Brighton’s annual Beach of the Dead festivities kicked off today at 3pm in the old paddling pool opposite the West Pier. Zombies of all persuasion turned out in force. Last year’s turnout was estimated at 4000 people; today, in spite of the dismal weather, Brighton’s zombie population turned out in style.
Last year I’d found a good spot on the route and taken some decent shots, but this year I decided to go early to the gathering place and get some more deliberate shots. The weather being dismal, I elected to set the ISO at 400, rather than my usual setting of 100, so that I could have more room to manoeuvre in post processing. I used flash in all the shots because I knew I’d be shooting against one of those horrible grey skies that actually reflect a lot of light and make it difficult to achieve a balanced exposure. By using flash, I knew that all the detail I needed would be available in the RAW file as shot – in theory a little judicious tweaking in Lightroom would be all that I’d need to bring these pictures to life. Heather Buckley explains this process in some detail in her recent blog post Brighton Zombie Walk – Beach of the Dead Photography
I turned up at the meeting place an hour before the parade was due to start and found a few excellent subjects straight away. The costumes take weeks to construct and if the photographers at times outnumbered the zombies, this year the zombies fought back – almost all were armed with cameras of one type or another, some point and shoot, some full pro level DSLRs.
As the place filled up, I kept an eye out for the killer costumes – the most challenging part was getting the zombies to look threatening, The atmosphere pre-march was jolly and convivial! There was real cognitive dissonance in the spectacle of a crowd of zombies, chatting, smoking and drinking, with big smiles plastered across their features. George Romero never had this problem on set! In some cases it took all my powers of persuasion to get them to look cross. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it.
I took maybe 150 photographs over the course of two hours. I had made a decision to shoot in AE mode so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the camera settings – I knew with the Canon 5D that it would focus in split seconds and that was all I needed – with the flash on ETTL and the camera effectively on autopilot I knew that all I’d have to do was compose.
Out of the 150 I rated about 20 usable in terms of content – in a crowd, you have people walking behind the shot, peering at the subject, even walking in front of the camera – it just isn’t possible to control the whole environment. I elected to concentrate on getting the shots in as little time as possible and leave everything else to the technology. I think the shots turned out better than last year, what do you think?
Check out the album – Beach of the Dead 2012