Photos are playing a key role following the Global Climate Strike, showing the passion and clear messages of enormous crowds around the world.
More than 80,000 packed into The Domain and surrounding areas of Sydney for the Global Climate Strike.
(Images above by Don Norris and below by Margaret Brown)
Both young and older people here and around the world have a blunt message:
Stop trashing the planet. For the sake of our children and our next generations we must take immediate, effective action to address the climate emergency. Our scientific experts have been ignored for too long, and we will hold politicians to account for their lack of action.
(8 images above by Margaret Brown)
The rally was full of chants, posters, hope, sound and fury, signifying everything.
See more at the Global Climate Strike website.
The impact of photographing important events
A peculiar sequence of events unfolded on the weekend following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the new US president back in 2017. Within hours of the pomp and ceremony at the Washington Mall concluding, Mr Trump was making extravagant claims about the size of the crowds.
The very next day The Women’s March on Washington filled the Mall with a crowd three times the size of the inauguration. We know this because there are photographs of both crowds.
Yet despite the photographic evidence, Mr Trump and his spokespeople forcefully insisted that their crowd was bigger – and they continued to do so for days after. But of course the facts remained unchanged.
Politicians’ stock in trade is to create a powerful impression, or indeed an impression of power. They need to frame events in a way that creates a narrative in which they (typically) play an indispensable leadership role.
Unlike the politicians’ windy frame of words though, the photographers’ frame is the viewfinder.
The best news and documentary photographers are also trying to ‘edit’ messy reality to tell a particular story, but their task is to convey as best they can, the truth of the situation.
Shooting tips for big public events
1. Capture the spirit of the event with a range of wide-angle, close-up and even panoramic pictures that show who’s there, what they are doing and the focus of their attention.
2. Watch your exposure levels. In bright conditions keep checking highlight areas to make sure they contain usable detail. In contrasty conditions, watch out for shadows blocking up. While you might be able to restore some shadow details when editing images, they will often contain visible noise, particularly if you’ve shot JPEGs. Note: lost highlight details can never be recovered.
3. Shoot raw files with JPEGs, setting the size of the JPEGs to meet usage requirements. Small JPEGs are easy to share online as the event is unfolding but the raw files give you plenty of scope for editing and printing shots. When working outdoors you’ll often need all the dynamic range your camera can offer, while indoor venues usually contain a mixture of light sources. Raw files will record a wider brightness range than JPEGs and you’ll be able to tweak the white balance to produce the results you want.
4. Guard against noise. Two types of noise that can ruin your pictures are image noise and actual ambient noise. To counteract the first, shoot with your camera’s auto ISO setting but limit the maximum ISO to a value you know will show minimal noise. Most modern cameras will produce relatively noise-free images at sensitivities up to ISO 1600; cameras with larger sensors will support higher ISO settings. However, the camera’s two highest settings should always be avoided. Ambient noise can be your friend or your foe. If it comes from the environment it may help you to shoot without being noticed. It’s also part of the ‘atmosphere’ in the movies you record and can be included, suppressed or eliminated when clips are edited. If it’s created by the camera (shutter clicks, AF drive, etc) it will draw attention to you and may prevent you from capturing the shots you want. Cameras that can be set to a quiet mode are well worth seeking out, particularly if you shoot video.
5. Control depth of field. This is the reason we recommend using aperture priority AE. Adjusting the lens aperture lets you determine the zone in the image that will be acceptably sharp. Choose a wide aperture to isolate subjects from distracting backgrounds and a small one for keeping as much as possible within the frame as sharp. Be aware of the background. Backgrounds can become very cluttered in large crowds. You must decide whether this is an important aspect of your picture or if you want to concentrate on a small area to direct the viewer’s attention. A longer (telephoto) lens with a wide aperture will help you to isolate the subject, while a wide-angle lens with a small aperture close to the subject helps you to show the subject in context. This is a creative choice, based upon your judgment of how the subject should be rendered.
6. Choose interesting shooting angles. Often the viewpoint of the photographer will determine whether the shot is a ‘keeper’. Try to avoid taking the shots that everyone else is capturing and look for a different viewpoint. Whether it’s behind, to the side or above the subject, any difference that is novel will make your shots stand out from the crowd.
7. Prioritise people. People are the focus of all community events, so they should play an important role in your pictures. Whether it’s a concert, a parade, a march or street festival, people who attend are there to see and be seen, so there’s every reason to photograph them.Recording large crowds of people should present no difficulties, provided you don’t get in their way. Taking candid close-ups is a trickier matter. Be aware of the basic courtesies involved with taking candid shots and be prepared to ask people to pose for your camera.
If you are polite and undemanding and explain why you want the shot, most people will be happy to oblige.
But often the best people shots are candid, taken within a split second without attracting attention. If they are purely for your own use and you won’t be earning money from them, you don’t need to ask permission; simply take the shot and move on. If you’re noticed and the subject objects to being photographed, explain why you took the photo and, if they still object, be prepared to delete it. One shot is not worth an argument.
Remember that if you plan to use the shot commercially (ie sell it) you will need the subject to sign a model release. And your subject is within his/her rights to ask for payment, either in cash or in the form of copies of your pictures. You will also need to check the terms and conditions of photographing performance events like music shows and festivals, and be aware of the performing artists’ rights.
8. Watch your camera settings. If your camera has a focus priority setting for autofocusing, use it. Similarly, switch to centre-weighted average or spot metering when you’re working in challenging lighting.
9. Avoid flash; it draws attention to you and your camera.
10. Take care of your equipment. While you’re capturing shots, you won’t have time to put equipment in your camera bag and make sure it’s secure. For this reason, it’s best to stick with one camera body and one lens and carry them around your neck throughout the event.
Photos by Margaret Brown from Climate March 2019 in Sydney: