Asakusa Samba Carnival

The Asakusa Samba Carnival, Japan's largest,  is one of Tokyo's summer festival treats that no one should miss. Rya and I experienced the spectacle together with some friends last 2009. I could still remember how we pushed our way around the crowd when we got off the subway exit. We even asked two policemen for directions but they shrugged us off. We told ourselves that they may be from a different precinct and was only there for crowd control. That is something out of town folks should not do during the heights of a festival.

Good thing was our friends were already seated by the road. I managed to wiggle my way towards them while Rya decided to position herself across the street. Here lies the lesson. Around 2PM the sun came out of the buildings. Not only that we were sweating, playing under the direct mercy of the sun, what's worse, for me perhaps was being a left-eye. I was shooting to my left with harsh light hitting me from top right. I was squinting and squinting after making a few frames. 

Not that I was not grateful for my friends, especially for Zip, knowing how difficult it was to secure a spot for us. Even with all of that sweat, we had great fun. That I attribute to being a Filipino. What I am saying is, during shooting events like these, wherein you will be stuck in one location making all the frames, foreknowledge could offer you a lot of advantages.     

"Know heaven and know earth..." as Sun Tzu would say in the Art of War. 

In events like these it pays to know what the weather is. Imagine this. An event full of photographers. The weather all erratic, sunny in the morning and in the middle of the day while the parade is in full swing it suddenly rains hard. It would be a scampering scene with others running for cover while some are protecting their gears. The unlucky will be soaking wet. But the brave will be unfazed. If the performers continue with the rain, the professional will continue, pull out an umbrella or a hat or a raincoat for themselves and their cameras. Their secret. Foreknowledge. They knew that it was going to rain so they prepared for the worst. (Another would be is that they are just scouts - "Always ready!" - but that is the know yourself part.) 

Good thing we are living in this age that we can now "know heaven" so easily.  A favorite place for me to check is [ ] The Japanese site [ ] is more specific with hourly forecast on temperature, humidity, precipitation and windspeed.  

Another point would be is to be perceptive where the sun is. Remember it is your source of light. Will you be shooting with it or against it. Choice is yours. 

Knowing earth in this case also refers to being aware of how the event will go about. Know where it will begin. Know what routes it will take. Know the names of the streets. Know where it will end. This would be a good exercise if you want to present a chronological photo essay too. Knowing the lay of the land makes you efficient and more mobile. It saves time and energy going from here to there. I know someone who used a motorbike and passed through shortcuts. He was able to present an extraordinary, in-depth coverage of the event. Foreknowledge. But if you will be stuck in one location making all the frames, then you have to make the best of your images with the same background and exercise more on composition. 

By the way, most festivals in Japan have a website. All you have to do is search for the event map. (The Asakusa Samba Carnival is [ ]). You can print and study it.

Next year I hope I could visit Tokyo and join the event. I know I have said this again and again. My good friend Totomai keeps on laughing at me. You could also visit his blog for more images of the Asakusa Samba Festival. 


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