2019 Mardi Gras in Rural Acadiana
Mardi Gras in 2019 was, as always, filled with revelry, mischievous fun, and good times shared by friends and family as well as visitors, a chance to escape from the routine restraints of daily life before the onset of Lent. The temperatures were mild Friday and Saturday, with fog and a little mist Saturday morning. After a line of showers moved through Sunday morning, a blustery north wind ushered in much colder temperatures, limiting crowds at the Monday night street dances when the wind chill was in the thirties. Mardi Gras Day was still chilly and temperatures rose only into the low fifties, but, with brilliant sunshine and a bit less wind, I felt comfortable wearing a heavy sweatshirt over a long tee-shirt while photographing four courirs, a parade, and a street dance.
My attempts at photography were similar to years past with the addition of a few photos taken with my new Nikon 8-15 mm f/3.5-4.5 fisheye lens, which I used only at 15 mm for wide angle shots. The lens is small enough that it fits in my bag along with my camera, flash, and zoom lenses. It enabled me to get wide shots while standing close to stages and also to take better shots of crowded dance areas, preferably with a couple in the foreground as a focal point. The wide angle lens also came in handy on a few other occasions, especially photographing the circle of musicians playing at the Saturday morning jam at the Savoy Music Center. On two occasions, I managed to switch the lens to manual focus, probably because my fingers nudged the auto/manual switch that is close to the bottom of the very short lens barrel, resulting in very blurry photos.
On Friday evening at the first street dance, when I tried to photograph musicians on the Fred Charlie Music Stage in downtown Eunice, I kept getting weird exposures along with a few usable shots. I finally discovered that I needed to turn on flicker reduction in the shooting menu to counteract the rapid flicker of the stage lights, affecting camera exposures at certain shutter speeds but not visible to the human eye.
When shooting courirs I sometimes failed to make needed adjustments to ISO and shutter speed when switching from shots of chicken chasing to shots of other activities involving less motion that didn’t need high ISO or high shutter speeds. I need to experiment with using manual settings in combination with auto-ISO in those situations.
I tried to plan my activities but, in the rather hectic pace of moving from one activity to the next, made one especially stupid mistake. As I prepared to head to a prime location for photographing chicken chasing in Church Point, I misread a Google map and selected the wrong road to reach the location. I correctly followed a circuitous route on back roads east of Church Point to avoid the traffic within the city, but then turned off less than a mile from the road I needed to follow. By then, it was almost time for the courir to arrive at the location, so, instead of stopping and carefully studying a map, I drove up and down the wrong road in confusion. When it started to rain, I gave up and just kept driving until I wound up in Rayne and then headed back to Eunice. If you don’t examine maps carefully enough, it’s easy to get lost driving on Louisiana’s back roads.
For the first time in several years, I managed to summon up a little remaining energy to return to downtown Eunice Tuesday evening to take a few photos of Geno Delafose and French Rockin' Boogie and the dance crowd at Nick's on 2nd, a great way to end Mardi Gras. However, I was tired enough that I didn't put enough effort into making enough adjustments to overcome problems I was having with flash output and exposure, and, after I got some usable shots, I decided to head home. Meanwhile, I missed getting any shots of Leroy Thomas and the Zydeco Roadrunners, who had finished playing outside at the Fred Charlie Music Stage shortly before I left Nick's.
Overall, I had a few other problems that I’ll try to take into account in the future, but I still tend to fall back on the hope that, if I take enough photos, I’ll get some decent ones in the mix.