This year I had the great opportunity of photographing the HoliOne Festival in Dublin, Ireland, which originated from India.
Holi (English pronunciation: /ˈhoʊliː/) (Sanskrit: होली) is a spring festival also known as the festival of colours or the festival of love.It is an ancient Hindu religious festival which has become popular with non-Hindus in many parts of South Asia, as well as people of other communities outside Asia
I asked a lot of photographer friends of mine before the event for tips on shooting an event like this, and many of them hadn’t but a couple had. Here are a few tips and tricks I found useful when shooting in a dusty environment like this. These tips would also be useful if you’re shooting in the desert or other dusty places.
First of all you want to check all of your equipment and think about what gear you want to take with you, after all not much point dust proofing something you’re not going to take with you. I would recommend the following as a minimum:
- One or two lenses
- SpeedLight flash
- Two spare batteries
- Extra memory card
- UV filter for lenses
- A rocket blower, or similar
- A couple of lens cloths
You could go the easy route and get a rain cover or water proof housing for your camera, but these can pricey and a bit of a pain to use. One photographer friend of mine used a waterproof housing and they told me, half way through the event they just took it off and wrapped a plastic bag over the camera as it was such a pain. If you want to do this then I would advise getting a hold of one well before the event and try it out to see how you find using them.
The first thing I did was to protect my camera by using good quality electrical tape to cover up all the joints, cracks and buttons I would not be using. Be sure to cover up the door for the battery and memory card slot, as dust in there is not good. Also don’t forget the mic holes, that are usually at the front of the camera. If you have a SpeedLight and an on-board flash, cover up the cracks around the on-board flash, as you most likely will just be using the SpeedLight anyway.
Next is to get those lenses covered and protected. Depending on what type of lens you have will determine if you can cover the whole thing or just bits of it. Most lenses have moving elements on the outside i.e. part of it turns when focusing. With this type of lens you can cover some of it in Clingfilm or do it in sections. I found that not too much dust got on my lens through the day but better to be safe than sorry.
With more expensive lenses that have internally moving part i.e. the outside does not turn when focusing and the lenses does not go in and out while zooming. With this type of lens you can cover just about all of it in Clingfilm to stop that pesky dust from getting inside.
I have used Clingfilm without any problems but you can use any sort of a plastic bag, taped around your lens. I have seen others use parts of black bags taped around with electrical tape and has served them well. I use Clingfilm as it forms a tighter grip around the lens and does away with the need for taping it on.
For your Speedlight you can put a clear plastic bag over the top section and tape it just below the infrared emitter on the front. This way it will stop dust getting inside but allow you to still use the auto focus assist on many of these flashes.
When it comes to changing memory cards, this can be a bit of a nightmare. You want to try and go somewhere where there is no Holi colours are blowing around, later into the event this can be an achievement in itself. The best thing I suggest is to get the biggest card your camera can handle so you won’t need to change cards through the event. The same goes for batteries, if you have a battery grip that can take two, use it! You don’t want the Holi powder in your battery compartment either as it could cause no end of trouble later.
As for lens choice I would go with a zoom lens that is around 18-55 or 24-70. These lenses offer a good range without having to swap lenses all day long. If you do want to bring a few other lenses with you, I would suggest a good telephoto lens, for picking out people in the crowd, and a super wide angle like a 10mm or 15mm, this is great for getting the crowd as they throw the powder and large group shots.
If you do need to change a lens you, again need to find somewhere without dust blowing around. You also want to clear off any dust around the joint between your lens and camera before removing it, as dust that gathers there can fall on to the camera sensor as soon as you take the lens off. I also suggest pointing the lens to the ground while changing as this will help stop dust getting in.
Onto taking photos. You will want to try and get a variety of shots. Here is a quick rundown of the shots to look out for:
- Crowd shots – Both throwing the powder and having a good time.
- Group shots – Gather a few people together and get friends together.
- Individual Shots – You will always see a few people in the crowd stand out from the rest.
- Detail Shots – Get shots of powder lying on things like cd players on stage, bags ect.
- Wide Shots – This is where you can really show the scale of the event. This is usually best done by going behind the crowd and facing the stage. Getting higher than the crowd is an added bonus with this one.
I have found that being at the edge of the crowd is best. This way it leaves room for you to move if powder is being thrown and you can get shots of people dancing and generally having fun. Try and look out for people that stand out a bit from the crowd.
When shooting an event like this I like to get there as early as possible this way you have time to talk to the people working at the event and also get to know where everything is around the festival site. You can also use the extra time to look for good places to get shots later on during the event. Don’t forget to try and get a few shots of the staff working on the day, most of them will appreciate the attention and they will remember you later on, which can be very helpful.
When you are walking about the festival site you need to not only keep an eye out for a shot but also keep an eye out for potential problems. Most people don’t realise the expense of some cameras and don’t think twice about throwing powder at you and your camera. A lot of the time people mix the powder with water, which can make it even more of a hazard for your camera when thrown around. I like to wear a loose jacket so I can use it to cover up my camera while walking around the site.
Well those are my top tips and advice on shooting a HoliOne Festival of Colour event and I hope you find them useful. If you have any other advice or tips you would like to share please feel free to comment below.