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The 45th annual Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in Girard Park, Lafayette, Oct. 11-13, 2019, focused on “The Role of Women in Cajun and Creole Music” and also celebrated the 90th anniversary of the song “Jolie Blonde.” I photographed more than 40 bands, including all of the predominantly female groups, but, with four outdoor music stages to try to cover, I did not make it to programs in the Atelier tent related to this year’s festival theme.

The weather was beautiful, the first coolish weekend of the fall. As always when the sun is bright, contrasts between brightly sunlit and dark shady areas on some stages created photographic problems. I used flash to try to reduce the contrast when photographing Jo-EL Sonnier’s set, but in other cases I just waited for post-processing to attempt to salvage photos, or, in the afternoon at Scène Anniversaire where the contrasts were extreme, simply gave up.These photographic problems, of course, in no way affected the experience of festival goers.

Most of my other problems were entirely my own fault. As I’ve been doing for years, I arrived before 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and then, except for a brief afternoon snack, went from stage to stage non-stop until the last band performed after sunset. By late afternoon, I was prone to mistakes, for example, letting the shutter speed drop to 1/250th second or lower while photographing dancers near sunset or failing to notice that the vibration reduction switch on a lens was turned off.

I decided to use my Nikon D850 instead of the D5 because, since I often have to shoot from behind people crowded near a stage and need to resort to holding the camera above my head, the D850’s tilt screen is easier to see as I hold up the camera and try to focus using Live View. However, the focus is slow and, at least in my attempts to use it, somewhat quirky. Several times—for example the few times I ventured inside the Atelier tent—I wished I had had the low light capability of the D5. (The note attached to a photo taken after sunset of the crowd in front of Scène Ma Louisiane with Wayne Toups on stage describes another example when a D5 would have worked better.) On the other hand, the larger size of photos produced by the D850 allowed me, in a few cases, to transform the photo by cropping to focus on a particular area of the larger frame.

Because I’m now 72, carrying a camera bag loaded with a camera and three lenses is definitely tiring, so this year I decided to switch from using a Nikon 70-400 mm telephoto zoom to a 28-300 mm lens, which is lighter but not as sharp. I continued to carry 24-70 mm and 70-200 mm lenses to use for most shots but occasionally used the 28-300 when I needed more reach. However, sometimes I would become lazy and leave the less sharp lens on my camera when I should have switched to another lens.

In any case, as always, I thoroughly enjoyed the music, the energy of the crowds, and the vitality of the Cajun and Creole cultures represented at the festival.

Next year’s festival will be Oct. 9-11, 2020. For information, go to

David Simpson
Eunice, LA

Yoshi-take "Yoshi" Nakabayashi, Festivals Acadiens et Créoles, Oct. 12, 2019


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