Venice Carnival 2011 ... with 'third party' zooms!

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After reading this thread in the 'Lens Lust' section of the forum last year, I couldn't stop thinking about Joe's haunting images of the Carnival Masks and knew that I would have to go and give it a try myself one day. On 4th March 2011, that day finally came :biggrin:.

The Venice Carnival was everything that Joe (a.k.a. The Smoking Camera) said it was; fast, furious, exciting and a pretty steep learning curve. Much as I wanted to take my D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 85mm f/1.8, 17-35mm f/2.8 and brace of SB-900s, in the end fear of loss/damage and the immense weight of the kit bag was enough to put me off the idea and go with the 'B Kit' instead.

All of the pictures below were shot using a Nikon D90 body, with either the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 or the (fabulous) Tokina 50-135mm f/2.8 (EXIF data will show you which is which, by the FL :wink:). The 'gotchas' with these two lenses are that the Tamron will distort quite a lot at 17mm and the Tokina can be a tad soft at f/2.8 when zoomed all the way out. Knowing these facts in advance enabled me to adapt my usage of each, by framing wider on the Tamron (to allow for later distortion correction) and not opening the Tokina past f/3.5 (f/4 is my preferred aperture for a lot of portraits anyway, so no biggie :wink:).

Sadly, I didn't have any access to any private shoots with the Masks and so all of these images were captured in the 'Pleb Pit' :tongue: around St. Mark's Square, amidst a scrum of other photographers.

Whatever you may think of the 'artistic merits' of the images, I think that most of you would agree that the 'cheap, third party' lenses didn't embarrass themselves at all :smile:.


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If anyone else has any Venice Carnival photos to share, perhaps they could post a few here, as I couldn't see a thread on the subject in any other part of the forum!?

Thanks for looking :smile:!

Andy
 
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Joined
Jan 4, 2010
Messages
524
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Kent, England
all beautiful images Andy, and those lenses did more than well, as well as the photographer:smile:

Agree witth my Friend Vin!

Top Job !!!

Thank you very much gentlemen :smile:. Coming home and posting my shots for your delectation is almost as enjoyable as actually taking them, so I'm delighted that they have been well received.

Excellent shots. Shows that the D90 is STILL a very capable weapon.

Absolutely! I must admit though, when shooting (on Manual) directly into the sunrise, I could really have done with the faster shutter speed of the D700, as even 1/4000th sec (at ISO 200) was proving to be too much exposure at f/4. I even went down to ISO L1.0 at one point :eek:!

Mind you, the smaller and cheaper SD cards of the D90 were a major consideration and I was happier to take six of those with me than I would have been to buy and carry and extra four CF cards for my D700 - those things are not cheap :eek:!

Fantastic job!! Your B kit worked very well and you did an excellent job!

Cheers Lyndee :wink:! I appreciate the kind words.
 
Joined
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Kent, England
No 6 is really good.

That's really strange - both of my parents, independently of one another, said that they liked that photo best. I was worried that the effect of blending subject and background might have been too subtle and that the image wouldn't hold the viewer's attention. Seems I was wrong :wink:.

Fantastic images!. And may i say these costumes are also way more classy than what you see in other carnivals.

Thank you Peter :smile:!

I agree about the costumes - they really make the Venice Carnival what it is. I have to say though, I'd still rather be photographing the costumes than wearing them though :tongue:. It sometimes gets pretty cold in Venice at 6am in February :biggrin:.
 

Butlerkid

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These are some of the best Carnival images I've seen! Very well done!

The compositions are extremely good - assuming you were among many other photographers all jostling for position! How'd you manage such great shots? How did you know where to go to shoot and when? Any planning details, lodging recommendations, etc. you could share would be most appreciated!

Again, very nice!
 
Joined
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These are some of the best Carnival images I've seen! Very well done!

The compositions are extremely good - assuming you were among many other photographers all jostling for position! How'd you manage such great shots? How did you know where to go to shoot and when? Any planning details, lodging recommendations, etc. you could share would be most appreciated!

Again, very nice!

It's very kind of you to say so Karen - thank you :smile:!

I was indeed 'among many other photographers, jostling for position' :tongue: and didn't get invited to go on any of the 'private shoots', which take place inside people's ancestral homes and various stately buildings (or so I believe).

Before I offer my opinions/advice, I have to re-stress that this was my first time at the carnival and that I have very little experience with photographing people, so there are many better people out there to ask than me, but here are my initial impressions:

Firstly, although the 'Masks' tend to wander about through the centre of Venice at all hours of the day and night, the best times to catch them in the mood for being photographed are dawn and dusk (which also offers the chance of dramatic lighting).

As far as location is concerned, I only photographed the Masks in and around St. Mark's Square (the heart of the city at carnival time). Because of the early starts and the fact that public transport doesn't run regularly in the night, I would strongly recommend that carnival photographers pay the premium and find a hotel in or around the St. Mark's Square area. My hotel was 150ft away from the edge of the square - a 3 minute walk at 6am and a 20 min shuffle any time after 10am :tongue:!

What I did notice is that the vast majority of amateur (I assume) photographers (I belong in that category, BTW) were using mid-range zooms for nearly every shot. Personally, I found that I couldn't get enough opportunities for clear, uncluttered shots when 'going wide', as there was nearly always another photographer or a motor-boat in the frame. So, I was mostly shooting in the 70-200mm range (with my trusty Tokina 50-135mm DX lens :cool:). Not only did that afford me close-ups when almost everyone else was going for the whole head-to-toe shot, but it also made the b/g objects that much bigger in the images.

If there's one 'secret' that I learned when shooting around dawn, it's that the sky is divided into (roughly) three different colour ranges, depending on which way you point your camera in relation to the Sun. I was ultra-concious of this fact by the second day and went to great lengths to squeeze myself into positions where I could use either the 'orange', 'white' or 'blue' segments of the sky for my backgrounds. Paying particular attention to the colour of the costumes and either matching them or contrasting them with the background (but avoiding 'colour clashes' :eek:), must surely have been the single biggest factor in delivering my best results.

Lighting is a big issue too. Flash is, IMO, absolutely essential for these public shoots in low light (although some people were using tripods and just making lots of exposures). Bizarrely, I found myself getting results that I really liked, by simply 'straight flashing' the Masks with the SB-900 on my hot shoe :confused:. Normally, this is no-go territory for portrait work, but given that the Masks have no skin on their faces and usually have quite shiny costumes, the un-diffused light of a flash gun can do a lot to really make the face and the costume 'pop' out of the ambient light of the b/g. Some photographers will just look at those 'dark b/g, bright subject' photos and reject them out of hand as 'party flash rejects', but for me at least, I really like the style for this particular subject.

Another reason for on-camera flash is that you simply don't have the space to position umbrellas and lighting stands around the Masks - at least, not without majorly upsetting the other photographers gathered around (although it didn't stop some people from behaving as though they were in their own private studios :mad:). That said, I did try using a Lumiquest 'Ultrasoft' over my flash and holding it out to one side (on a cable) on some shots of one of the Masks. The resulting light was more like traditional portrait light and I really liked it in this case, but I had to hold it just 2ft from her head to make it work and shoot with a wide angle lens.

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Quite honestly, you can't get away with doing this very often, as you will be blocking all shots for all of the other (5-20) photographers, who are patiently waiting their turns. For me, etiquette at an event like this is almost as important as the pictures that I come home with - not everyone saw it that way though :wink:.

This year's Venice Carnival had (by far) the highest attendance on record and you could almost see the island sinking under the weight of all of those tourists (and their bulging camera bags :biggrin:). I guess that next year will be just as big, if not bigger, but (despite wishing to have the place all to myself :biggrin:) I still have to recommend it as a great experience for photographers who want to experience the thrill of this kind of event photography - half fashion shoot/half photo-journalism.

Sadly (for me), I think that this may become an expensive addiction and that I will keep on going each year :frown:. My poor credit card!

I hope that answers some of your questions, Karen.
 
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It is amazing to see such good pictures taken by the D90 and 3rd party zooms. I need to visit this thread more often to tell myself that the latest/greatest gear is not necessary to make great pics

thank you !
 
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This is better than my birthday :biggrin:! So many posts (unusual for threads that I start) and so much praise :eek:. I think I'm having my '15 minutes of fame' today.

Anyway ....

Stunning photos!

Great colors and costumes. I love them all. Very nice job.

The costumes (and the people who spend most of the year designing and making them) are the life-blood of the Venice Carnival. Having watched them behaving so graciously (under all kinds of circumstances) last week, I have to say that I have huge admiration for them all :smile:.

It is amazing to see such good pictures taken by the D90 and 3rd party zooms. I need to visit this thread more often to tell myself that the latest/greatest gear is not necessary to make great pics

thank you !

Amazing series! you did justice to third party lens for not embarrassing themselves on your D90. Well done! Cheers!

You know guys, I should really say something to redress the balance a little, as I don't want to give anyone the impression that these cheaper lenses are exactly equal to their bigger, pricier Nikon brothers :wink:.

As I said in the OP, the Tamron has some distortion and the Tokina is slightly soft, if used at certain extreme combinations. The thing that this thread proves is that if you use them with those limitations in mind, the results will be almost indistinguishable from any other quality glass, at 1000 pixels anyway :rolleyes:.

It would have been nice to be able to zoom the Tokina to 135mm (200mm on FX) and select an f/2.8 aperture for smooth, creamy(ish) bokeh ... but the pictures would have been just a little softer than I could tolerate. My Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II would have been able to carry that off. For those rare occasions, when you need to squeeze out the last 5% of image quality, primes and high quality zooms really are the only way to go.

The best thing, for me, about seeing these results is that I now know that I can take my DX kit on my holidays in the future and that the results will be almost as good (at web size) as those from my FX kit :smile:. I'm very lucky to have that much choice!
 
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So, so beautiful! Great images. I appreciate all the expense and effort you went to to get these, and then show them to us. The costumes are extraordinary - I am especially impressed with the Samurai duo's headdresses. Venice is magical any time of any year, but Carnival is awesome.
 

Butlerkid

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Thanks for the additional information. This is a trip I've always wanted to do....maybe someday! You've certainly given me the "itch" again! LOL!

Again, your images are simply stunning! Kudos!
 
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Andy, thanks for posting this fantastic and impressive series of photos!

When carnival parades here in Germany started on Shrove Monday (Cologne etc.)
I remembered the last year´s outstanding shots of "The Smoking Camera"
and thought of getting to Venice was a must.
This year I had no time but one of the next years will see me there.

Venice is overcrowded by tourists throughout the whole year ... so I guess
you have to be very lucky to get a little space for your shots.
You surely had to book your hotel a long time in advance.

Don´t hesitate to share some more of your precious shots!:biggrin:
 

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