I went to the "Dia de los Muertos" procession Sunday night in downtown Tucson. This is a time for family and friends to pray for family members who have died. The procession in Tucson is anything but solemn, most of the people seemed to be having fun. I was amazed by the size of the procession, the number of spectators lining the streets, and the free outdoor performance that happened at the end of the procession. Photographing without a flash was a challenge, I was shooting with a Canon 5D mk II and a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens. I had a monopod attached to the camera but because of the crowds, I often had to lift this off the ground to get above the heads of some of the other onlookers. Of course, the subjects of my photographs were in constant motion as well so I felt I needed a shutter speed of at least 1/100 second. To reach this goal, I shot in an area where there were some street lights (low pressure sodium, a color balance problem), shot at ISO 3200, and kept the aperture open to f/2.2. The contrast between the various masks and other constructions against the night sky was another difficulty.
I ended up with about 50 useful photos, out of a few hundred, and a couple of pretty good HD videos. Many of the images I got were blurred for one reason or another, mostly camera or subject motion. I probably should have shot at ISO 6400 or higher but then the quality of the images begins to be compromised.
A lot of the people in the procession had simply painted their faces and added black shadows around their eyes, nose, and mouth to give a skull-like impression but there were quite a few that had obviously spent quite a lot of time putting together costumes and display pieces for the event. I'll post more photographs later but I'll add a couple to this blog post. The first image is of a skull mask that was raised above the procession on a pole. I like the design of the mask and the painting on it. The small skulls radiating from the mask had lights inside them and the "candles" in the eyes of the mask where illuminated.
For the second image, I wanted to show something unusual. A lot of what I saw consisted of skulls of various kinds, black and white, some using face paint and others made from paper mache. The sun face/skull pictured here struck me as out of the ordinary in an already unusual and creative landscape. Perhaps, just because of the color, I'm not sure, but I liked it. As ever, click on images to see larger versions.