What Film Should I Take?
Contributed by: Lyle Trusty
The opportunity to try out some front and rear curtain features provided in Nikon's flash system that I had never used effectively before was provided by the A.V. Fair Friday night. The brightly lit carnival midway with the colorful Ferris wheel, merry go rounds, and various spinning, zooming and acrobatic rides provided the action that only a carnival can.
The bungee jump concession on the other side was especially exciting, too.
Along with that, a variety of people coming to the fair to have fun provided a rare opportunity for abstract, action, and human-interest photography. The fair is one of the great places to take pictures, and it was a challenge to get good pictures in that setting.
My digital camera LCD monitor proved to be an extremely useful feature, even though single lens reflex digital cameras don't show you a monitor picture until after you take one. (The shutter blocks the sensor, while you are looking through the lens). Being able to erase the picture, make corrections to your settings, and try again is pretty neat.
I learned that you need to make several exposures with action shots like a bungee jump in order to sort out how to get the shot. The problem was greater than I imagined because of the distance involved, the shooting angle, and the night sky background. All I got were some mediocre pictures. I learned a good lesson about my system's limitations, though, and how to use some of the unique features of my equipment at night.
Next, I headed for the midway, which was almost filled with people. I thought that I might have trouble maneuvering with a tripod, camera, and a camera bag, but somehow everyone understood that I was in need of a little more space than normal and gave me room.
I homed in on some kiddy rides that offered a golden opportunity for human interest shots. I set the flash for "rear curtain." With rear-curtain flash photography, the shutter opens and makes a metered time exposure - then the flash goes off. The desired effect is to get a blurred, sweeping image, culminating in a flash picture. Each scene gave me different results. I tried using different still and panning techniques, and continued to get very interesting shots, but I learned that it is very important to use a tripod if possible.
The ability to check the picture on the monitor was invaluable and led to several successful pictures under very difficult situations. Being within the effective flash range, and panning with the action, resulted in some very nice exposures with a blurred background. An image-stabilized lens is always a great help for handheld shots in situations like these.
My last photo adventure was with the Ferris wheel. I took several pictures from some distance away and decided that it was a waste of time. There was nothing exciting about that scene at all, so I went in closer until I was underneath the wheel looking up at the spokes and structure like a little kid. I saw a great abstract, with the lights and spokes taking on a composition of diagonal lines within a sunburst of colors. That's what a kid sees when looking up at the giant wheel from close up, I think. That was a new experience, and one I'll remember.
I'll go back to the Fair again at night someday and look for that "sweet spot" on other rides-- the place where a young child's imagination takes over.