The fire dancers of Tivoli Gardens

Today I share photos of something I NEVER photograph - people!  

It's true, I never take photos of people.  Apart from some family gatherings where I may take a few photos, I never photograph people, and especially not in my travels.  It's not my thing.  As I tell people when they ask me what type of photography I do, I generally reply "I will shoot anything that cannot talk back".

It's not that I don't like people, or that I have limited social skills (ha, some may question that bit!), or I am afraid to talk to people.  It's just that portrait work is not my thing.  I prefer to capture scenes that are generally empty of humans.  It's just how I'm wired, I guess.  But if I have to admit it, I think having some photos of people I encounter in my travels could be a good thing.  

Every travel photo you see isn't completely devoid of humans - many of the best ones actually do have people in them. Including people can be a great way to add to a scene, to give the viewer a sense of standing their themselves, and sometimes it's used to show the scale of whatever the person may be standing in front of.  In other words, it's not a bad thing, and it is something I need to think more about - and likely do more of.

Anyways, I better get back on track here...

Back in March of this year, I was in Copenhagen on business for a week, and as I have said here on the blog MANY times, it's a beautiful town.  Superbly beautiful, in my opinion.  If you haven't seen it yet, here is my list of the best things to photograph in Copenhagen, should you either want to see more of the town or in case you are headed that way and need some things to aim the camera towards.  If you get a chance to go there, take it.  I am confident you will agree with my assessment of the city.

So one evening, I had to attend an event that was held at Tivoli Gardens, their world-famous and historic amusement park.  Although it was designed to be a fun evening, it was still work-related, so I didn't want to haul all my gear there as it wasn't "free time" for me.  But I did manage to bring my camera with the little prime lens, which ended up being the right thing to do.  (Being early this year, the camera in hand was the Olympus OMD EM-1 and the lens I used was the super-awesome little Panasonic Leica 15mm f/1.7 prime - perfect for handheld shots in low light!  I have since converted to Sony cameras and lenses, per my recent posts about that).

Upon entering the park, I saw these two performers standing off to the side, as though they were getting ready to start something.  They were all decked out in these costumes with copious amounts of makeup on - it just screamed "we are about to do something".  Everyone else was walking to the bar or to get food, but I hung back and chatted with these two performers for a few minutes.  Sure enough, they were getting ready to start their fire dance, or whatever you call it, in just a moment.  I was intrigued.

I asked if pictures were ok, and they said yes, so I just positioned myself (and a couple of times, asked them to slightly adjust their position), and said "GO".  It was weird, because it was almost like they were working for me and I was hired to do this - but of course I wasn't. It just felt that way because we were collaborating, and I was the only photographer there, and there were no spectators at the beginning either.  It was interesting, and fun, to be directing them.  I've never done that before.  I dare say I enjoyed it.  

So they lit the fires and started their act.  The young lady was swinging her fire torch things around, and the young man was blowing fire into the night.  It was pretty amazing to watch (and I was close enough to feel the heat).  I didn't have it to myself for long though.  Once they really started going, more folks showed up so my ability to have it all to myself only lasted about 5-7 minutes, but I got plenty of great shots in that time, so I can't complain.  It's amazing how fire draws in spectators.  They arrived in droves.

As far as camera settings go, I was totally guessing about what to do, but I knew I had to fire things really quickly.  Having absolutely zero experience shooting something like this before, all I could do was try a few things and see what worked.  Essentially, I was shooting everything at f/1.7 since it was night and the park was pretty dark.  But of course I knew once the guy blew fire into the air, I would get a big burst of light which would illuminate things rather well.  I stuck with the f/1.7 setting the whole time and focused in on their faces whenever possible.  I also bumped up the ISO generously since again, I wanted to fire really fast.  And of course, I had the camera in "high-speed" or burst mode or whatever it is called on that camera (I can't remember, and no longer have the camera), where the shots fire rapidly in succession as the shutter button is held down.  It seemed to all work out, which I was thankful for of course!

While I don't see myself changing the type of photography that I generally do, I will say this was both a learning experience for me and a fun time.  It pays to mix things up and get out of your comfort zone at times.  I learned quite a bit in that short span of time, and given the chance to do something like this again, I might just have to indulge myself!

And thank you to the two performers for letting me practice my portrait skills while they entertained everyone.  It was a real blast! (no pun intended haha)