Carnival Close-up: A Carioca Photographer on Capturing Rio's Wildest Colors
It may be the greatest party on earth, but for Rio-based street photographers, Carnival is also an annual opportunity to capture their city at its most unselfconscious and effervescent: "It's incredible to see how people completely transform themselves," says Gyde & Seek's Rodrigo. "Even if you spent an entire day on the same street corner, you'd have plenty of interesting subjects."
Carnival 2018 begins in earnest on February 9th, and warm-up parties are already starting to ripple across Rio's most festive neighborhoods. In the spirit of the citywide countdown, we're featuring some of our favorite images of Carnivals past—all by our own mega-talented pro, who generously threw in some hard-earned wisdom for inbound photo-enthusiasts. Read on to learn how he beats the heat, embraces the crowds, and discovers new angles—year in and year out.
"Sometimes you have to take ten photos to get one you're happy with," says Rodrigo, "especially at Carnival. The people around you are constantly moving. You have very little control over your environment and very little time to compose a shot. You won't always have the luxury of adjusting your settings. This photo was the tenth."
"A longer exposure is one way to compensate when you're shooting in low light conditions," says Rodrigo. "In this case, lowering my shutter speed enabled me not only to let in plenty of light, but also to register the spinning motion of the Afro-Brazilian folk dance, maracatu."
"To be a good street photographer, you need to develop an eye not only for composition, but also an eye for what will happen," says Rodrigo. "You need to be able to see the future." At a packed brega performance in Largo do São Francisco, he scaled an auspiciously positioned truck just in time to shoot this water stream as it curled over the crowd. (Learning to anticipate what's going to happen next will also help you to protect your gear from the constant spontaneous hose-downs!)
"I love reflections," says Rodrigo. "Capturing this one required very close positioning. When you're trying to get as close as possible to the action, it definitely helps to dress up, blend in, and be part of the party. Put on a costume, and you're no longer a bystander. You can cover the spectacle from the inside out."
"Keep it simple when it comes to gear," says Rodrigo. "All you need for Carnival is one versatile lens. Sometimes, even a zoom lens feels like too much trouble for a long day outside at the height of summer. I took this shot with my fixed 50mm lens, which is smaller and lighter. Without a zoom, you have to be willing to move to get closer to your subject. In this case, I was practically inside the dance circle."
"Carnival is all about rhythm," says Rodrigo, a former percussionist who counts instruments like the chocalho (pictured here) among his favorite subjects. "Getting a clean look can be challenging when you're surrounded by this many people," he says. "Try going for the side shot—or a detail shot—instead of taking a traditional point of view."
"Good photography is often a mix of luck and attention," says Rodrigo. Case in point: this captured moment, when a trombone emerged from a sea of revelers framed by 18th-century Portuguese-style buildings.
"There are 597 official blocos participating in Carnival and some 200 estimated unofficial ones," says Rodrigo. "The latter attract fewer crowds, which means better access and positioning for photographers. These so-called secret blocks may announce their performances at the last minute—sometimes via Facebook, often by word-of-mouth. Talk to a local who can give you the inside scoop on where and when to find them."
"Given the sheer number of people who attend Carnival, you'll work harder than usual to find your angle," says Rodrigo, "but keep moving around, and if you need to, get creative—even if you have to climb a tree or a lamppost to get the shot!"
Whether you're documenting street parties and samba sets or just the spectacular scenery, this brilliant Carioca pro can help you capture the essence of Rio. Through Gyde & Seek, visiting photographers of all levels can plan an unforgettable day in the field with Rodrigo.