Plain and simple, I love summer! I love everything about it—the activities, the weather, and the fact that everything is green and alive. As a kid, summer was the time to go camping, go on road trips, stay out after dark, and explore. As an adult, the months from May through September continue to be some of the most enjoyable of the year for me. Well, this summer I get to go camping, go on road trips, stay out after dark, and explore. And I’m bringing my camera along! Indeed, through my camera I'm going to reconnect with what I enjoy most about summer.
Okay, so now on to the real topic of inspiration for this month’s blog...
When I was growing up, there was a vacant lot located one block from our house. It was the classic dirt lot where you could play kickball, catch, or just get into mischief. One summer, the carnival came to town and set up in that vacant lot. It was intriguing to watch the crews set everything up like clockwork. Then, at dusk on a Friday night, the lights came on and the rides began to whir and spin to entice us neighborhood kids (and our parents) from our homes. The carnival lasted all weekend. What fun. Then, come Monday morning, the space was once again returned to a vacant lot, only leaving the odd empty popcorn container as evidence of what had been.
I haven’t thought about that vacant lot or the carnival for years. That is, until last night. I was out shooting some photos at sunset for a project I’m participating in on Google+. On the way home, I passed by a shopping area that I frequent, and there was a carnival in the parking lot. I could see the lights from a distance and, as I got closer, I could hear the noise of the rides and the crowd. It was a mixture of machinery, laughter, and screams. The whole scene practically shouted summer evening to me, so I pulled into the parking lot and grabbed my camera!
Carnivals and amusement parks have such great opportunities for photography. They have lots of vibrant, saturated colors; fun shapes; and motion. If you are into street photography, carnivals and amusement parks are a crossroads of people and culture. I decided that last night’s photo shoot was all about the lights and the motion, which meant slow shutter speeds.
I played around with different camera settings to see what provided the best image. The challenge was finding a shutter speed that was slow enough to blur the motion of whatever ride I was photographing without letting in too much light and overexposing the image. Depth of field was not my primary concern, so I varied the aperture between f/5.6 and f/16 to maintain my desired shutter speed. (I shot in manual mode, but I guess I could have changed over to aperture-priority mode.)
I found that a 1/5-second shutter speed was good for the spinning of the carousel. It gave enough blur in the lights to convey the spinning motion while still leaving recognizable ghosts of people and horses.
In between groups of riders, I was also able to get some up-close shots of the horses and detail on the carousel. I used the on-camera flash at -3.0 flash compensation to add just a bit of fill light.
When it came to the Ferris wheel, I opted for a 1-second exposure. Not only was the wheel spinning, but the lights were also constantly changing. After some experimentation, I discovered that a longer shutter speed brought out the pattern in the lights. I took a series of shots, all from the same vantage point, creating a Ferris Wheel Frenzy!
What a fun and impromptu evening of photography I had at the carnival last night! Summer is off to a great start!
(P.S. - No, I didn't buy a corn dog or funnel cake.)