Archive: ‘At the Fair’

Look What I Got For Free At The Fair!

Monday, September 5th, 2011

I have always wanted to know how to take photos of Ferris Wheels at night! You know .. those very cool shots that you see in every single ‘how to’ photo book?  I am happy to share what this camera mom learned last night at our little fair! It wasn’t exactly a Ferris Wheel but the rides were good enough to practice my night photography. Once you figure it out you will be so happy to know how to get these cool ‘free’ shots that always end up on the covers of those photo books at the bookstore!!!

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OK…you WILL need to go to your M button for this…or at least that is the only way I know to tell you how to do it. Once on M, I looked around and realized that they had tons of big lights so I ended up with an ISO of 320 because it was dark outside but there was still a lot of light to be had. I set my dial to M then change my ISO to 320.

Next,  I set my F Stop to 14. I am not sure exactly why 14 but I read somewhere to do that for these shots and  it worked  so I kept it there! Now the FUN part began when I started changing my shutter speed. Remember that a slow shutter speed will let more light in than a fast shutter speed and if that light happens to be ‘moving’ then you are in business. The long exposure (or the longer the shutter is open) will allow the light from the bulbs to be recorded as they move across the frame.

Let me show you:

All these shots were taken with the ride going full steam but you can see that they are all different due to different shutter speeds. This shot was taken with a somewhat quick (or fast)  shutter speed at 1/10:

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This shot was taken with a little bit slower speed 1/4, notice a little movement

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This one was 1/2, even more movement recorded

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The next four sots were 1/1

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They are all a little different due to the exact timing of the shot, that is what makes this so  FUN!

Here is another ride:

shutter speed 1/10

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1/2 for the next

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1/1 for the next three!

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For this shot I set the ss to 2 full seconds. As the shutter is left open longer more of the light is captured.

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One more ride: I raised the ISO to 640 for these final shots.

ISO 640, F 14, ss 1/32

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ss 1/10

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ss 1/1

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Get the signs too!

This was f stop ISO 640, 14, ss 1/32

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And finally – – a yummy shot to end the night!

nothing better than good ol’ fashion fair food!


Most of all have fun and PRACTICE! These shots aren’t perfect but I got further than I have in the past and that is what is important with your photography hobby…you have to practice to keep  learning!

Summary of tips for night time fair photography:

1.  Bring a tripod or monopod. I have a monopod, it is just one leg and easier to manage than a big tripod as it fold up easy. I use it for a lot of sports  stuff but these night shots require a very still camera when the shutter is open for a long time.  If you don’t have a tripod handy, find a nearby rail to prop your camera on. It will be difficult if the camera is not totally still.

2. When you can, put the self timer on for 2 seconds; even when you press the shutter with your fingers it can cause the camera to shake.

3. Get on the M setting and write down some potential settings before you go out.  Review it in your mind before you get there. This really helps to remember what to do once the confusion hits.

4. Keep  your F Stop higher than normal for these nighttime shots with lights. This higher number actually means that the size of the opening is smaller…the high number will result in a sharper image when dealing with outdoor lights and neon signs etc. The lower number on the f stop is a bigger opening allowing more light to get to the sensor. If you are close up and the the light is bright you can try a smaller number for the f stop and a lower number for the ISO.

5.  Experiment with your shutter speed to get different effects. This setting will control how fast the shutter is open. Remember that will a long opening you will need a monopod or tripod to keep the camera steady.

6. Practice a lot.


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