Carnival Thoughts

This year I didn’t spend as long as usual at the Notting Hill Carnival, arriving an hour or two later than usual as I was waiting for an gas engineer coming for an emergency service to our water heater on Sunday.  The weather forecast hadn’t been too good and it did seem a little less crowded than usual.

Sunday is Childrens’ Day at carnival, and is always a little less crowded, while the Bank Holiday itself can get too crowded to move around easily in many parts of the area. I find it rather easier to photograph on the Sunday, although the Monday is a better day for partying.

There did seem to be fewer elaborate costumes than previous years – perhaps the recession is hitting the carnival. Certainly many voluntary groups are expecting cuts in funding from local councils if these have not already happened.  But its always been the people that interested me more.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

We got a little light rain, which didn’t dampen the atmosphere much at all, but dark clouds made a pretty drastic cut in light levels making photography a little trickier. But then it really poured down for a few minutes and I took shelter, while trying still to photograph the few braver souls who were partying on in the street.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Fortunately for them (though perhaps not for me, as I rather like the effect of the driving rain) although the shower was very heavy it didn’t last long.  I was working at ISO 1250 and although the D700 is pretty waterproof I needed to keep just under shelter in that kind of downpour, so had the Sigma 24-70 set at 70mm. 1/160 s was just fast enough to get a sharp image despite the moving subject and gave rather nice streaks on the image.

Later the sun came out and the lighting got very contrasty. So working on Ladbrooke Grove I perversely decided to work in the trickiest area I could find for light. Fortunately Lightroom is able to work wonders if you shoot RAW (as I always do.)

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Image after processing in Lightroom

Here’s an example, with some of the people in deep shade and others in sun. I’ve evened things out a little with some fill-flash (nominally at -1 stop with the SB-800)  and exposed  (probably more by luck than judgement) to avoid burning out the almost white houses in bright sun in the background.  Here is what the file looked like when first imported into Lightroom:

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Raw file imported into Lightroom with my usual defaults

Back in the days of film and darkroom printing it would not have been possible to make these kind of changes.  Working with transparency, the starting point would have been completely burnt out in some areas – the situation hopeless. With colour neg there would have been similar highlight detail, possibly very slightly more, and with some fairly tricky burning I might have managed to bring out the blue sky and some of the building detail, but some of the more subtle changes would certainly have been impossible.

We do now have an incredible degree of control in the printing process, enabling us to change so much about an image with some precision. Back in the darkroom we could play around a little – as well as dodging and burning we could also try local warming of areas, swabbing them with concentrated developer or alkali, flashing and more, but they were all rather limited tricks and not exactly reproducible. Printing from the computer we can make precisely located and exact area adjustments of tonality, contrast, saturation, hue, sharpening etc.

Of course there may even be some people who prefer the effect of the original (as happened when I posted previously about how I’d improved a picture.  But it wasn’t the way I saw the scene and didn’t reflect what I was thinking when I took it.

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