Aliwan Festival: a photographer’s dream

The Aliwan Festival (or fiesta) was held this weekend in Manila. The festival is a massive event that brings together cultures from all across the Philippines in the form of a street parade, beauty pageant, and float competition. Braving the heat wasn’t easy, but I felt a strong urge to use this as a launching point from which to begin focusing more effort on photographing the Philippines (since it is my home now) – I wasn’t disappointed.

The variety of costumes and cultural displays was staggering. Thousands of people overlayed with a backdrop of rhythmic drums, pulsing dance, and myriad colors created a sense of energy unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

My biggest mistake of the day was to only bring 12GB of memory cards and no way to offload them. I shoot primarily RAW when possible, and with the 21MP Canon 5D mk II, I burned through 8GB cards in no time. Mixing in some 1080p movies didn’t help; I really wish I could have done more video. In regards to lenses, I found myself most often using the Canon 70-200mm with a 1.4x teleconverter in order to get more intimate with portraits. I would have loved to keep a wide angle on my 40D backup but Novita was busy capturing some fantastic shots.

It’s my first fiesta / festival in the Philippines but definitely not my last. I walked away from the 6 hours of heat with a sense of fulfillment I haven’t had in months with my camera – I feel inspired for the first time in a long time.

Now comes the mass culling of 620 photos. Excessive? Perhaps. But wow, what an experience. I’ll be posting them as I get the time. Here are a few to kick things off: