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

Friday, March 13, 2009

Show the interaction

Ok firstly a warning. Today's post is just an excuse to post a whole heap of pictures!

One thing I really wanted to show with my coverage of the snow festival is the way in which visitors interact with the sculptures. Not just the way they interact, but how they were affected by it.

I used various focal length lenses to get different effects so just wanted to talk about a few pictures and the thought process behind them.

For this first image the first thing I noticed was the way the shadows were falling across the snow, almost pointing towards the statues, just as the woman in the photo is. So I turned my flash off so as not to wash the shadows out.

I used a wide-angle lens to fit as many people in because I wanted to show not only how many people visit, but how hard it is to get a picture without any other people in the frame!

And in terms of the white balance, even though the statues are lit by spotlights and look a kind of orangey colour to the camera, I brought them back to white just to give the feeling of snow. Also I think that the cooler colour temperature makes the overall scene look colder than it would if it was more orange.

The image above was taken in a part of Odori Park which was really well lit but other parts of the park were in near complete darkness, towered over by these giant lit-up statues.

So for this image I wanted to convey that darkness so I used my flash to light up just the little part in front of my camera and let the rest fade to black. I've used the orange gel over my flash to keep in balance with the lighting on the statues.

I had been photographing these little girls photographing the giant castle when I noticed this old lady trudging along, totally oblivious to the excitement and joy around her. Immediately I saw an opportunity to portray a different and contrasting set of reactions to the festival. One - the young girl, maybe her first time here, thrilled at the spectacle. Two - an old lady rugged up against the cold, not even paying attention to the statues but just hurrying on her way home to the warmth.

Walking farther down the park I came across a crowd of people watching an aerial ski display (is there anything they don't have at the snow festival?)

In this instance I decided to use a telephoto lens to concentrate on the faces of the people. The only problem with the telephoto is it brings the background in nice and close. No point having an office block as a background, or even just plain black sky. If it's photos of the snow festival you want you need a snow castle background. So I moved around until I found a position where there were people in the foreground and a castle in the background.

The I looked through the viewfinder and just waited until both the man and his girlfriend were both looking in the same direction and looked interested. I left the white balance quite warm here to give a feeling of warmth between the couple. If I had turned the background castle snowy white the photo would have had quite a cold feeling not quite in tune with the feelings of the couple. Remember that the colour of an image has a great impact on the emotion it conveys.

Of course Japan being Japan they couldn't just build ginormous statues of snow and be satisfied. As we've seen they have to put rock bands and aerial skiiers in front of them. Or better yet put a kaleidoscopic light show on them!

That's what happened here. Again I reached for the wide-angle lens to show how the statues are in the heart of the city, as well as show how many people come to see it. I used a tiny amount of fill flash to prevent the foreground father and children from being completely silhouetted but everybody else in the frame pretty much is.

For my white balance I left it on daylight to show the deep pink colours that were illuminating the snow.

And my final shot was one I had to wait for for quite a while. I had a vision in my head of photographing the statues with a telephoto lens (to emphasise the hugeness) and having a person standing at the front of the statue.

In practicality it was quite difficult for a couple of reasons. Firstly to use the telephoto lens you need to be quite a long way away. The statues are reasonably close together so for many of them I just couldn't get far enough away to use a telephoto lens, and when I could there was too much stuff (usually people) in the way.

That's why I was wrapped with this statue which had a big, wide area in front of it where I could get quite far away and still have a clear view to the statue.

So I set my camera up on the tripod and waited. And waited and waited. I don't know what it was but hundreds of people just refused to go near the statue! They were all standing back to photograph the whole thing but nobody actually walked up for a closer look. I was about to give up after about 10 minutes when I noticed a little girl walking towards the statues, and more importantly towards the camera. Crossing my fingers, holding my breath and sure enough she walked right where I wanted her to. And she had a great pink down coat and a flu mask as well.

Sometimes the gods do smile on us poor ol' travel photographers. And that was the final image I took at the Odori Park area. Next week it's down to Susukino for the ice sculptures - including ones containing real fish and crabs!

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