Canboulay! Trinidad Carnival 2017

Canboulay! Trinidad Carnival 2017

This is the first of a series of posts on Carnival 2017 in Port of Spain, Trinidad. The Canboulay riots of 1841-1844 legitimized Carnival in Trinidad and are celebrated each year on the Friday before Carnival. If you're interested in how I shot this event, read on. If not, just click on the photo on the left to go straight to the story and photos. The Canboulay reenactment begins at 4:00am and there's nothing like getting up at 2:30am after you've gotten up at 2:30am a couple of days before to fly down to Trinidad. But, let me tell you, it's worth every minute of lost sleep. As you can see from the photos, the event draws a large crowd despite the early start time simply because (a) it's very well done and (b) it's a significant event in the history of Trinidad and Tobago.

The reenactment his held outside on Piccadilly street in Port of Spain. You can see from the panos that the event is fairly well lit. You can get away with ISO 6400 and get a decent 1/100 sec. or faster at f/4. Best to shoot on one of the auto modes (I used auto-ISO) since the lighting is uneven and the action is fast. Also, don't bother doing a custom white balance on site since the temperature of the lights varies across the scene. If you can get credentials, which I had (thanks, Barry!), you can shoot with the rest of the media near the center of the action. If not, I would recommend trying to get seats in the main grandstand as low as possible or one of the other smaller risers close to the center. Pick your spot early and carefully because once it starts it's packed and you won't be able to move.

I used my Fuji XT-2 with a 16-55mm f/2.8 lens for the majority of the photos and a 50-140mm for the rest. It really depends on how close you are. If you're with the media you can probably get away with something like a 16-55 (24-70 full frame equivalent) exclusively. A lot of photographers were shooting with flash but I'm not a big fan of blasting actors with on-camera flash and there's nowhere to bounce it off since this is all outdoors. Besides, my XT-2 does a pretty good job of minimizing high ISO noise.

Once the play gets going there's no lack of scenes to photograph. There's so much going on you tend to be overwhelmed with action and don't know which way to point the camera. It helps to do a little Internet research on the history of the riots and there are plenty of websites, and even some YouTube videos, highlighting the event. They'll help you focus on the important parts.

Highly recommended and well worth getting up for. Besides, you're not going to get much sleep during Carnival anyway so you might as well get used to it.

Next up, the traditional Mas (masquerade) that follows Canboulay.

Traditional Characters Festival - Trinidad Carnival 2017

Traditional Characters Festival - Trinidad Carnival 2017

Traditional Mas - Trinidad Carnival 2017

Traditional Mas - Trinidad Carnival 2017