Despite having lived in Philadelphia for over thirty years, this was the first year I was in town for the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I decided to go because I’ve been getting back into street photography and I knew there would be ample camera fodder there.
One advantage to photographing an event like this is that people generally don’t mind being photographed. They’re out in public, they’re in a good mood and many are taking photos themselves. Confrontations are less likely to occur at a public event than when you just snap someones photo on the street. However, there was one technique I did employ, that was to take someone’s photo then lower the camera and look beyond them as If I was photographing a float or a balloon behind them. It worked every time.
I’ve been collecting film cameras for a while now and for these photos I chose a Canon EOS-1 with a 35mm lens. I liked the idea of using just one camera and one lens which would be limiting yet freeing at the same time. Limiting as I had only one angle of view to work with. Freeing because I had less gear related decisions to make and since the camera was small and light I could move around easily and react faster than if I was carrying a lot of gear. I loaded the camera with Tri-X as that’s what I had on hand. I used a 25A Red filter for dramatic skies.
While the bright, morning sun was cheerful, it presented challenges as far as photography was concerned. Challenges like high contrast, strong backlighting and lens flare. While the camera has multiple auto exposure modes, I shot on manual using the Sunny 16 rule and opened up a stop & 1/2 for backlight subjects. As for lens flare, I could move into the shadow cast by a building, wait for a balloon to cover the sun or just go ahead and shoot, letting the flare do what it’s going to do.
Aside from the marching bands, floats and balloons there were plenty of subjects of interest just off the parade route, subjects like the ubiquitous, Philly Jesus and a Free Hugs guy. When I’m out shooting I always try to remember to look behind me. That’s often where the better photo is. And yes, I received both a hug and a blessing, can you ever get enough of either?
Previous Posts: PhiladelphiaPhoto