I spent a number of hours at the Texas State Capitol during Sen. Wendy Davis' filibuster. Sadly, my camera was inoperable, but that meant I got to live in the moment, talking to strangers, sharing stories, and shouting. It was also my first time at a Capitol building and my first big protest since the events against Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin a couple years ago.
Luckily, I had my camera at the ready during the next wave of protests on July 1st, 2013. I had my sunscreen on (and brought a bottle to share) and my water bottle with ice in my free hand (or tucked under my arm while shooting). I photographed the ever-growing crowd, cheered along as Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks performed for the protestors, and nodded at meaningful protest signs.
Tips For Photographing Rallies
Political rallies and protests can be a tricky thing to photograph. There is always a risk of violence breaking out, which risks damage to your or your equipment. You have to shoot quickly and cannot control the sun's lighting. But these events can make for very powerful photos, and you're immortalizing an event.
1. Bring extra batteries.
Even protests that have charging stations set up are unlikely to have spare camera battery chargers around, and you won't want to stand around with a dead camera while your battery charges.
2. Bring extra memory cards.
See above. Don't leave when your card is full, leave when you're done.
3. Have water ready.
Events can last hours, if not days. If you're planning on staying for any amount of time, either have a bottle (or two) of water available to you or have the money to buy some at a gas station.
4. Feel free to ask for photos.
To me, events are 75% candid photos and 25% "posed" photos. These photos aren't posed like a typical portrait, but there's nothing wrong with asking someone to stop for a moment so you can photograph them and their protest sign.
5. Don't stick to the press box.
If you've got a press badge, you'll likely have access to some very prime locations. The downside is that these tend to be separated from the crowd, which also may take you away from the action. Explore the event and you'll find things others are missing.
6. Bring a wide-angle lens.
Crowds are hard to photograph without getting tons of empty space around the borders of your photos. Bring a wide-angle lens to capture the scope of the event, but be cautious about the blurring that normally happens along the edges.
What else would you suggest for photographing protests, marches, and rallies?