Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Festivities, fun and fireworks

Well, it only seems like about a year ago (give or take a few days) since I last wrote about the 'C' word. Yup, that's right - Christmas is just around the corner once again!

Am I more prepared this year? Um... well, I'd have to go with an optimistic "It's too early to say right now." Certainly there are a few things which have been discussed and which have got my brain moving in the right direction. One major achievement, though, is that I have a date set in the diary for getting the decorations out and put up. Hey, it's progress!

On a larger, more public scale, you would expect commercial organisations to be in full flow on this front. And from what I can see on a local level, they are. Christmas lights, street entertainers, hot chestnut vendors, kiddies meeting Santa's reindeer... all these things were set up and ready to be captured through my lens on a recent shoot for one of the local city councils.

In terms of photography, this was pretty typical stuff for me - but as regular readers know, I love getting involved with events as they present so much subject matter to indulge in! Doesn't matter what the theme is - everything from local themed Birthday parties to internationally-recognised multiple-day events.

Thankfully, I was given a pretty loose brief on this day, with only two main technical considerations. One was to keep an eye on timings, as various highlights were happening in specific places at specific times (such as a choir singing and the turning-on of Christmas lights).

Secondly, I had to be aware of the inclusion of young children (sub-18yrs) in my pictures. Such is our current climate of fear/paranoia/mistrust that I will typically make a point of introducing myself to any kids' parents, explain why I am photographing, and for whom, and then request permission to take photographs.

On this latter point, a standard official minor-/model release form often needs to be completed; something of an inconvenience at times, but at least it does offer some reassurance to all those involved about one's legitimacy and professionalism. In simple terms, it is an official 'permission slip', and is standard practice in our industry.
It's sad to have to take these steps, but an unfortunate necessity.

But back to the event...

All was going well up to about 4:45pm when, with light almost completely faded, the area was treated to a not-altogether-festive downpour of rain which, quite typically, decided to fall in biblical fashion just around the time that the firework display was set in motion, moments after the blessing of the Christmas tre and turning on of lights.

Having researched and arranged my shooting position earlier in the day, all plans quickly evaporated as I only had a 7-minute window and needed to get some - any - shots showing the display acting out behind the cathedral.
In spite of the conditions, I managed to get the tripod set up just in time (to avoid camera shake during long exposures).

So relentless was the weather that I could not very well keep the lens free from rain as the camera was tilted skywards and (due to logistical reasons) I did not have an umbrella to hand. Without exaggeration, the water was literally flowing off my camera and yet the Nikon still performed (another fitting testament to the pro- versus amateur-build quality debate).

You can clearly see the water droplets recorded as out-of-focus highlights in the picture on the left here.
Yes, I could have wiped the glass, but this would only have smeared the water around - and with so little time available, I would most likely have missed my chance to record a decent number of frames.

Now, admittedly these were not the greatest fireworks pictures I have ever produced (they wouldn't be, under such conditions) - but you know what, I kind of like happy accidents. Call it 'artistic license' if you like. Whatever. But at the end of the day, I am a creative who is brought onboard a project for that very reason - to put my angle on recording the subjects I am presented with.

All said and done, everyone seemed to be having a great time and were not put off by this soggy end to the day. The resulting imagery will now be used immediately and throughout the coming year (and beyond) for all manner of promotional purposes. Think in terms of websites, flyers, festivities brochures in the run-up to Christmas, annual reports etc and you won't be far wrong.

You know what? It almost feels like Christmas... :)

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