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

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dealing with crowds

As a travel photographer you will often find yourself amongst a horde of tourists. That's just the nature of the beast. We tend to end up at the same places because they're famous and beautiful and photogenic.

Asahiyama Zoo is one such place. It's Japan's most popular zoo - which is pretty incredible considering it's in the middle of absolutely nowhere, smack bang in the middle of Japan's least populated main island, Hokkaido.

It was never really famous until the directors took the brave step of re-designing the entire zoo to make it as interactive as possible. And, as you can see here, it's pretty damn interactive. Here in the seal enclosure they have a plexiglass tunnel that goes down through the main viewing area and the seals swim through here constantly, much to the delight of the point and shoot armed masses.

As a photographer we have to wait for something good to happen. The gods to align the elements so that somebody photogenic is in the right place at the moment the seal comes down. So this means standing around and waiting. I do this a lot. Which means that there's always a swirl of people moving around me.

As much as possible my main aim is not to get in the way of anybody else. After all they have as much right to be there as me, and I'm probably being pretty cheeky by getting in the way. But I'm also conscious that I really want to get a good shot and do the whole experience justice. So I stand my ground as much as possible.

If I see there's nobody interesting in sight and nothing is likely to happen for a little while I let everybody go in front of me. Then when somebody photogenic comes along (like the little girl with the pink dress) I slowly edge my way forward until I'm at the front of the crowd where I want to be and just sit and wait.

The balance to find is to be determined to get the shot but not get angry at anybody, or push anybody out of the way. You kind of need to be a camera ninja. Get into the right position without anybody really noticing you've done it. Often I find that if I have my cameras out people will get out the way and beckon me forward anyway. A little bit of good feeling and a lot of smiling can get you where you need to be to wait for things to happen. And if they don't? Well it's not the end of the world and there are a million other photographs waiting for you just around the corner.

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