I Love a Parade!

It’s one of my worst kept secrets: I love a parade. It’s also no secret that my favorite parade of all time is the Pat Taylor Memorial Parade of Lights every December here in Ada.

The Parade of Lights has gotten easier to photograph as technology has improved, both in terms of cameras, and the lights on display.
The Parade of Lights has gotten easier to photograph as technology has improved, both in terms of cameras, and the lights on display.

My strategy for photographing nighttime parades is pretty straightforward: sky-high ISO settings and large aperture lenses. I usually use my 180mm f/2.8 and my 20mm f/2.8, both older designs, but very capable.

Digital imaging has made a difference, but incrementally. In the early 2000s, for example, my digital cameras were the Nikon D1H and the Kodak DCS720x, at the top of the low-light game in their day, but definitely left behind by one generation after another of better and better digital cameras.

In the film days, there was Kodak T-Max P3200, a high-ISO black-and-white film I used for sports. But a Christmas parade is often very colorful, and that left shooting films like Fujicolor 1600, which was okay.

This is a scan of one of my Parade of Lights images from 1995. Made with Kodak T-Max P3200 film, you can see it is pretty grainy. Still, I got an image, and sometimes that's what counts the most in photojournalism.
This is a scan of one of my Parade of Lights images from 1995. Made with Kodak T-Max P3200 film, you can see it is pretty grainy. Still, I got an image, and sometimes that’s what counts the most in photojournalism.

It is an understatement that I no longer have to rely on such limitations.

Additionally, the lights themselves have transitioned to Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, and are brighter and less yellow-red.

So, fast forward to this year’s Parade of Lights: I shot it all at ISO 12,800, knowing that I could fall back on photography’s newest secret weapon: Lightroom’s AI-based noise reduction feature.

I know it sounds like cheating, or even skirting the edge of ethics, because AI has the potential to damage photojournalistic credibility, but I am always up front about how I use it: never alter content.

Even with the stratospheric ISO and f/2.8 lenses, I was still down to 1/30th of a second shutter speeds sometimes, so I just had to accept that many of my images would be throw-aways.

So if you made it to the Parade this year, and I’m guessing from the hundreds and hundreds of people there that you did, you would have seen me prowling around, having the time of my life, making tons of pictures. I love a parade!

Kids wave at passing floats in this year's Parade of Lights.
Kids wave at passing floats in this year’s Parade of Lights.

1 Comment

  1. I love, love that small focus range (My preferred term over depth of field.) on that T-Max 3200.
    Sweet, sweet.

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