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10 Things To Shoot At Festivals

A slow shutter speed creates a slightly different image of a monk preparing for a dance.
50mm lens, 1/4 second @ f8, ISO 100

Young kids watching a festival performance in the Paro Dzong, Bhutan.
200mm lens, 1/200 second @ f2, ISO 100

A few of my photography friends are very aware that many of the events and festivals we photograph today will not stay the same forever. If you have an interest in cultures, may I recommend you Google search photographers Art Wolfe, Richard I'Anson and David Kirkland. They have all produced projects and books that document vanishing cultures and not only do I love their photography, but also what they are doing.

I haven't gone into cultural projects quite as deeply - at least not yet. However, when visiting Bhutan, I'm keenly aware of just how precious these festivals and ceremonies are. And while some 'performances' in some parts of the world are put on just for tourists, you know that these Buddhist festivals are authentic because of how few foreigners you see. There might be two or three dozen tourists walking around with cameras, but in a throng of many thousands it's just not an issue.

The best part about shooting these festivals is access: access to individual people because they are relaxed; access to the performers behind the scenes, simply because you're a tourist; and access to locations within the dzongs (the fortified monasteries) that on other days are closed to the public.

So, what are the 10 most important things to shoot at festivals? Here's my suggestions:

1. Start with an overview of the location or the venue.

2. Photograph individual performers full length - aim for action shots or at least poses that have some meaning.

3. Photograph three quarter portraits with details of their costumes.

4. Get in close with a telephoto for full-frame portraits to show their makeup and masks.

5. Turn your camera on the audience - show how many people are there.

6. Photograph portraits of the audience reacting to the festivities.

7. Photograph the children who are disinterested in the performances.

8. Go behind the scenes to photograph the performers preparing.

9. Photograph details of their costumes and accessories.

10. Conclude with people leaving the performance, or perhaps an empty venue with the residue of the festivities.

Once again I've chosen some festival photos taken in Bhutan for this week's newsletter with the transparent  intention of encouraging you to visit Bhutan later this year with David Oliver and me. Click the Read More link to see some more festival shots and to read why I think you should visit Bhutan this year!

Monks warming for their musical performance.
24mm lens, 1/40 second @ f2.8, ISO 800

The dressing in costume is as much a ritual as the dance itself.
50mm lens, 1/200 second @ f1.4, ISO 180

Festival performer in the Paro Dzong, Bhutan.
200mm lens, 1/500 second @ f2, ISO 100

Details of costumes and clothing add another dimension to your project.
200mm lens, 1/1000 second @ f2, ISO 100

Many people are fascinated to learn that we don't always know the exact date of a festival a year or more ahead. In Bhutan, the final dates are determined by astrologers, so while we can be pretty certain that there will be festivities during a certain week, the actual date may change - if the astrologers say so! I love this aspect of Bhutan!

Bhutan is a deeply religious country and most of what you see is based on Tibetan Buddhism. In the town of Trongsa, there is an incredible museum that really helps you understand Tibetan Buddhism and while generally I'm not a museum fanatic, this one is an exception and I look forward to visiting it each time.

Tourism is Bhutan's second largest source of income, so the government encourages its people to continue wearing traditional dress. It means that as you drive around the countryside, you feel like you are stepping back 50 or 100 years in time - and the festivals only add to this perspective.

As mentioned previously, this will be my third visit to Bhutan. I was so impressed with Bhutan that last time, I took my whole family with me. And this time my wife Kathie is coming along as well because she won't let me go without her!

The two week November 2016 photography tour is confirmed, but we still have some seats available. We travel in modern 4WD vehicles and we stay in clean 4-star hotels. And you get as much photographic instruction as you can handle from two AIPP Grand Masters of Photography. All you have to do is get yourself to Bangkok for the flight into Bhutan and we will look after the rest.

For more information, please click here to see our brochure. The price is US $8490 and if you're interested, please email me (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) or Kim Valenti (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).



Peter Eastway Uses

Peter Uses

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