Will You Shoot Holi? Read This.

Shooting Holi is one of the most challenging pursuits that a traveler/photographer/travel-photographer can take up, and I am glad that I have my share of experiences to write about. This post has all the tips and tricks to shoot Holi.
While Holi is sure to get you some of the best photographs of your life, the occasion calls for you to be careful about self, and your gears. It is a potentially risky festival to shoot, but there is nothing that a bit of caution can not take care of.

I attended the famed ‘laththmaar Holi of Nandgaon and Barsana’, but the rules for shooting are pretty much the same for any event that has ample use of colors and water.

  • Silica gel is not enough to store your camera and lens.
    Many people will tell you that storing your camera and lens in a dry condition is the key to shooting Holi successfully.
    This is just a part of the story.
    Silica gel is enough to keep the equipment dry at most of the other times. For Holi, while storing your camera and lenses, it is important  that you ensure that your gears as well as your bag/s are dry and dust/colourfree.
    If this isn’t the case then your lenses and camera/s have a chance of catching fungus. Carry silica gel with you, but do not depend on it solely.
    You can get it at most of the camera-shops, or order it online.
  • Just the rain-cover is not enough.
    Most of the rain-covers are not specific to a model; they are generic and they fit the body loosely.
    What is needed is that you seal the lens openings tightly with a masking tape to ensure that not a drop of water seeps in, while ensuring sufficient free space for barrel/rim movement. Your camera should be able to withstand not just the water-spray, but being poured buckets of water on it. Holi celebrations in Nandgaon and Barsana are rowdy.
    Rain covers are available at most of the camera shops. You can order them online too.
    Look at this collage that I have made to show you how this photographer was being heckled. Do read the main post too to understand the seriousness of the situation.
    How is Holi at Mathura?
  • Keep your eyes safe
    While worrying about our equipments, we forget to take into account the most important ones; our eyes.
    Regarding Holi, the repercussion of someone throwing colours into your eyes in the fervor of festivity can result into something which ranges from minor discomfort to permanent damage. The key to having a safe experience is to be alert at all times.
    One of the photographers I saw at Radharani temple-courtyard had covered her eyes with ‘paintball’ gear. Something like this; seemed to work for her very well, but then remember that it might pose difficulty in shooting.
  • Rain-proof your camera-bag.
    Make sure your bag is waterproof, because it will go from dry to soaking wet, and then back to being dry several times during the course of the day. Ensure that there is no scope for water to seep in from sides and zipper-openings. The ideal thing to do is to put a polycover on the bag, or a rain-cover if you don’t mind purchasing it.
  • Decide which lens you want to shoot with, and then stick to it.
    Unlike other events, places like Nandgaon and Barsana rarely give you any chance to switch your lens.
    Twice, I thought of resting at some places (I had a fever) that looked like no one would venture to, but the minute I sat, some children poured a bucketful of water from the rooftop, and I had no option but to smile at them.
    I clicked with 18-55mm, the kit lens that comes with canon; here is one of my shots (if this is what that outcome with 18-55mm is, imagine what is possible with 50mm and 35mm! Having said that, please remember your limitations with a prime lens.):How to shoot Holi?
  • Refrain from wearing chappal/slippers.
    Like I have said in my earlier post too, wear something that grips your feet firmly, and does not slip once wet. If you are a photographer with expensive gear on you, and you trip and fall, there are chances that you would prefer breaking your bones and not your equipment.
  • Work out the settings beforehand and stick to it.
    Once the camera is packed in the rain-proof gear, you have very little control over the console. Even if you have control, like I did, fiddling with it is not too good an idea. Get your exposure triangle right, and then just keep your eyes peeled for narratives going on in the streets/temples.
  • Shoot now, review later.
    The point being, you might not get time/ space/access to LCD panel to be able to review the shot without risking your camera getting drenched or smeared with dry color. Shoot, shoot and shoot without worrying what the results are. This is an event where you have almost no control over the situation, so do not waste the time peering at the LCD display. Or, asking people to pose.
  • Do a mock-drill once before the event.
    It might not be too great an idea to figure out how things work while there are colors and water all around you. Do a test-run beforehand to ensure a smooth experience of shooting Holi.
    (Test run means,  shoot with the rain-cover on, shoot with the bright day-light when practically nothing can be reviewed on the LCD panel, shoot while taking care of bag/s that have your other things etc.)
  • Clean the equipment thoroughly once you are back.
    Clean the camera, the lens, and the bag carefully once you are back at your place. You can go for a professional cleaning to ensure good maintenance, but if you know the camera well, you can clean it yourself as well.

Most importantly, DO NOT go to shoot Holi with a set of images in mind; you are going to be very disappointed. Go with the flow and make the most of it.

How to shoot Holi?

Some of the top destinations for Holi in India are:
Nandgaon and Barsana : It is suggested that you stay in Mathura. Read the post here.)
Mathura: (Same as above)
Jaipur, Udaipur, Goa : Zostel is one of the stay options in these cities
Hampi: Zostel
Mumbai: (Couch-surfing)
Kolkata: (Couch-surfing)
Most of these cities are well-connected and have a near-by metro city/town being serviced by domestic and international airlines.

Happy shooting!
Happier Holi!!

P.S.: In case you intend to do ‘bhang’, do read this.
P.P.S.: In case you think I have missed an important point, please feel free to bring it to my notice.
P.P.S.: Holi in Barsana is on 5th March, and Nandgaon on 6th March 2017


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