Photographing at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

A member of the Golden Blades Mardi Gras Indians peers out through her feathers while performing at the New Orleans Jazzfest this year. Shot from ground level in front of the stage.

A member of the Golden Blades Mardi Gras Indians peers out through her feathers while performing at the New Orleans Jazzfest this year. Shot from ground level in front of the stage. (1/800th @f3.2, ISO 200, 70-200 Canon zoom @ 140mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Shooting Jazzfest every year as a news photographer, I usually have a press pass and access “inside the ropes.” But this year I went for fun one day, shooting just for myself and having a great, relaxed time. Having special access can be nice at times, but it’s so important to recognize that great photographs are everywhere.

Here is simply a set of photographs that I made that day at Jazzfest 2009 in New Orleans, with captions on each image.

The Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indians perform onstage at Jazzfest. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

The Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indians perform onstage at Jazzfest. (1/250 sec@ f5.6, ISO 200, 200mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

The scene at Jazzfest as the Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indians perform. (Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

The scene at Jazzfest as the Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indians perform. (1/160th @ f22, ISO 400, 16-35mm zoom @ 20mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Mardi Gras Indians have a long and colorful history in New Orleans.  For over a century these groups from New Orleans’ inner city African American communities have masked and paraded on Mardi Gras day, accompanied by song and drumming. They’ve become such a popular draw and their muscial traditions recognized as a distinct form that they now get invited each year to Jazz Fest.

Another New Orleans cultural tradition that’s literally on parade during Jazzfest are the neighborhood “Second

The Dumaine Gang Social Aid and Pleasure Club second lines its way through the crowd on the first Friday of Jazz Fest, April 25, 2009. (16mm focal length, 1/500th @ f10, ISO 200/Copyright 2009 Andrew Boyd)

The Dumaine Gang Social Aid and Pleasure Club second lines its way through the crowd on the first Friday of Jazz Fest, April 25, 2009. (16mm focal length, 1/500th @ f10, ISO 200/Copyright 2009 Andrew Boyd)

Line” groups know as “Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs.” The “Second Line” refers to mourners that follow a casket during a traditional New Orleans jazz funeral, swaying prayerfully as the band plays sorrowful music on its way to the cemetery. Once the deceased is put in the ground, the band breaks out in joyful, exuberant music to signify the release of the soul to a better place, and the “second liners” break out in wild, fantastic dance.  Originally formed in the 1800s as benevolent societies,  these groups now typically parade at funerals but also other street celebrations, including Jazzfest.

Attitude, and plenty of it, are requirements for a good second line parader. (16mm lens, 1/500th sec @f10, ISO 200/Copyright 2009/ Andrew Boyd)

Attitude, and plenty of it, are requirements for a good second line parader. (16mm lens, 1/500th sec @f10, ISO 200/Copyright 2009/ Andrew Boyd)

A member of the Dumaine Gang Social Aid and Pleasure Club shows off some fancy footwork while dancing the the beat of a brass band at Jazzfest 2009. (1/500th @f11, ISO 200, 16mm lens/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

A member of the Dumaine Gang Social Aid and Pleasure Club shows off some fancy footwork while dancing to the beat of a brass band at Jazzfest 2009. (1/500th @f11, ISO 200, 16mm lens/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)


Authentic, old-time jazz
bands playing traditional New Orleans jazz can be heard  each year at Jazzfest in the Economy Hall jazz tent.  The Young Tuxedo Brass Band is one of the best, led by  Gregg Stafford:

Gregg Stafford blows his trumpet durng the Young Tuxedo Brass Band's performance at Jazzfest 2009. (1/100th @f3.2, ISO 200, 200mm lens/ Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Gregg Stafford blows his trumpet durng the Young Tuxedo Brass Band's performance at Jazzfest 2009. (1/100th @f3.2, ISO 200, 200mm lens/ Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

There's nothing particularly young about the current members of the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, all older musicians who have been playing traditional New Orleans music for decades. (1/30th sec @ f8, ISO 200, 110mm focal length on 70-200mm lens. I was trying to keep all of these guys relatively in focus and felt I could "cheat" on the shutter speed./Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

There's nothing particularly young about the current members of the Young Tuxedo Brass Band, all older musicians who have been playing traditional New Orleans music for decades. (1/30th sec @ f8, ISO 200, 110mm focal length on 70-200mm lens. I was trying to keep all of these guys relatively in focus and felt I could "cheat" on the shutter speed./Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Finally, a couple of  photos from the Cajun music jam session put on by the Savoy Music Center of Eunice bunch on the Fais Do Do stage. The Savoy family of Eunice is legendary, both for their custom Cajun accordians  and their Saturday jam sessions that anyone can walk in and attend.

Harry Lafleur performs with The Savoy Music Center of Eunice Cajun Jam Band on the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 25, 2009. (1/250 @ f4, ISO 200, 280mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Harry Lafleur performs with The Savoy Music Center of Eunice Cajun Jam Band on the Fais Do Do stage at Jazz Fest on Saturday, April 25, 2009. (1/250 @ f4, ISO 200, 280mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Detail shot, Cajun accordian in action. (1/250th @ f5, ISO 200, 230mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

Detail shot, Cajun accordian in action. (1/250th @ f5, ISO 200, 230mm focal length/Copyright 2009/Andrew Boyd)

So the key to photographing a festival like Jazzfest, whether it’s a music festival or this year’s Tomato fest, is to take your time, use your eyes and look for the images in front of you.

Remember: Great photographs are everywhere!

Was this article interesting and informative? Do you have any questions? I value your feedback, so please consider leaving a comment or question here. I’ll try to answer all relevant queries. Thanks!  –DISCERNINGPHOTOG

Posted in: Gallery

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

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