Shoot before you dye

July 19, 2013 

Like the Redneck Games, covering the Hindu festival of Holi is a photographer's bucket list item. And with no immediate plans to visit India, last Saturday's Run or Dye color run was a fun, albeit commercialized version of the colorful celebration.

Also like the Redneck Games and its mud-pit-belly-flop contest, color runs and Holi celebrations are notoriously rough on camera gear. In this case, the tiny particles from the cornstarch-based dyes used in the color run can make their way into lenses and cameras.

I hit up the Seattle P-I's Jordan Stead for some advice, since he's covered the Holi festival Spanish Fork, Utah, and a color run. I started thinking about the various gaffer-tape-and-plastic-bag Frankensteins I could create to cover up rarely used buttons and keep my lenses from being useless beyond f/5.6 as I went to pick up my credentials.

The Run or Dye folks were kind enough to provide a couple OP/TECH USA Rainsleeves, though, and I got my gear ready the night before:

I gaffed down the sleeves to my lens hoods instead of just relying on the drawstring to hold it in place. It was the first time I'd shot with plastic bags on my cameras since my days at the University of Oregon. As a college photojournalist in the rainy Willamette Valley, I never went anywhere without some plastic bags handy and remember covering entire football games with a steady downpour.

The bulky mess of protection made certain actions like zooming and manually focusing difficult and I definitely missed a few shots when the long plastic sleeve bunched up around the viewfinder as I raised my camera. It's not hard to come away with fun photos at an event like this, though, and here's my slightly tighter edit from the obviously bloated gallery of 62 photos:

While it's not difficult to snap some fun frames at events like this, it is tough to make images more interesting than the obvious. With dozens, if not hundreds, of other photographers with varying experience and access, I tried my best to find strong moments within the corporate-organized chaos. In that respect, I'm not sure I succeeded. I'm lacking some strong, informative and graphic detail shots, which I tried to make several times, and many of my photos are at a medium focal length. I did manage to find a few notable moments, like the kiss above, but most of my take is around the baseline of my expectations.

At the end of my time at Run or Dye, I looked fairly haggard, though I was far less caked than the sweatier and more-targeted participants, as you can see in this photo of me by reporter Sara Schilling:

And you can see how wrecked my cameras would have been without protection:

I also brought a can of compressed air with me and frequently blew off the front of my lens and any noticeable dye around uncovered buttons during breaks in the action. It then took another hour or so of cleaning once I was back in the office.

You may have noticed the safety orange "Official Photographer" shirt I was wearing. The pros of wearing the shirt they provided was not having to muss up any of my own clothing and having free run to climb up towers, on stage and wherever I wanted to go without having to explain to anybody who I was. I made sure to cover up the "Say Cheese!" and "See your photos at" messages on the back, too.

The con was looking like a hired gun for Run or Dye. This isn't a condescending comment about event photography; it's that I was there in a different capacity. The funny thing was that I didn't even think of this as groups constantly asked me to take their picture. It's a common request on the job, even when I'm wearing dorky clothes I actually own. Toward the end of my assignment, I heard one of these people walk away, saying that they could find the photo on the Run or Dye website later.


In lieu of jamming even more redundant photos into that big gallery, here are the groups I snapped:

I also shot some video clips on my iPhone since I definitely wasn't going to change lenses on my one video-capable DSLR in that dust-and-dye fest. Sara also helped get some video when I was busy at the stage hunting for moments:

I don't feel like I can cross Holi off my photo bucket list yet, however. And as fun as this event was at parts, it felt too much like manufactured fun to me. I'm not complaining, though, and as far as Saturday morning assignments go, this was one of the best I can remember.

There's no good segue for this...

And you've probably already heard about the outrage and boycotts of this week's Rolling Stone, which features Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Boston Magazine elaborates on the issue and how other media outlets have handled stories about Tsarnaev, including the lack of outrage when the New York Times used the same photo on its cover. I liked Mark Loundy's succinct reaction on Twitter.

The cover prompted Sgt. Sean Murphy of the Massachusetts State Police to release his images from the end of the manhunt to show the "real face" of Tsarnaev. He's since been suspended.

Detroit police are investigating an incident in which Detroit Free Press photographer Mandi Wright was arrested while shooting video of an arrest in progress.

Dan Gould has a fun feature about all the extra non-camera gear photojournalists carry.

And check out Joshua Hoffine's creepy cool homage to childhood horrors.

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