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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ice, ice baby

Alright so I guess obtuse references to one-hit wonder 80's rappers gives my age away but I just couldn't resist. :)

Down in the entertainment quarter of Sapporo they hold an ice carving festival. All along the main street of Susukino hundreds of statues sit in the middle of the road, with many more people slipping and sliding on the snow to get a look at them.

So how do you photograph a totally clear piece of carving that your autofocus doesn't even manage to lock on to? Well you don't basically. Because for the most part they're not that exciting (although there are a couple of exceptions which I'll show you in a couple of days).

So for the most part I used a wide-angle lens to include the neon signs all around and the hundreds of tourists. Usually when I do street photography I have a small waist bag (Lowepro Orion Trekker) which carries a body with a 28-70mm, a 10-22mm and a 70-200mm. On this night I had my backpack with me because I was photographing so many different things all in one hit.

The backpack is great for carrying stuff over long distances but it really is a pain in the arse (butt for you North American folks!) trying to change lenses. So in this case I walked downtown with a wide-angle lens on, then when I got to the end of the festival I changed lenses for a short telephoto and walked back again - thus saving having to constantly change lenses. And it worked pretty well.

The one thing I love about photographing down in Susukino is that it's so brightly lit with neon you almost have the equivalent shutter speeds of shooting during the middle of a sunny day! Well maybe not quite but it is still pretty bright. I shot everything handheld at ISO 400 and was getting shutter speeds in the 1/125 second range.

The other advantage of being so well lit is that for the most part I didn't need to use any fill flash to lighten people's faces. Being unencumbered by tripods and flashes makes street photography a whole lot more fun - even with a giant backpack making you look like a giant Lowepro turtle!

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