Photography Travelogues – Papua New Guinea 3/3
January 12, 2012 2 Comments
Dragon Dancer, Watam Village, Papua New Guinea
There are two dozen men inside this elaborate costume, the head is a heavy and ornate dragon’s head. It shuffles and groans with a procession of minders on either side. They dance and sing as the dragon makes its bumpy way down a long grassy colonnade. When you look at the head closely, it is an incredibly detailed and sophisticated piece of work made of grasses, shells and feathers.
And it must be incredibly hot inside.
We arrived on the shore by zodiacs to a rapturous welcome – the whole village had turned up for our visit, including many honorary policemen in uniforms. However, these were just nominated members of the several clans who had made their way to Watam for the performance.
A policewoman was assigned to carry my camera backpack and another to carry my Elinchrom Ranger Quadra on the end of a boom arm. A few quick instructions and I was able to dart in and out as the dragon walked forward with my lighting assistant.
Not that I was darting too quickly. The temperature was well over 40 degrees Celsius, and the tropical humidity was enough to make your head spin. I can remember thinking this was one of the most intense shoots I had experienced, but the excitement of the dance was contagious and I quickly forgot about the heat.
There were two thoughts behind my approach. With the strong sunshine, shadows were going to be a problem, so using a flash through a softbox provided fill-in illumination. I wanted to see the wonderful detail and using flash certainly allows that.
The second thought was to get a sense of the dance associated with the costumes. Using an extreme wide-angle lens and shooting from down low, I tried to show what it was like to be among the dancers as they performed. And the way the wide-angle distorts the dancers on the edges of the frame I hope adds to the sense of movement.
As there were a lot of other people watching the performance, it was a matter of running in and taking a single shot, then backing out quickly. This worked fine as it allowed plenty of time for the flash to recycle, but as with many action subjects, there is a lot of hit and miss.
I find Capture One very useful for quickly editing my files. Using the star system, I view each image in the shoot and give photos that I think have some merit three stars. Then I sort the shoot by ‘Rating’, so all my three stars are now at the top. I then run through these images and promote the best ones to four stars, and maybe demote some of the three stars that aren’t quite so good now that I have edited the whole shoot.
One of my personal favourites is this photo with one of the young boys standing right in front of the camera, proudly wearing a European soccer jersey. It seems no matter how remote you think you are, there is always a connection to ‘civilisation’ if you look closely enough!
Peter Eastway is a professional photographer and photography magazine publisher based in Sydney, Australia. To see more of his photography, visit www.petereastway.com. Peter also offers an online Landscape Photography MasterClass. Details can be found at www.betterphotography.com.