The Photojournalism Experience: Martin Luther King Jr. Parade – Clearwater, FL

Largo High School’s marching band is at the ready before performing the first piece of the day as they march the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Cleveland Street in Clearwater.


John M.B. Church makes a stand marching down Cleveland Street in Clearwater, FL, at the Martin Luther King Jr.  Parade, with signs commemorating the late Martin Luther King Jr. including the additional line “Every Life Matters”.


Jeremy Bell, soldier in the Army, marches in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Clearwater, Fl, while stoically carrying the American Flag.


Sonya Roe (left) and Cynthia Cotman (right) energetically join in the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade on Cleveland Street in Clearwater, FL as it marches on towards Coachman Park.


My Experience:

My first assignment in Photojournalism II was to cover a Martin Luther King Jr. Parade in Pinellas County. I live in Clearwater, so it only made sense to go to the Clearwater parade. My first thoughts were, “Awesome, parades are long, they have moments where they stop and tons of onlookers. I got this.”


Oh how wrong I was.


Lesson One:

First lesson learned, don’t bring a toddler to a parade you are covering for a photojournalism assignment. My childcare had fallen through, so I had no choice. But, life would have been way easier had I been able to fly solo. If you have to, as I did, bring your jogging stroller. Moments where jogging is necessary are inevitable as parades are typically moving. Especially the one in Clearwater, which brings me to my next point.


Lesson Two:

Don’t expect every parade you cover to be like others you have attended. The parades I remember going to as a kid lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, so my assumption was this parade would be the same. Wrong.  The Clearwater Martin Luther King Jr. Parade passed me by in under 5 minutes. There were no floats, just marching bands and marching groups from churches and clubs around the area.


Here’s where the jogging comes in. With the obvious dilemma of a short parade at hand, I took the stroller and jogged ahead of the parade, found a spot with no view obstructions of the oncoming parade, and waited. When the parade passed by I honed in on a group that I wanted to photograph, and focus just on them


It is really hard to stay focused on one group at a parade when there is a lot going on and movement at a fast pace. After I got my shot of one group, I would run ahead of the parade again and focus on another.


Lesson Three:

Be patient, and people-watch the hell out of the crowd. It is so easy to get caught up in trying to cover every little detail, and you will miss the best shot. I found it got easier when I would take the time to scan the crowd, find the people being lively and energetic, follow them for a bit, then snap the picture. This requires some extra jogging, but it’s worth it in the end.



Overall partaking in coverage of a parade was a rush. I loved it, but I would now like to try it again knowing better what to expect.

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