Drop your camera…

After two sessions at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival, working on my long-term project taking a sideways glance at the annual event, I’m struck by one technique in particular that I use again and again.

Making his move. Copyright: Mike Kemp

Making his move. Copyright: Mike Kemp

Dropping your camera, then shooting again.

At events like Carnival, people play to camera all the time. You’re trying to make candid pictures, but the very nature of having a lot of photographers around and people’s (by and large) good mood, they do have a tendency to stop and smile at you. This is not to say that a great deal of what you can shoot is properly candid, as the flip side of so many cameras, is that you end up being ignored as just another one. 

If you know what you are doing, and approach positively, people can tell.

In this example of a picture I took on Monday, I’d framed up an interesting group of guys with Trellick Tower as the backdrop. The light and cover gave a great contrast, a separation of the characters. I’d taken a couple of frames, but then they started posing and smiling at me. So, I took a frame, looked at them to say thanks, and dropped my camera. Looked away until I knew they had gone back to normal mode, then reframed.

The one guy you see had locked in on a girl, and completely ignoring me, he started to make this shape with his body and sidled over to her, going straight past me by about a metre. I got 3 frames through this process, of which this is the best, as he hunched his shoulders acting all coy and non-threatening. It’s a genuine moment, and one of the subtleties I am trying to find in moments at Carnival.

This by no means works every time, but a great proportion do. But be prepared, as sometimes you have to move fast. Dropping the camera then almost immediately back up as the moment the person relaxes back can be almost instantaneous, just as some other factor introduces itself to the frame.

You know the boring old picture of a pretty carnival dancer with a feather costume, smiling to camera? Well, in this second example, this is exactly what I am talking about. She smiles, I take a frame, I drop the camera, she relaxes, then immediately back up as this guy passes and a look is exchanged. Another guy behind also checking her out. It’s not a groundbreaking picture, but an example of what I am after.

Instant reactions. Copyright: Mike Kemp

Instant reactions. Copyright: Mike Kemp

It all happened in about a second from up, drop, back up and shooting the frame.

So, next time you’re out shooting a public even like this, give it a try. You have to combine the movement of the camera, looking the person in the eye, and away again, then back up, all as elements of equal importance. Let me know how you get on…!

Have a great week!