Traveling Photographer: New Orleans

Where to shoot in the Big Easy.

The streets of the Big Easy are festive year-round, with daytime jazz and nighttime revelry. But there's no better time to capture the energy of New Orleans than in the Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras, which has gotten only more spirited as Orleanians celebrate their resilience. Krewes (parading organizations) create elaborate floats or stage masquerade balls for celebrations starting on Twelfth Night (January 6) and culminating with Mardi Gras (February 24, 2009). Don't get so caught up in celebration that you miss the city's other treasures. Here are tips to capture it all.

1. French Quarter.
In the "Vieux Carré," you'll always see cobbled streets, bright stucco walls, and wrought-iron balconies. In Carnival season, you'll see walking parades of tourists and locals wearing costumes and masks. Expect the unexpected -- as when photographer Cosmo Condina (www.cosmocondina.com) stumbled upon this parade-cum-birthday-party for a local entertainment producer with live music, acrobats, and stilt-walkers. "Make eye contact with performers," he advises. "If they notice you, they'll work with you." Tight composition with a long telephoto will capture detail on storefronts and faces in live-music clubs; a wide-angle lens will take in the narrow streets.

2. Jackson Square.
Jutting into this historic French Quarter park and gathering grounds is St. Louis Cathedral. Three spires cap the white exterior and can be framed creatively from every side -- with a telephoto from the landing at Washington Artillery Park across Decatur Street or with a wide-angle lens at the entrance. Then capture the street musicians in the park -- shoot at a right angle to the sun to capture reflections in the brass.

3. The parades.
Plan your shooting schedule with www.nola.com/mardigras/parades. For detailed histories of the krewes, check out www.neworleansonline.com/neworleans/mardigras/krewes. Uptown parades have a local, family-oriented feel. Downtown, Canal Street is great for brightly lit nighttime parades (Bacchus, Endymion, Orpheus are krewes to watch). In the French Quarter, shoot from a balcony at Astor Crowne Plaza or Royal Sonesta hotels. Use burst capture so you don't miss any of the action. On Mardi Gras day, look for parades by the historic Rex and Zulu krewes outside Gallier Hall.

4. Cities of the Dead.
So named for their above-ground vaults, New Orleans' cemeteries offer a break from the crowds, and b&w photo ops of stone crypts and ornate sculptures. They can also be hiding-spots for muggers, but you'll be safe on a tour by nonprofit Save Our Cemeteries (www.saveourcemeteries.org). At St. Louis No. 1, you may catch believers at voodoo queen Marie Laveau's tomb. To get it all in, use a fisheye or ultrawide lens; a tele will net close-ups of stone angels.

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