Beltane Fire Festival is difficult to explain. It's inspired by an ancient gaelic festival to celebrate the beginning of summer (yay), and is held on Calton Hill in the centre of Edinburgh. A quick google search will bring up amazing photographs of richly-painted dancers leaping around fire and general awesomeness.
I decided to head through and try to get some portraits of the colourful characters. Even though Calton hill must be in the running for 'Most Wheelchair Accessible Hill In The World' I still had to get up there with all my gear and set things up amongst 2000 or visitors, packing light and keeping things simple was important.
I set off with a one-light set-up. A 26inch softbox, speedlite, and lightstand. The festival doesn't kick-off until 9pm so there was essentially no daylight to work with and I pushed the softbox up as close as I could to the awesome people kind enough to sit for me.
I think the festival is famous for the half-naked fire dancers painted red from head to toe, and everyone definitely focuses on them for obvious reasons. But I found this little group of happy people off to one side called the 'Random Points of Kindness' who danced and skipped amongst the crowds, handing out tiny hand-made gifts to people.
I set-up my light and as each one danced, bounced, or crawled ('Badger' impressively stayed in character and only walked on all fours!) around me I asked them sit for their portrait. Softbox up close, level with their eyes (None of this 45° rubbish to cast shadows when I already have nothing but shadows), nice big, soft light.
These kind of portraits are always great fun to do. I always get a kick out of showing people their preview on the camera's LCD. Hearing a 'I hate having my photo taken' turn to a 'Oh wow, can you email me that!' is the best kind of feedback and motivation.