Cultural Events

Capturing Candid Moments at a Festival by Todd Henson

A member of Embajadores del Folklore after performing a Morenada dance.

This is the third and final post about XXX Festival Boliviano, the 30th annual Bolivian Festival held at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia, on September 3, 2017. As with the previous posts, be sure to click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Here is an example of a performer looking right at the camera.  This performer was with Tinkus Bolivia who performed a Tinkus dance.

Another example of a performer looking right at the camera. In this case I was in a lower position looking up at this performer with Morenada Bolivia USA who had just performed a Morenada dance.

In the first post I shared photographs of several of the dance groups that performed. In the second post I shared many photographs of individual performers. In this post I look at capturing candid moments. These might be interesting moments during a performance, but are more often captured between or after a performance when the performer has relaxed and perhaps taken themselves momentarily out of the persona they portray while dancing.

I love this photograph of two young performers with Tinkus de San Simon USA, who performed a Tinkus dance. One performer is looking down the route they would take towards me, and the other is looking back towards the rest of their group.

In this version I captured a lone young performer from Tinkus de San Simon USA, who had performed a Tinkus dance. She is facing away from me, looking towards the American flag and back towards the rest of her group. I really like the moments captured in these two images.

I like trying to capture these candid moments because I think they help tell the story of the event. They show another layer to the performance and the performers. For example, we see the exhaustion when someone takes the mask off their head, the beads of sweat dripping down their face. And in that moment we can see the effort these performers put into their performance.

In this photo I captured the moment after the performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana removed his mask after their final performance of a Wititi dance. You can see his exhaustion as he lifts his head towards the sun.

And in this photo we see another performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana who had removed their mask after performing a Wititi dance.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I don’t consider myself a people photographer. I rarely photograph people. But I am just as attracted to a stunning portrait or to impactful examples of street photography as I am to photographs of the subjects I most often shoot (nature, wildlife, outdoors). So I really enjoy events like this Festival, where I can practice photographing people in a challenging environment, trying to capture action and movement, but also trying to find and capture those more intimate moments between the dancing, trying to show a little more personality to the performer.

Here a performer from Tinkus Tiataco pauses during the Tinkus dance, raising her hand to her mouth. What was she thinking? What was she feeling? 

Here is a moment when a young performer from Salay Bolivia USA pauses, raising her hand to her head, just after her performance of a Salay dance.

This photo captures a moment from a Tinkus dance performed by Tinkus Bolivia. I believe the girl with the whistle is leading her group within the dance. I like her pose and the positioning of the other people with the image.

Here is a small group of performers from Morenada Revelacion Cocanis VA USA just after performing a Morenada dance.

The next time you find yourself at this sort of event, or just out about town with your camera, consider looking for moments you can capture, moments that help tell a story about the subject. And if, like me, you usually shoot nature, consider occasionally photographing something different, such as people, events, or street photography. It’s a great way to learn. And in the end, light is light, and anything you learn about light in one environment can almost always be applied to a different environment.

A performer with Fraternidad Alma Boliviana raises her hand at the end of, or just after, performing a Tinkus dance.

Another performer from Fraternidad Alma Boliviana after performing a Tinkus dance.

I tried to frame this member of Morenada Bolivia USA amongst the colored feathers of other dancers in his group. They had just performed a Morenada dance.

In a moment captured after her dance, sunlight creates colored reflections on her face from the sequins in her outfit. She is a member of Fraternidad Folklorica Cultural Caporales Universitarios San Simon Filial VA, who performed a Caporales dance.


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Individual Dancers at the 2017 Bolivian Festival in Manassas, VA by Todd Henson

A member of Tinkus Bolivia, who performed a Tinkus dance. She saw me photographing and smiled for the camera.

Previously, I shared photographs of some of the dance groups at XXX Festival Boliviano, the 30th annual Bolivian Festival held at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia on September 3, 2017. In this post I share photographs of many of the individual dancers during their performances.

Tinkus Bolivia performing a Tinkus dance.

An energetic move during a Tinkus dance performed by Tinkus Bolivia.

There were performers of all ages, including this young one from Morenada Central VA USA performing a Morenada dance.

Another young performer from Morenada Central VA USA performing a Morenada dance.

I loved watching the large groups perform moves in sync, all jumping or spinning together to the music. I admire the training and skill required to move as a group. But I also loved finding and photographing individuals, trying to capture the moves of a single person, showing their emotion and helping tell their story as a part of the group.

A performer from Embajadores del Folklore wore a beautiful flowing colorful dress while performing a Morenada dance.

Embajadores del Folklore included a lot of color, such as this performer during a Morenada dance.

I love this pose from a member of Fraternidad Alma Boliviana during their performance of a Tinkus dance, raising his arm and lifting his head towards the sun.

This member of Fraternidad Alma Boliviana showed such energy, jumping into the air during their performance of a Tinkus dance. Notice the water droplets to the side, splashed on the performers from folks walking alongside them, helping them cool down on the hot day.

I recall a few times when a performer saw me photographing and turned to smile for the camera. There is at least one photograph in this set like this. But most of these images were created during a performance while the person was focused on the dance.

A member of Embajadores del Folklore performing a Morenada dance.

A young performer from Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana, fully in costume and performing during a Wititi dance.

Some performers had full costumes, from head to toe, such as this member of Morenada Transpeco USA performing a Morenada dance.

It was a hot day and I have to imagine this performer from Embajadores del Folklore was feeling the heat while performing a Morenada dance in a full costume.

Despite the heat, these amazing groups continued to dance, including this performer from Morenada Bolivia USA during a Morenada dance.

The weather changed throughout the day. It began slightly overcast, which was great. It provided a nice soft light on the dancers, creating beautiful soft shadows. But before long the sky cleared resulting in direct sunlight illuminating the performers, casting a more harsh and well defined shadow. The sun stayed out most of the rest of the day, but occasionally a cloud would move in front of the sun and for a brief period we’d have softer light again.

There was such a diversity to the outfits, but they were all beautiful and full of color, including that of this young performer from Centro Cultural Bolivia during a Pujllay dance. Look closely to the right of her hat and you'll see a floating bubble. There were children on the sidelines blowing bubbles throughout the day.

A young member of Morenada Bolivia USA performs his moves during a Morenada dance.

I really don’t consider myself a people photographer. I spend far more time photographing nature: animals, insects, flowers, landscapes. But events like this make me realize I can also enjoy photographing people, especially in such candid, fluid settings, even though it can be challenging. I have much still to learn and that’s perhaps part of why I enjoy it.

The Caporales dance performed by Fraternidad Folklorica Bolivia included energetic jumps and costumes that reflected colored light into their faces when the sun shone on them. Direct sunlight is not always a bad thing.

So much color and so many smiling faces, including this performer from Morenada Bolivia USA performing a Morenada dance.

A performer from Tinkus San Simon USA performing a Tinkus dance.


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2017 Bolivian Festival at the Prince William County Fairgrounds by Todd Henson

Fraternidad Alma Boliviana performing a Tinkus dance.

On September 3, 2017, I attended XXX Festival Boliviano, the 30th annual Bolivian Festival held at the Prince William County Fairgrounds in Manassas, Virginia. This was a fantastic cultural festival featuring a huge number of groups wearing amazing outfits and costumes and performing fantastic dances to music booming over speakers all around the fairgrounds track.

Tinkus de San Simon USA performing a Tinkus dance.

Younger members of Tinkus de San Simon USA looking back at the rest of their group.

Members of Tinkus de San Simon USA performing a Tinkus dance.

These events are a great opportunity to experience Bolivian culture, to see and meet wonderful people, to watch groups performing traditional Bolivian dances, and to listen to and feel the powerful rhythm of a variety of Bolivian music. There is so much color, movement and energy at these festivals, it’s an absolute joy to watch and to photograph.

Centro Cultural Pujllay Cliza USA performing a Pujllay dance.

Look at the details in the footwear of a member of Centro Cultural Pujllay Cliza USA.

Sambos Caporales VA USA performing a Caporales dance.

I love the variety of dances performed at the festival. They are each unique and have origins in Bolivian folklore. Examples of dances in this post include: Tinkus, Pujllay, Caporales, Morenada, and Wititi.

Morenada Central VA USA performing a Morenada dance.

I did not have the opportunity to try any of the food and drink this year, I was so focused on the dance events. But there are a number of food stalls serving Bolivian dishes and drinks, and I highly recommend stopping by if you attend one of these events. This year we saw very long lines for the food, so get there early.

Tinkus Llajtaymanta performing a Tinkus dance.

Tinkus Llajtaymanta performing a Tinkus dance, wearing very detailed costumes.

I hope these photos give you at least an idea of what an amazing experience it is watching these dances and the amazing people who perform them. I always leave in a better mood than I arrived. Be sure to click on any of the photos for a larger view.

Fraternidad Folklorica Bolivia performing a Caporales dance.

Photographing an event like this can be a challenge, especially for someone like me who usually photographs wildlife and nature subjects. There is so much going on, so much motion, so many people all moving together. And because the seating fills quickly we found a seat and stayed there for most of the day. So the majority of my photographs were shot from the same location.

Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana performing a Wititi dance.

Members of Fundacion Socio Cultural Diablada Boliviana posing after their performance.

What lens is best for this type of event? I’m most often drawn to a telephoto perspective, so I brought a 70-200mm and left everything else at home. This worked great when the groups came around the corner and headed our way. We were positioned at the end of one side of the track. When performers were closer the lens allowed me to capture individual shots, closeup portraits, and candid shots. But the telephoto lens did make it challenging to photograph them when they were right in front of me. That’s when a more wide angle lens would have been useful.

Tinkus San Simon USA performing a Tinkus dance.

Details of the boots of a member of Fraternidad Folklorica Cultural Caporales Universitarios San Simon Filial VA during their performance of a Caporales dance.

Choosing a good aperture was also a challenge. I love shallow depth of field, and this works very well with a single subject. But when photographing a group it’s sometimes nice to have more of the group in focus, so I was constantly adjusting the aperture based on the number of people in the frame. In the end, though, I found myself most often closer to wide open than to stopped down.

Morenada Bolivia USA performing a Morenada dance.

Tinkus Tiataco performing a Tinkus dance.

Stay tuned, I will share more photos from this event in future posts. Sign up for my weekly email newsletter to stay current.


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