to get closer to the subject. Smile A Lot, Smile Often
While knowledge to local language is a currency in travel, a simple smile bridges the visitor and performers’ regional gap. Local folks are naturally jolly and hospitable; if you can’t understand what they’re saying, beam back a happy smile.Capture Facial Expressions and Human Emotions
Participants during performances are bursting with energy and emotions. Kids always make a good subject matter as well as elders but be polite and courteous to ask specially in culturally sensitive regions like Cordillera and Mindanao. Make sure your subject is looking at the camera and try to avoid unflattering poses. Unguarded moments are great but pay respect to the person specially when you are posting your photos online.Spot The Star Performer
A flamboyant performer guarantees a good festival performance photograph. Normally they’re positioned in front or at the middle of the contingent. Take a minute to scout and look around before looking at your camera’s viewfinder. Keep an eye and make sure you to shoot as many frames as you can.Compose Your Subject
(in 2 Dimensions)
Most photographers make the same mistake; they pick up their camera and look through the viewfinder (or LCD screen) instead of composing pictures on it. Arrange your subject on a two-dimensional within the confines of your frame. Make it popped using selective focusing techniques.Dance With Your Camera
Most festivals in the country involve dancing and other rhythmic routines.
Absorb the beat onto to your head so that you’re attuned to the performances. Average photographer would freeze action just like shooting for a basketball game so try something different. Shoot slow shutter techniques to capture the motion, energy and multitude of exploding colors.Shoot Behind The Mask
The challenge of shooting festivals and performances is being able to shoot the subject behind their mask, costume and ornaments. Don’t leave just yet even the event has ended. Shoot the immediate surroundings and outskirts of the festival center to get a raw feel about the festival traditions and history. While at Imbayah Festival two years ago, Kidlat Tahimik shares what differentiates a travel photographer between a photojournalist is that they immediately leave when the festival is ended.
So there, enjoy shooting a year-round of Philippine Festivals. Few months back, I also wrote a guide to landscape photography.
Huwag maging dayuhan sa sariling bayan.