Mount HagenLarge-scale outdoor events such as parades, festivals and carnivals are usually surrounded by crowds of onlookers. This immediately presents the photographer with the problem of getting an unobstructed view. There are basically two solutions. The first is to find the best spot available, perhaps on some steps or with permission on top of a vehicle, and just let the event flow past. Try to select a position where the light is appropriate and reasonable backgrounds are available. The second is to get amongst the performers, either on a participating vehicle or walking backwards between their ranks, and work opportunistically with a wide-angle lens.

The organization of carnivals varies across the world, so it pays to find out in advance what is planned. In the case of the famous Rio carnival, the main parade of the samba schools is through custom-built tiered seating so viewpoints are restricted. Better pictures may be obtained before and after the principal events when a closer approach is possible. At Venice carnival the masqueraders gather in small groups in most of the central areas of the city, particularly near Santa Maria della Salute and in St Mark’s Square and the surrounding streets. However, the best photographic opportunities are to be found away from the pressure of the crowds. The costumes are fragile and expensive, and their wearers fear damaging them. The most fantastic figures therefore retreat to silent corners and remote bridges to meet and share private moments. They are more than willing to cooperate with serious photographers.

One of the advantages of photographing people in exotic costumes, masks and other disguises is that the wearer feels liberated from normal behavioural restraints. This encourages them to adopt dramatic gestures and exaggerated poses. When combined with flamboyant colours and beautiful lighting the results can be stunning.