As it’s Mardi Gras today, we thought it would be a fitting time to share this insider Q&A with travel photographer Dave Yoder (who often shoots stories for National Geographic Traveler magazine), who traveled to La Serinissima, Venice, during Carnival (Italians call it Carnevale) last year to photograph the festivities for Traveler‘s Jan/Feb feature story. Photo editor Krista Rossow asked Dave to tell us more about how he was able to capture the magic, and here’s what he had to say.
Krista Rossow: What did you find the most challenging about photographing in Venice, a city that has been photographed more than a million times before, especially during Carnevale? How do you keep your coverage fresh and distinctive?
Dave Yoder: Being assigned to find new pictures at Venice Carnival was a frightening challenge. It’s been so heavily photographed that I arrived with scarcely an idea about how to accomplish that. I decided to concentrate on getting moments, as well as going deeper into the backstage of the events, and try to get access to some of the more exclusive balls and events. I ended up spending more time making arrangements than I did shooting, but in the end, I think it was the homework that made the difference.
KR: Who was the most interesting or surprising character you met while photographing in Venice?
DY: I happened to sit down at a restaurant beside a neurosurgeon and neurologist husband and wife, from a prestigious US hospital we’ve all heard of, who were attending a photo workshop in preparation to pursue their dream of becoming photographers and leaving medicine. We had a long conversation about the arts, and the practice of medicine as an art, and how similar our approaches are to our very different jobs. At the risk of a bad pun, my advice to them on the market value of the pictures they were taking at Carnevale was a bitter pill for them to swallow, but it was an enlightening evening.
KR: Sometimes the photo editor’s favorite images never see the light of day just because they don’t fit with the story line or work in the layout. Do you have a favorite image from this shoot that didn’t make it into our magazine or onto our website? Oh, and I’m also adding in one of my favorite photos that didn’t see the light of day (except as my desktop image)….a candid shot of costumed people at a ball waiting at the edges.
DY: I rather like one of the last pictures I took on the assignment, of a boy in a blue animal outfit, passed out in a stroller while a parent took him home after a long day. I like how the boy is precariously perched, tail dragging, lights completely out.
KR: What is your favorite piece of equipment or accessory that you’ll never be caught without while on assignment?
DY: It’s highly unfashionable amongst photographers to put emphasis on equipment. It’s supposed to be the photographer (professional or hobbyist), not the camera, that makes the picture, and that is mostly true. But here’s the problem–sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you need the right tool for a particular kind of image in a particular situation. My Canon 5d MII was my lifeline in so many circumstances. I’m finding the Live View focusing preview to be invaluable for critical focusing when shooting at large apertures in low light situations. Combined with its relative portability and high resolution, it’s a great companion. I wish I had more than one.
KR: What advice would you give to amateur photographers who want to shoot Carnevale?
DY: If you see a cluster of photographers surrounding something — I started calling them “Carnographers” — run the other direction. Look for something else. Anything else.
KR: Would you go back to celebrate Carnevale in la Serinissima?
DY: Well, I don’t dance, and I don’t really enjoy dressing up in period costumes, and I don’t generally like huge crowds… So, probably not. However, I certainly enjoyed photographing the event, and I saw a lot of people having a great time. So, while it’s not quite for me, I get it. I understand.