For the fifth year, I went to Carnaval in San Francisco over Memorial Day weekend. It’s ideal for street portraiture and event photography. The participants are in colorful costumes and are all willing to pose for pictures.

Despite that, there are challenges. The overcast day provides even, soft light, but it’s also a flat, dull light. I brought a small flash to illuminate my subjects and separate them from the darker background. That was a success. Another challenge is finding an uncluttered background. There’s lots going on, and the street is crowded with performers and other photographers. Whenever I could, I asked subjects to step off the street and stand in front of a plain background. I couldn’t always do that, but it worked well when I did.

To keep my equipment simple, I brought only my fixed-lens camera with its 28mm lens. I hesitated about that, because, while it’s well-suited to capturing the parade, it’s not an ideal focal length for portraits. But I’ve shot portraits on many other years with a 50 or longer, so I had those shots. Also, I wanted to capture some environment rather than tight head shots or three-quarter-length shots, and the 28 allowed me to do that without having to back up too far.

The following photos were taken in the staging area on Bryant St., before the parade began. This first one is maybe my favorite from the whole day. I spoke to these ladies and asked them to pose in front of this wall. That’s all I take credit for. They arranged themselves very artfully and posed beautifully.

Another favorite. I also asked her to move off the street, and again, she posed herself very well. At her request, I also took photos of her with her phone. One note of interest regarding processing: There was a man standing on the stairs behind her—very distracting. I used the new Generative Fill in the Photoshop beta to remove him. Cloning him out would have been tough and time-consuming, but this AI tool worked great. I used it on many photos from the day.

I did not ask this lady to move off the street, because her group was about to get in line for the parade, but the flash did a good job of highlighting her. And that orange dress makes the shot.

This woman was posing for someone else, and I took a photo. I almost never do that—it feels unfair, and I don’t like it when people do it to me. But it was just a quick snapshot and I moved on. Too dramatic to pass up.

I did a lot of clean-up on this one because there were people around her and distracting objects on the buildings. But she’s a standout subject, and I wanted to show more environment. Again, the flash helped a lot.

I moved her in front of the wall, and she did the rest.

With most subjects, I took two photos: one full body, and one upper torso. Most of the time, one was clearly better than the other; but with her, I liked them both.

I took many photos of the parade, but got few I really liked. Here’s the best of the day.

One more for fun: I also went to the event on Saturday before the Sunday parade and mostly looked at the booths, but also took a few photos, like this one:

Each year, I waffle about going back to Carnaval because there are always so many other photographers there, and I don’t like “competing” for shots. But I go each year, and am always glad I did.