Last night I went into Duane Reade and – I kid you not – they were already selling Christmas wreaths at the front of the store. So, to avoid the jump straight into the holiday season I am hereby extending Halloween by one more blog post and am sharing with you my photos from last night’s Greenwich Village Halloween Parade. Check out all the great costumes, and get a few photography tips along the way.
Greenwich Village Halloween Parade — My Experience
I should start by announcing that…I walked in the 44th annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade! I was dressed as a photographer – which is lame, I know. But to be fair, I never actually planned to walk in the parade, just to take photos of it on the sidelines. Somehow I got swept into the crowd and the next thing I knew, I was walking up Sixth Avenue. I had a great time, and have always listed walking in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade on my bucket list. Also, having a terrorist act happen only six blocks away a few hours prior to the parade made me so happy to show the love I have for my city. I was a proud New Yorker last night marching against fear and cowardice.
For those of you wishing to have the same experience, you have a few ways of joining the fun. The first is to volunteer to animate a puppet, the second is to either be in a band that will be marching or to be on a sponsored float, and the third way is to simply show up at the holding area and march along with everyone else. The rules on the website state that you have to be in costume, but as I mentioned previously, I was not wearing anything festive and only had a large camera as an accessory. No one was checking costumes, and I – along with several other photographers – was allowed to walk the entire length of the parade.
Just so you know what you are getting into, the holding area is located at the corner of Canal Street and Sixth Avenue. You will be walking with everyone else at a reasonable rate of speed for approximately 23 blocks. The entire experience from waiting to the end took about three hours. The parade lets the puppets go first, and then sandwiches the normal folk in between the floats and bands. I was behind a samba group of dancing Wonder Women. It was fantastic! Our group moved quickly, and while I could stop and take photos where necessary, you really don’t want to hold up traffic.
One thing I came away with from the experience of walking in the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is the huge number of photographers in New York City. There must have been 50 or more photographers there with official press passes. My guess is that it is not difficult to get a press pass through the PR firm of the parade, so maybe I will try that next year.
Greenwich Village Halloween Parade — Photography Tips
So if you are going to be photographing the parade, here are my tips:
Get to the holding area early. I arrived at the corner of Canal Street and Sixth Avenue around 5:15 p.m., and people were just starting to arrive, including other photographers. The crowd really started getting there at 6:00 p.m., and we were all moved to another area at that time. As I was located at the beginning of the parade, I got to see all the groups at the start of the parade line up, including the magnificent puppets. While we were waiting to make our parade debut, we were entertained by DJs on the floats that were pumping out great music. We also had characters on stilts dancing in front of us. It was a blast.
Walk the parade for the best crowd photos. As I noted earlier, I did not plan to actually walk in the parade. My thought was to photograph just the beginning part of the parade, then walk along as a bystander. I’m glad that I did walk in the parade because the crowds for the parade are crazy. There was no way I could have moved if I was not with in the parade itself. The streets around the parade are all blocked off, and if you don’t get a spot early in the evening, you won’t get anywhere near the parade. Also, once you have a spot secured, you can’t leave. It’s a bit like being in the middle of Times Square for New Year’s Eve: once you get there, you’re stuck, and if you don’t arrive hours ahead of time, you won’t be able to see anything worth photographing. Ah, the joys of big events in New York City. Note, however, that if you are walking in the parade, you won’t get a decent shot of any of the puppets. For that, you will need a press pass or a spot on the sidelines.
Lean to one side or the other. If you are going to walk the parade and take photos, pick one side or the other so that you can take photos of onlookers around the barricades.
Everyone in costume is fair game. As a street photographer, taking photos of strangers can sometimes be an intimidating experience. But on Halloween, everyone in costume is fair game. If someone has on a costume, it is safe to assume that they want their photo taken, so don’t be afraid to take photos of strangers.
Wear a costume! If I had one regret for the evening, it would be that I wasn’t wearing a costume. I normally go as Snow White every year (my favorite Disney character!), but this year I opted to just be comfortable. That was a mistake. I felt completely underdressed, and wish I had worn Mickey Mouse ears or something. Alas, that’s for next year.
Wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking many, many blocks so make sure your footwear can handle the trek.
Dress for warmth. It wasn’t that cold this year, but there was a chill in the air, so dress appropriately. On a side note, I did not see as many scantily clad women as in previous years, and I hope this trend of the end of the slutty costume continues.
And finally, as with all New York events, there are no public restrooms. Make sure you take care of that ahead of time.
Enjoy the photos, and next week I will have all the details from a New York Botanical Garden wedding I am shooting this weekend as well as some tips for your family holiday portrait. Yes, that time is nigh.