How Shooting Pics at the 2014 Puerto Rican Day Parade (NYC) Helped to Improve my Photography

One thing I love about being in New York is that when I’m looking to scratch my photography itch, the City provides a truly unending wealth of interesting subjects.  On this particular day, I thought I’d take a few hours and get some practice in by taking my camera out to the Puerto Rican Day Parade, which ran along 5th Ave between 44th St and 86th St.  The primary reason I chose to shoot at the parade was due to the challenges that I’d have to work around in order to get some interesting shots.  I know that many photographers prefer to be in environments where they’re able to maximize their control over lighting, the environment, and their subjects, but I think it’s important to get out of one’s comfort zones every once in awhile and place yourself into a somewhat chaotic situation that takes a certain amount of control out of your hands.  By having to quickly adjust to the ever-flowing ebb of the parade, it not only forced me to quickly problem-solve, but it also helped to work on my familiarity with my gear, and improve on the speed at which I made exposure adjustments (to make this exercise interesting, make sure your camera is on full manual mode).  Some of the challenges I found while shooting at the parade revolved around:

  • Constantly changing subjects who may only be in your line of sight for a few seconds at most (definitely helps to work on your ability to quickly scan for subjects)
  • Making fast adjustments to exposure settings as you switch between the mobile participants in the parade, and stationary ones in the crowd
  • Dealing with the harsh/direct afternoon sun, and
  • Being selective about composition when you are watching over 80,000 marchers pass by, and are literally standing amongst more than a million spectators

So what are some of the creative ways you like to challenge yourselves, and what are some of the ‘exercises’ you go through in order to improve on your photography?

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