Beltane 2017: The Photopoint View

Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
The Beltane 2017 Photopoint team | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

To bring you a true sense of the 30th Beltane Fire Festival, we thought there was no one better than our dedicated team of photography volunteers: Photopoint. So here, in their own words, are their best shots.

Neil Barton

Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
I was lucky with this that I caught someone else’s flash which provided some illumination. Although the Green Man is in silhouette, we know he is there awaiting his rebirth. There is a stillness quality which I like about the photograph, with everyone in their positions, just before the whole event starts. | Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society.
Beltane Fire Festival 2017, Calton Hill, Edinburgh
This is the first year that I have had any real success with this type of long exposure to capture the movement of the flames but whilst still retaining sharp facial expressions picture. I do like that there is a ghostly second face and arm which, I think, hints at the spirit nature of Beltane, the open portal between two worlds. | Copyright Neil Barton for Beltane Fire Society.

 Martin McCarthy

Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
Andrea and I (we were photopoint buddies for the evening) were moving between two of our assigned locations (leaving Foxes at the Bower and joining the Reds at the top of the Charge Slope) and as we passed the Acropolis we could look down over the procession at Water Point and the sea of heads giving just a hint of the scale of what we were all involved with, and with the lights of the city echoing the lights of the Torchies it was just a bit of a magical moment. | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.
The second is a tableau of many of the regular characters in the Beltane night story. Behind the barriers are the faces of the witnesses in the crowd – surely as much a Beltane character as any! The Reds and Whites in the background, a Blue, the Green Man and, almost climbing into the bonfire, the May Queen are lighting the blaze. And taking over the whole of the left of the pictures, that all important character…Fire! | Copyright Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

Aurelie Bellacicco

Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.
My favourite shot is one of the bonfire right after he was lit. I love how crazy high the flames were and how everyone is gathered around it. At that moment I really felt I belonged to this community and it made me feel so proud of us and everything we’d been through to create this magical night! | Copyright Aurélie Bellacicco for Beltane Fire Society.

Bleu Hope

May Queen
When it comes to capturing images on the night of Beltane itself, things tend to get very fast-paced the moment the fires are lit. Not having daylight as a means of assistance when you need your camera to focus can really break your shots if you’re not careful. Coming from a more fine art/experimental bent photography-wise, I find myself working any of these sort of errors to my advantage. Something as simple as this out-of-focus branch in the foreground adds hugely to what Henri Cartier-Bresson termed “the decisive moment” and shows just how fast-paced things can get on the night. Once you get a feel for it all though, a part of you remains calm and still during moments that seem very overwhelming to some if not many. For me, this shot of Anna in all her May Queen glory very much captures that feeling. | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society.
Stewards
Personally, most of my favourite shots tend to be moments like this. Fun, slightly goofy captures that encapsulate the free-spirited and passionate nature of our performers and production crew. This playfulness can ease you up and reassure you that you’ll do a grand job no matter what your role or what some devil on your shoulder might whisper into your ear. Clearly, what we have here is some sort of Bowie tribute going on…yes? | Copyright Bleu Hope for Beltane Fire Society.

Vince Graham

Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.
First pic of Aether Drummer while waiting on performance to start. I just love as they were all in character and she looked striking with face paint on. iso 6400 200mm f3.5 1/160th sec | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.
Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.
Second pic of bonfire from on my way down the hill just looks great with all the silhouetted people around with the sparks flying away to the left. iso 12800 67mm f3.5 1/80th sec | Copyright Vince Graham for Beltane Fire Society.

James Armandary

Having been a performer at Beltane for the past seven years, being on the other side of the lens was a very different experience. I tried as best as I could to capture what the experience is like for the performers, not the audience, and to capture the moments where people were being themselves, their character, unaware of being observed. It was my first year doing any photography that wasn’t landscapes or just for personal memories, so there was a lot to learn and a lot of experimenting with flashes/long exposure, all sorts of techniques that I had never tried before.

Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.
My favourite shots from the evening are this one of the May Queen handing over a brand at the fire arch and the one from the bonfire. Knowing Anna well (she was one of the Reds one year that I was leading them!) and seeing her transition into the May Queen was wonderful, so this shot of her literally handing over the flame on the 30th anniversary, the year she will step down as May Queen, really struck a personal chord for me. | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.
Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.
The bonfire, that glorious moment in the night when the big fire is lit. I think this captures what it’s like for the performers. The faces of the reds warming themselves, and the elation in the whites dancing, is what the festival is all about for me- the warmth, joy, and excitement of the community around us. | Copyright James Armandary for Beltane Fire Society.

Richard Winpenney

Richard was busy recording video at the festival itself, so here are his two favourite shots from Beltane rehearsals.

Copyright Richard Winpenny for Beltane Fire Society.
It’s the odd angle I like in this one – the sense of fun, and the “how the heck are three people attached like that??” side of things | Copyright Richard Winpenny for Beltane Fire Society.
Copyright Richard Winpenny for Beltane Fire Society.
It’s the shape, form and sense of movement I like | Copyright Richard Winpenny for Beltane Fire Society.

 

We couldn’t be more pleased with the incredible array of beautiful shots that our Photopoint team captured. We are in the process of loading the full, uncensored versions to our photo archive, but for now you can see them in this Facebook album.

 

Featured image by Martin McCarthy for Beltane Fire Society.

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