Back in the early and mid-1990s, I traveled to New York City a number of times to photograph on the streets of this vibrant metropolis that was so much more interesting than the cities in my native Germany. Apart from the action and its phenomenally diverse and interesting inhabitants, what sets the city apart from others is that special quality of light that comes from the interplay of bright areas and shadows.
As long as the sun is shining, that is. On the day I ran into a Brazilian street festival in 1994, this was not quite the case.
In fact, the light on the streets between the tall buildings was pretty poor. As I was shooting ISO 100 slide film at the time, this meant I'd have to use a very slow shutter speed, probably 1/8 of a second. Consequently, the people dancing to the music would get blurred.
The only way of getting some more light onto the scene was to use a little bit of flash. Mixing the flash with the ambient light, I could overlay the motion blur with a sharp, colorful rendition, making the action more prominent and conveying a stronger sense of the dynamics of the scene than mere sunlight would have allowed me to.
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