Friday, November 23, 2007

Sometimes a Bad Day is Just That

As the title suggests, sometimes a bad day is just a bad day, and you left your brain at home, or at least it sure felt that way when you downloaded the images and started viewing them. There were a lot of reasons, only some of which included leaving my brain at home or not having it fully plugged in. It was the annual Seattle Macy's Day parade the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.

I've photographed this parade over the years, but always shot the parade itself usually from some good spot along the route through downtown Seattle. I've never photographed the staging area which is my preference as there are fewer people and no one minds someone aimlessly walking around with a camera. And as I've discovered, most freelance and press photographers do the same to get those initimate shots you see in the newspapers and publications.

And so after parking I walked to the "staging" area only to find it's not the normal staging area. Rather than layout the parade along streets blocked off for this purpose, this parade is staged as a just in time staging. There are only four block long streets barracaded and the entries assemble according to a specific time to arrive there. This includes the high school bands, the floats, and the other types of entries.

Well, that kinda' killed a lot of planning to wander around getting candid shots. On top of that a lot of people come to this parade when the weather is really good, like this time when it was sunny and only a little cold. Perfect winter parade weather and all the families were there. When the parade actually started they were 4-6 deep along the entire route and up into the staging area. So much for wandering around when you get in people's way.

Then I shot many of the images trying to get maximum depth of field (f5.6-f8) and found the shutter speed too slow. Handholding the camera just didn't work. And the parade is through the area of tall(er) buildings, similar to shooting in a deep canyon where the light sneaks through or reflects. In short, it didn't help the metering at all with lots of contrast. So adjustinig the metering to spot metering improved some images, but lost the surrounding image.

And even when I could get something interesting, there was always some little flaw or two. The reality of taking candid shots. Add to that the overwhelming police presence, at least 2-3 officers every block along the route who watched the crowd and wouldn't let you wander into the street as they did in past years, and you find yourself standing there wondering what in the world are you doing.

I noticed many of the press photographers were simply absent along the route working near the official viewing stand where the television cameras were and they were allowed to taking their photos. But without a pass, you were tapped on the shoulder by the cops and asked to get behind the line. And all the cafes had lines out the door for coffee too.

So, in the end I wandered a block off the parade route into a small cafe and watched all the cars and shoppers go by until the crowd thinned to drive home. Do you actually think I'd try to get some shopping in too?

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