While visiting Boston over the Memorial Day weekend, we experienced a moving memorial to the fallen soldiers of Boston: 20,000 flags in the middle of The Boston Commons. Each flag represented a Massachusetts citizen who died in wars and military conflicts during the last 100 years. By shooting low (with the camera nearly on the ground as I knelt in front of the first line of flags) I was able to eliminate the distracting background of visitors and keep the focus on this sea of flags that really puts into perspective the staggering number of lives lost. The 50mm focal length setting combined with a wider open aperture of f/5.3 helped to compress the flags to give the image a painterly feeling as the seemingly never-ending rows of flags dissolves into the background.
Shooting a parade is really not that easy. There is so much going on. And it goes by pretty quickly. And someone always moves into your frame before you get the shot. Well, at least that’s what always happens to me. So shooting the Memorial Day parade was a practice session for me with the hope that I have honed my rusty parade-shooting skills a little bit before our “big” July 4th parade (I say big, but it’s less than 1/2 mile and lasts all of 30 minutes). Anyway, since there was no one in the parade itself that I was trying to capture, and I was not shooting for any newspaper, I wanted to be sure the reasons for me even being at the parade, my model and her friends, were in my shots. So I crouched a little and captured them in the corner of the frame as they watched our terrific high school marching band pass by. I used a wideangle setting and shot it horizontally to capture as many band members as possible.
But of course, there were fire trucks and flags galore. To capture the reaction of a whistle-blowing fire truck that just went by (yeah, if I wasn’t shooting, I’d be holding my ears , too!), I turned the camera vertically, took a few steps back and zoomed in to frame the image nicely without any wideangle distortion. Here, a vertical orientation works to capture the kids in the lower foreground with the parade blurred out in the background. The background drops out since I had the aperture set wide (F/3.5) which gives a shallow depth of field. But I was also using a medium tele setting (100mm). When you use a tele setting and are close to your subject, you get shallow depth of field (blurry backgrounds) like this. I really like the result. There’s no doubt where we are and I feel like I am there just looking at the photo. I hear it too!
So as you get ready to shoot your next parade, try to a) get there early to stake out an up-front spot; b) stand on the side of the street with light so your camera has an easier time getting a proper exposure; c) use the rule of thirds to place your own little parade watchers in the frame (position them in the bottom, left or right third of the frame rather than the middle); d) use different zoom settings; and e) take lots of shots!