Gilles at the Carnaval de Binche

A large part of travel photography is being in the right place at the right time. If you can achieve some sort of unique access to a place or an event, then you will be able to take pictures that other people aren't able to take. Of course you still have to shoot the pictures when you are in place, often managing tricky lighting and difficult shooting conditions.

Recently I photographed the Carnaval de Binche in Belgium. Before I left, I arranged through the tourist board to spend the day with some of the Gilles. These costumed characters are a major part of the carnival, and are governed by a series of strict rules. The Gilles start dressing at 4am and then spend the whole day dancing, drinking and processing through the town, and also at one point in the carnival throwing 'lucky' oranges to the populace.

This image is taken at the beginning of a very long day. There was almost no light, but I didn't want to light the entire picture with flash, so I employed a technique called slow-synch flash. This is where a slow shutter speed balances the output from the flash with the ambient light, giving a shot that combines motion blur with action frozen by the flash. To soften the light from the flash I used a flod-out Lastolite reflector and a warm up filter on the flash. I routinely have my flash set to underexpose by around a stop so that the flash light is not too dominant in the image.

To actually shoot this picture I had to walk backwards for some distance, crouching down slightly to get a lower angle. Not the easiest technique, but luckily the Gilles were walking quite slowly at this point!

Nikon D800 @ ISO 1600.
Nikon 24-70mm lens @ 24mm
1/4 second @ f 5
Nikon SB800 flash with Lastolite softbox

Words and image Steve Davey/ 2014

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The Story Behind the Picture...

Website, Images and text Steve Davey/ 1990 - 2021

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Story Behind the Picture

01 - Marrakech Snakes

02 - Hanoi Moto Taxi

03 - Carnaval de Binche

04 - Petra Star trails

05 - Laos Alms Round

06 - Madagascar Chameleon

07 - Delhi Spice Market

08 - Lalibela Rainbow

09 - Burning Barrels

10 Sugarloaf Mountain

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