The New Haven, CT St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the third largest parade in the country. And as my 12-year-old says, “I met the Grand Marshal at the St Pat’s Parade today.” “Really?” I ask….”No…O’Reilly!” he answers.
But covering a parade can be daunting. People have this idealized version of what a photo of a parade should be…and I think it involves The Rockettes, fireworks, a giant Snoopy, the Grambling Marching Band and a fly-over by the Blue Angels.
Now, all that stuff isn’t going to happen…but I still go out there with the idea that it’s the feeling I want. By the time you mix-in the crowd, the bad light, the crying kids, the trying to figure-out what group of marchers is from where, the writing down of I.D.’s for everyone you shoot, the patience expended ignoring the drunks bellowing, “Hey photogogra…furrrr…take a picture of THIS!!!”… it loses some of it’s magic.
Today I was in the middle of photographing politicians who were managing to march and wave at the same time, when I heard cheers and shrieks about a half block away. At first I thought a celebrity had shown-up, then someone in the crowd said, “Oh my God…he’s proposing!” Actually, I didn’t care what is was…it sounded like the Rockettes were doing a fly-over on Snoopy and that’s the feeling I wanted. I timed one shot to get a marcher in the frame to connect things to the parade…then kept shooting from across the street. It was over very quickly.
It was my best pic of the day, and it was something that I couldn’t have expected or planned for. And that is often the case…that the best shot is something you don’t expect. The best shot isn’t what you have in your head when you head-out in the morning. The best shot is just going to happen at some point, somewhere during the shoot…regardless of what the assignment may be. The trick is being fortunate enough to be in the vicinity, and not so engaged in what you’re doing half-a-block away that you don’t respond.
Most people don’t go to cover a parade with the idea of photographing a marriage proposal, but you can’t be too wedded to the idea of what a parade photo should be.
Otherwise…the real parade may pass you by.