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Photographing Brazil's Rio Carnival

Updated on March 20, 2015
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Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) | Source
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CC BY 2.0
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Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
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Lose yourself in Rio De Janeiro and its once a year mayhem of a carnival. The scenes that one will be exposed to can easily overwhelm the senses and through photography can ensure that you will run out of film or digital memory and batteries very quickly.

"Rio de Janeiro is on a strip of Brazil's Atlantic coast, close to the Torpic of Capricorn where the shoreline is oriented east–west. Facing largely south, the city was founded on an inlet of this stretch of the coast, Guanabara bay(Baía de Guanabara), and its entrance is marked by a point of land called Sugar Loaf (Pão de Açúcar) – a "calling card" of the city" Wikipedia

There seems to be no other festival like this one. The floats are extremely elaborate and extravagant, often taking an entire year from conception to final production. The participants are as varied as the population of the country itself. Everyone joins in the celebration. The ladies usually have the most exotic and down right erotic costumes or often very little costumes at all worn for just this festival. The music is contagious and the festival often runs on for days.

"The Brazilian Carnaval is one of the best-known celebrations today, but many cities and regions worldwide celebrate with large, popular, and days-long events. The Carnival of Rio de Janeiro is the biggest carnival in the world, and the biggest popular party on the planet, according to The Guinness Book of World Records 2010. The Rio de Janeiro Carnival is also considered the world's most famous. ." Wikipedia

Any photographer who goes to Rio to photograph the festival has to be focused since it is easy to become overwhelmed and start taking images of everything and anything without attention to composition. The emphasis has to be maintained on capturing the essence of what is basically the largest street party in the world. Scenes of the floats should be recorded from various angles and leave your monochromatic formats at home. Color is king here.

You can alternatively concentrate on one main type of subject such as the very attractive ladies or only the floats and this is perfectly fine, but you are bound to miss some of the other factors or elements if you do so, so a good mixture of images should be on the agenda. You should also keep in mind what audience segment you want to reach, since the festival offers many adult oriented scenes, including some nudity and not every photograph is suitable to be shown to every person. Brazil is quite at ease with its notion of nudity and behaviors which may not be similar to most other countries and what to them is perfectly normal behavior may be found to be offensive by others outside of their world. Keep this in mind when composing your shots.

The festival is renown for its wide array of rich and vibrant colors. The participants don very elaborate and mostly hand made costumes which they often do themselves and for which they can be awarded prizes by the carnival committee Follow this link for more extensive information including making reservations, hotel information and general prices as well as itineraries: Rio De Janeiro Samba Carnival.

You can start recording images almost from the time that you get down of the plane since the celebrations are usually a two week event and spread throughout the entire country. You will be able to start celebrating at almost any bar, restaurant or street corner with the culmination being the Samba parade or the "carnival" as its most commonly called in the Western world and which takes place in the Sambadrome; a huge stadium solely constructed for this purpose.

Most of the festival is entirely organized and the participants come from the many samba schools which entertain the community through samba nights and create the pageant for the Samba Parade. They carefully select the musical themes, write their own music and the lyrics, make the costumes and floats themselves mostly from scratch and also practice all year around to be successful in the parade. These schools are mostly social clubs representing a particular neighborhood, and each is highly exuberant and have a high degree of pride for their neighborhood and its people.

Do not burden yourself with many lenses, a 55mm and a longer lens such as the 80mm to 200mm should be more than enough. Plenty of film or memory cards and a good flash unit with a fast recycle. Off course don't forget batteries and chargers. A good idea is to take a small diffuser for your flash or simply use a white handkerchief on the flash head held in place by a rubber band. You want your flash illuminated images to appear as natural as possible and a diffused light source helps with this.

Once you have your images in order, then carefully choose only your best examples since this festival has been photographed countless times and covered by almost the entire world, and submit the images to photographic stock houses, travel publications and general photo publications as well as to general interest magazines.

Do remember to write to any publication and obtain their submission guidelines before sending anything to them, otherwise you run the risk of your images not being returned and of not being compensated if they are damaged in any way.

Do also strongly consider including a news style story with your photo submission as publishers look kindly on article / image submissions, especially when they have deadlines to meet.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source
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    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 5 years ago from Jamaica

      Luis, I am not a carnival lover but I understand that carnival in Brazil is like no other. I have a Brazilian friend who talks about it a lot.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
      Author

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Cardisa: You really should take a trip to see it at least once in your lifetime. Believe me it's like no other

    • Island Tropical profile image

      Island Tropical 5 years ago

      really great, thanks for sharing

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
      Author

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Island Tropical: Thank you

    • Island Tropical profile image

      Island Tropical 5 years ago

      no problem.

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

      like Cardisa, I'm not a fan of Carnival, but these costumes are beautiful.

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
      Author

      Luis E Gonzalez 5 years ago from Miami, Florida

      FloraBreenRobinson: thank you

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Just a shame they can't schedule the next Olympics for Carnival, the combination would be dynamite! Another prime page from Luis 'the image man'!

    • LuisEGonzalez profile image
      Author

      Luis E Gonzalez 4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      alancaster149: Thanks...I know right? It's a shame.

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