Forget savings-busting trips to exotic locations, sometimes you only need to attend one great local event to generate quite a bit of success. Darragh Mason Field should know, as he got a lot of great results from his images of the Tar Barrel Festival in Ottery St Mary, where locals carry fiery barrels through the historic Devon town. As well as getting his images of the event prominently featured in national newspapers, Darragh also got a Commended award in this year’s British Life Photography Awards. We found out more about the benefits of keeping it local….

How do you go about finding photogenic events?

I do a lot of research. There is a perception in photography that you have to travel further afield to get interesting culture shots. That is simply not true. There are huge amount of events and rich traditions in the UK with great opportunities to get brilliant photos. Chances are there are some close to you, you just have to find them. One thing I would say, is call ahead, try to get a contact to help you get access to the subject matters.

I’ve always been interested in traditional beliefs and cultural practices. To be honest these interests are at the centre of nearly all my work in some form. What I’m getting at is a lot of my research is just me reading up on subjects of interest. Once I discover an event or practice to document I do some desktop research and also see if I have any existing links in my social media network that could help me.

Was there a lot of health and safety regulations around the Tar Barrel Festival, or could you get good access?

It’s made very clear that you go there at your own risk. It’s brilliant that you can still have such a wild and fun event in the modern world of health and safety diktats. Another reason why this is such a brilliant event to shoot.

How did you go about getting the newspapers interested?

I work with a press agency and had pitched the work to them beforehand. This meant I had to process and deliver all the shots so they’d go out on the press wires ASAP. So I worked till about 3am and in the morning some shots were in the Daily Telegraph. Once the agency knows your work will sell, they take you more seriously.

Any other tips for shooting colourful local events and making your shots stand out?

Try and plan the kind of shots you want to take first so your gear is packed accordingly. There’s nothing worse than bringing excessive gear with you and trying to negotiate crowded events. It winds everyone up if you are getting in their way with all your gear. Don’t be afraid to approach people for portraits and don’t be afraid to get yourself in a good position to get a clear shot.

For more on Darragh and his work, see