Our first day in Papua New Guinea and we are lucky to witness a large local event, the Alotau festival of canoes. We stayed in port for the afternoon so we could visit the festival. A mixture of canoes competing at sea and lots of different dancers performing in the ‘arenas’. The dancers by far outnumbered the canoes and they were spectacular. Walking under the scorching PNG sun for hours capturing images this was one fun filled event, a true local festival with hundreds of gorgeous locals mixed with a boatful of slightly paler looking yet still gorgeous True North punters.
I really enjoy shooting at festivals and markets, they provide a great atmospheric insight into local life and local residents. It is tough to capture images at these events, the light is tricky and contrasty and everyone is either looking straight at you or away from you at the action. The sun was intense and most people hid in shadows or under umbrellas. I shoot from the hip in Billy the Kid style as this allows me to capture slices of life without anyone noticing. Now if only the infamous loud ka-klunk Canon mirror sound could be silenced. I captured the best shots this way including walking around on the shadow side of all the stalls, where the locals found refuge from the sun:
I think in terms of stories when capturing events and markets. I keep thinking I am writing a National Geographic article and need story based images to complement the story. I do not want portraits, I do not want pretty images, I want slices of life and insights into the event. It is incredibly hard to do well, people like Steve McCurry are an inspiration for me. Incidentally, the backpackers I stayed at in Cairns had a stack of NG magazines I read every morning while having breakfast. Only after reading did I realise they were all from 1999. Nothing in the magazines, the layout nor quality of pictures gave the year away. It was just the usual National Geographic quality that I some day some way wish to achieve in my story based travel images. I am moving away from dramatic yet pretty and too perfect untouched landscapes to a storytelling style; I want my travel images to have stories, humans, conflict, drama, emotions. I have much to learn before NG calls; but it is good to have dreams. Come to think of it; perhaps I should call them.
The first image is an overview of the festival, seen through dancing smoke with a plethora of people under colourful umbrellas. The second image is people watching the dancers at the festival, yes the horizon is a bit off but it matters not for these type of images. The capture of one of the impressive dancers preparing for his performance is my favourite capture from the festival. I love his amazing face. I am Jedi enough to admit that Christian’s shot is better but I still love the look of this proud dancer and am very happy with my image.
A great festival, a great start to our adventure. What are your thoughts on the storytelling in these images?
Edited 27 November: I found an image I quite like that provides an overview of the festival, it is now the first image in this story and I updated the text slightly.