Holi Festival in India is a lot of fun because it is very light-hearted and intense and most of all filled with COLOR! The challenge for a photographer who wants to get inside the action is dressing himself/herself and camera. Without the correct clothes on yourself and covering for the camera at the end of the day both will be saturated with yellow+green+red powder and paint.
Covering the Photographer
I wore a ball cap, white long-sleeve hoodie, jeans and for my eyes goggles and a dust mask. The hoodie kept the powder out of my ears and off most of my head. The cap kept the hoodie on my head and blocked some of the powder. The jeans I wore were old and ok to throw away and did well to cover my legs. The goggles or other protective eyewear is a must as the air is filled with high-speed powder.
Camera and iPhone
For my camera, I used a plastic covering I lovingly dubbed “Camera Condom”.
Before going out, I slipped my camera inside the condom and used gaffer’s tape to seal the edges. Since changing lenses is just too impractical with this thing on, I used my favorite, most versatile lens the Canon 24-70mm f2.8. I also used my Canon 8-15mm f4 Zoom Fisheye but preferred the 24-70mm. My camera-mounted flash could also be covered and worked well, though getting to the controls of it and the camera body was a challenge but manageable. The cover was custom made in Delhi, but a similar cover to the one I used can be found here.
When traveling I always have my iPhone in a Life Proof case and it worked beautifully and many times I used it more than the Canon. The problem is an iPhone is a prime target for pickpocketing, so I kept it buried in my pants up against my groin and the shirt over the pants. It was easy to whip it out, photograph and then stuff it back in my pants. On the tour I was one two people had their iPhones lifted so I figure my method worked well.
“Maybe a little color”
One little village I went to I did not have the camera condom. The reason being I was told that maybe there would be a “little color” so I didn’t worry. I should have thought there would be PLENTY of color, however, when I walked into an arena where dancers were performing and I noticed mortars lining the area filled with yellow powder. Typical me, I assumed they were to be used that night. Wrong.
After I started photographing I heard this WHOOSH and felt a blast of heat on my back. The mortars fired and sent many pounds of fine yellow powder into the air. Then boys began throwing bags of color everywhere and on everyone. Well, there wasn’t much to do about the camera but at least I could break out the mask and protect my lungs. My head was covered and my eyeglasses kept the most powder out. The only thing I was missing was hearing protection. This particular village had hundreds of young guys blowing little horns and that bothered my ears a lot. It felt like someone pushing ice picks into my eardrums from both directions. My last recommendation is to take hearing protection.
To survive Holi as a photographer you need to have protection for your skin, head, hair, eyes, lungs, ears and for the camera and smart phone. It’s a great experience and the crowds are intense and very worth the trip to India.