Halloween has come and gone for yet another year. Just like every other day. And for another year I’ve gone down to NYC for a photo journey at the Halloween parade. This is my fifth year in a row going down there and I’ve never actually seen the parade. Except for a glimpse or two. It’s too much of a pain in the ass to actually see the big parade. I look for my own little ones.

I go to the streets around the parade and take pictures of people in their costumes. And people in general. There are plenty of people in costumes willing to stop for a snap. Some aren’t but rejection is just another part of life. There are more people in costume then you will ever see any other place at any other time. At least I don’t know of a place where there are more. Maybe Rio or New Orleans for their carnivals but it’s tough to top a half a million people in costume.

Before this five year run of all the many years I was in NYC for Halloween I only went to the parade once. It was before I started liking to take photos in large public crowds so all I did was watch the parade go by. I was never a fan of watching parades go by so I found it dull and barely remember it. I can’t even recall what year it was. In the early to mid 90’s I’m guessing.

The parade is quite different now. Even from the mid-90’s. First of all every other woman now dresses in a sexy costume for Halloween. And these are the women going to the parade not marching in it. In the mid-90’s maybe one in ten women had a sexy Halloween outfit. Now it’s seven out of ten. Halloween has become the official holiday of the short skirt and push-up bra. That’s my kind of holiday. Three years in a row of warmer than average weather helps too.

The second change is the crowds. Man how they’ve grown. Just five years ago, when I first went to take photos, I walked the parade route just ahead of the parade. It was crowded but doable. Now it’s impossible. The scariest moment I’ve ever had in all of my NYC experience was in that crowd three years ago.

I was with my two Steve friends, Hughes and Bunche, walking south on Sixth Avenue. We got near Fourteenth Street and it was madness. We were on Sixth Avenue in a river of people and we could only go forward. It was shoulder to shoulder and chest to back. You couldn’t even take a step sideways let alone turn around. We wanted to turn down Fourteenth Street and get out of the madness because up ahead there was no end of people in sight. It took twenty yards down Fourteenth Street for the crowd to abate. It was crazy. It must have taken us fifteen minutes to get from the middle of Fifteenth and Fourteenth (on Sixth Ave.) to our exit on Fourteenth street. All that time we were at the mercy of the crowd. I could see how a person could get trampled to death in a large crowd with no where to go.

Now we stay clear of Fourteenth Street and Sixth Avenue all together. Bunche was with me this year and we walked down Seventh Avenue. Plenty of costumes to be seen over there. And a little room. There are so many people out that there are not only barricades (between the street and sidewalk) on the parade route (Sixth Avenue) but there are also sidewalk barricades along Fifth and Seventh Avenues. That’s so the spill-off people, like us, stay out of the street.

One tip I can give you if you plan to go down to the parade is meet up with everyone you are going with ahead of time. I’ve found my cell phone to be completely unreliable at the Halloween parade. For whatever reason it doesn’t ring/vibrate. It just goes to voicemail when you call me or I call you. Or it just beeps at me when I try to make a call. And my phone isn’t the only one behaving this way. I guess two million extra people for the night on those cell phone towers messes up the system a little. Don’t depend on cell phones for meeting up. Plan ahead.

And besides, every cell phone call that I overheard was exactly the same. “Huh? What? Where are you? Huh? What? I’m not sure where I am let me look. Huh? What?” Yes, it’s a little hard to hear out on the street amongst thousands of revelers.

That’s another reason for meeting up first. Greenwich Village. I’ve ended up on the same Greenwich Village street three years in a row now. It’s a great street to shoot photos because a lot of people congregate there to go to the parade. It’s its own parade. And I still have no idea what street it is. Greenwich Village is another of those old Dutch parts of town where the streets run every which way. You have to hang out in the Village for a while to get to know your way around. Hanging out in NYC in general isn’t enough. That’s why everybody who wanders down there for the parade has no idea which street they’re on. Including me. We meet up in Madison Square Park before hand. Much easier. Don’t think because you know NYC that you know Greenwich Village. It’s different down there.

The actual taking of the photos is tough. You have to talk with strangers and ask for their photo. Most are fine with this but not all. My friend Bunche is much better at this part than I am. He’s a big weirdo too but somehow more approachable than I am. Strangers like him better and respond better to him. I notice that when I work and am non-verbal i.e standing in amongst the crowd quietly shooting video or photos people pay me no mind except maybe to smile or nod. But when I talk they are often startled no matter how polite I may be. But I’m used to being a big weirdo.

And it’s hard to get really good photos at the parade. Taking pictures in the dark with a flash does not usually make for the best pictures. Shooting in video mode with available light is also a challenge. And there is not much room to back up and frame a shot. I don’t think I’ve made a good photo yet out of all my Halloween shooting. But I hold out hope. It’s fun to dress up and got out anyway.