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Street Shooting
A Parade

Santa's Coming To Town

Street shooting, a form of documentary photography, is best done at times and places where people congregate. A parade is an ideal venue, and something like a Santa Claus parade is one of the best. Young and old congregating outdoors to have a good time together. What a great place to do people photography.

Photo of Michael shooting the crowd by David Harris

In November, 2001 photographer David Harris and I, along with Video Journal director / cameraman Chris Sanderson, spent much of a Sunday afternoon photographing the Toronto Santa Claus Parade. This annual event has been running for 93 years and is the largest parade in Canada. It attracts almost a million people.

Bring in The Clowns

Clowning Around — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and Tri-Elmar @ 28mm on Fuji Provia 100F

We arrived at the parade's staging area about an hour before start time. There were hundreds of costumed clowns, marching bands and other participants milling about. Everyone was in a festive mood. It turned out that the official clown photographer (I'm not kidding) hadn't shown up, so I got roped into doing some clown portraits and group shots for the parade organizers. Great fun.

Walking The Route

Before the parade got underway we started walking down the parade route. There were three of us, with cameras in hand and over shoulders. Two of us wore shooting vest, which made us look somewhat "official". We simply looked like we were supposed to be there and knew what we were doing (sort of). During the two+ hours that we walked the parade route alongside the bands and floats no one ever questioned our right to be out there. The word for it is chutzpah.

Topknot — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and 90mm Apo-Summicron on Ilford XP-2 Super

For me photography at a parade isn't about the parade itself, though that can be enjoyable. Rather, it's about the people who are watching the parade. They're the real show. Like at a country fair Midway, when people are in large groups in public places, and particularly where they're having fun, they are generally unaware of having their photograph taken and relatively sanguine about it if they do notice.

The things to look for in photographing a parade, as with any other type of street photography, are contrasts, juxtapositions and irony. Yes, the floats are cute and the marches colourful, but the real interest is the people watching the parade. 

Kind & Queen — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and Tri-Elmar @ 28mm on Fuji Provia 100F

This photograph almost works, but I feel that it just misses because there isn't any interaction between the king and queen. But I love the float figure behind them, and the people on the balcony complete the depth interest.

Photographed with a Leica M6 and 90mm Apo-Summicron on Ilford XP-2 Super

When I photograph people in crowds I'm always on the lookout for the eccentrics. This fellow knew I was there, but after a couple of frames he ignored me — though his slight smirk shows that he knew what was attracting my attention. I find the trick with this type of shooting is to keep at it. If the subject looks at you, keep shooting. Eventually they'll look away and start to ignore you. The again, they might not. Either way it can lead to interesting photographs.

Window View

Psychic Laundry — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and 90mm Apo-Summicron on Ilford XP-2 Super

Another aspect of shooting a parade is watching the people in overlooking windows who are in turn watching the parade. The most interesting aspect of this is that the people in the various windows are unaware of those in the other windows. This can create fascinating juxtapositions.

4-Windows — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and 90mm Apo-Summicron on Ilford XP-2 Super 

The enlarged window from the upper right is fun to examine closely. Clearly this family was having something of a costume party. Closely examine the remarkable detail. This is a chance to examine the superb image quality of the Leica Apo-Summicron lens, regarded by some as one of the highest resolution lenses currently available. It would have been a quite something if I had shot this with a sharper ISO 100 film, rather than the 400 speed film that was used. 

The observant viewer will have noted that though these shots were taken from street level — looking upwards, there is no tilt to the buildings. A tutorial on how to correct this type of perspective distortion is found here.

Drive Eyes — Toronto, November 2001

Photographed with a Leica M6 and 90mm Apo-Summicron on Ilford XP-2 Super

This little guy was one of several kids driving toy electric cars as part of the parade. He seemed pretty overwhelmed by the whole thing. I took several frames, but this one, where his eyes are so expressively in counterpoint to the car's "eyes", was the most appealing of the set.

Street Shooting Links

Some relevant street shooting links on this site. Each contains additional links to other street shooting resources.

Documentary and Street Photography discusses approaches and techniques for doing street shooting

The Midway a photo essay shot at a country fair by Michael Reichmann

A Midway Portfolio by street photographer John Brownlow

Black & White Revival — more street photography

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Concepts: Photography, Photograph, Camera, Santa Claus parade, Leica M6, Santa Claus, Leica Camera, Parade

Entities: Toronto, Canada, Michael Reichmann, David Harris, Young, Chris Sanderson, Michael, John Brownlow, Michael Reichmann, Tri-Elmar

Tags: parade, santa claus parade, Leica M6, Ilford XP-2 Super, street photography, parade route, Toronto Santa Claus Parade, street shooting, David Harris, largest parade, parade organizers, street shooting resources, cameraman chris sanderson, clown, photographer david harris, window, Video Journal director, street photographer john, Leica Apo-Summicron lens, official clown photographer, country fair midway, toy electric cars, highest resolution lenses, ISO 100 film, superb image quality, photo essay shot, relevant street, documentary photography, festive mood, street level, old congregating, ideal venue, Sunday afternoon, staging area, great place, slight smirk, good time, float figure, annual event, Either way