Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Annual Folkmoot Photo Salvage

I look forward to Waynesville's annual Folkmoot Festival each summer. Dance groups from around the world come to Haywood County with their colorful native costumes to share a little of their culture with us. It's a visual delight for us photographers, albeit with some challenges.

The first challenge is the weather. The organizers of this event chose the hottest part of the North Carolina summer for dancers to perform in elaborate, and often heavy costumes. The heat is loved just as much by the visitors to Folkmoot. This year we didn't get heat, we got rain for the street festival, and somewhat milder temps for the parade the following weekend. The next challenge is backgrounds. Since I photograph at the street festival and the Parade of Nations, the background consists of buildings on Main Street, other dancers, and the crowd. Joe Tourist with his brightly colored "I Love Gatlinburg" t-shirt somehow seems to often end up in my pictures. Foregrounds can also be a problem as some people seem to have no qualms about stepping right into the action, blocking the view of everyone else, to get a shot with their camera phone. This woman below decided that everyone would love to have her in their pictures of the group from Hawaii as she brazenly stepped right in front of everyone. By the way, nice outfit there, Ethyl. The top and pants almost match.

"I wanna be in pictures"

There's really nothing you can do about the backgrounds, so you either live with them or change them later on the computer. The latter route is the one I have often taken over the years, inserting a better background behind a tighter crop to produce more of a portrait of a particular dancer. The young woman below was part of the group from Russia. As beautiful as she and her colorful costume are, the viewer's eye can't help being distracted by all the clutter in the background in the original version.

Original photo

I decided to go for a tighter crop, which gave me less background to delete. I then got the idea to mimic pictorialist style portraits of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These tended to have soft focus and darker tones that I like for some portraits. I selected what I thought was an appropriate background for this style portrait, and converted the photo to a soft sepia toned black and white. This meant losing the color of the costume, but I think the version below still suits the era of this clothing.

No, it's not an authentic capture of a dancer in a parade, but then I'm not a journalist either. I like this "manufactured" portrait better, and I'm willing to bet the dancer would like it too. (Click on photos to enlarge.)

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