Image Focus

Gonçalo Delgado | The Marvels of the Circus

Photojournalist Gonçalo Delgado took this captivating photo in his home city of Braga, as part of an important project for National Geographic. “They were creating an issue about the Roman heritage of Lusitania, a Roman Province that included Portugal and parts of Spain,” he says. “Every year, Braga hosts Braga Romana, a festival that celebrates the Roman heritage of the city, with thousands of people coming to celebrate the Roman traditions.”

He tells us that the circus group in the photo, Malatisch, perform their athletic dances amidst an exhilarating backdrop of fire and pyrotechnics. “I was looking for an image that brought their energy to life and captured an exciting composition, rather than just a documentary snapshot,” says Delgado.

“Shooting with the Sony Alpha 1 and the FE 14mm f/1.8 G Master lens at 20fps, I was able to capture the exact moment when both the performer's hands and feet were off the ground, his back perfectly arched, with the fire lighting up the edge of his body. Through the arch of his back, we catch the performers in the background flawlessly framed,” Delgado continues. “And then there is the other acrobat, also in mid-air and surrounded by smoke and sparks. This image had everything.”

circus performer doing a backflip

© Gonçalo Delgado | Sony α1 + FE 14mm f/1.8 GM | 1/1250s @ f/1.8, ISO 8000

Delgado always shoots his documentary work in black and white. “You could say that I was born into black and white,” he jokes. “I come from a family of photojournalists. I used to go to the darkroom with my father to develop pictures. So, I have decided to follow that visual language for my documentary work. It allows me, and the viewer, to concentrate on shape and forms rather than be distracted by colour.”

Delgado says that his Sony Alpha 1 camera was crucial to getting this shot. “Despite the darkness, I set the sensitivity to ISO 1000, using the full f/1.8 aperture of the lens,” he explains. “I needed as much light as possible to freeze the action with a fast shutter speed, and the viewfinder's incredible refresh rate performs well even in low light, meaning I can see things flowing and compose the shots even in dark situations. But what helped was the ability to autofocus the lens accurately in such low light and, of course, the frame rate.” These, Delgado suggests, are the two main reasons he uses the Alpha 1 daily in his work.

“The resolution too, it’s something else,” Delgado continues. “I took this image with the 14mm lens for a reason. In these situations, you can only partially predict where the performers will move, and often, I am restricted as to where I can position myself. So, it is better to use an Ultrawide angle lens and rely on the 50 megapixel resolution of the sensor to crop and compose the final image more precisely.”

Delgado generally shoots with more traditional 35mm or 50mm lenses but says the 14mm offers something different. “The 14mm lens is so lightweight that it is one of the lenses I always have in my pocket when shooting concerts or events. The lens is very rectilinear - I never have any issues with distortion, and the f/1.8 aperture is so large that it allows me to do my best work in situations like these.”

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