Monday, September 21, 2009

Project 8.2 Oktoberfest Parade

My back up, in case the market plan did not work, was to document the annual Oktoberfest opening parade.  As I am happy with the images from the Viktualienmarkt I did not need the shots from the parade to build out the project, however, I I had fun taking these shots and thought it worth presenting them.

This was a very different experience to taking candid shots in the market, the opening day parade at the fest is one of the largest events in Germany and attracts vast crowds of people.  As I have lived in Munich for 15 years I know my way around and knew that in the Sendlinger Tor area there is a staging area where some of the parade gather prior to feeding into the main procession.  This enables a photographer to get up close to the parade before it really gets going and interact with the participants.

First of all a little background.  The Oktoberfest is claimed to be the largest festival in the world, I would not doubt this after going a few times.  It takes place in late September on open ground close to the center of the city, running for 2 weeks and ends on the first Sunday in October.  Traditionally it was completely within the month of October, hence the name.  The numbers involved are quite staggering. Munich has a population of 1.25 million or thereabouts, during the fest 500,000 people a day visit the Wiesn as it is known.  During the two weeks over 6 million litres of beer are drunk. Munich beer is normally fairly strong, for the fest they have a special version that is brewed to 6% alcohol or higher.  This means that each glass of beer is 6 units of alcohol, and this is the minimum serving, plus most people have at least 2, frequently 4 or 5. This is officially endorsed binge drinking on a massive scale, and although it is rowdy and injuries do happen it passes off in a pretty relaxed way.  This could not happen anywhere else!

On the first day the event starts at noon with a large parade organized by the breweries setting out at 11am and going to the fest ground.  The city transforms itself with half the population wearing the traditional Dirndl for the ladies and Lederhosen for the men, myself included!  The parade includes traditionally dressed brass bands and floats from the breweries.  These are extravagantly decorated and pulled by beautiful heavy horses. Brewery workers ride on the floats together with many of the people who will work serving beer during the fest.  Each float will have at least one or two open barrels of beer and glasses are shared with the crowd, great way to get Swine Flue!

My goal in photographing the parade is too obtain an image that really reflects the spirit and experience of the festival.  The first few shots are of the people waiting to take part in the parade:

It's not often you see a pile of cross bows on a city street! One of the wonderful things about the parade are the horses, they have quite a presence.  The following photo was quite interesting to take as I had a 17mm WA lens and had to get within a couple of feet of the lead horse:

I was able to get very close to the parade, although the police hold back the crowd, somehow a large camera is a passport to go where you want.  In the following shot the horse slipped a little, heart picked up a little at this

The next two shots are the Lowenbrau wagon going by, too large for one photo to do justice

A serious amount of beer!

Also in the parade were a number of different marching bands all in traditional costume.  These bands come from the villages and towns in Bavaria, being a member is a big deal.

I especially like the final shot in the sequence due to the symmetry of the drummers.  Also participating are quite a few kids, usually leading the bands or marchers, these lads were messing about waiting for the order to start:

The next two shots are a very traditionally dressed band wearing the complete lederhosen outfit

However, the star of the show are the floats, in the following two images I switched to a 70-200 zoom and concentrated on the drivers and their varying expressions from terribly serious to jovial

Finally the stars of the show are the ladies in Dirndls waving and sharing their beer with the crowd

If I had been using this for Project 8, the final shot would have been the winner, it is not the best composition or the sharpest, but it does really reflect the attitude and fun of the Oktoberfest!

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