Photography at the Carnival

Folks have been asking how I created the opportunities & the photos from the mini Carnival that came to town… the one that is in front of Queensbay Mall. This carnival has been there since a week or two ago, not sure how long they are going to be there so if you folks want to get some colourful pictures, don’t miss it!

I’ve been to the location on three separate occasions & all three times I walked away with some colourful photos, two of which I am very happy with. So let me share with you the techniques I used & the minimum equipment required to do this.

What you will need

1. Bring the sturdy tripod – You don’t need an expensive Manfrotto for the shots here. A lightweight tripod will do.

2. Bring your flash unit – This is if you plan to do some hand-held shots. This is optional. I only fired the flash a couple of times during my three visits.

3. Either bring a wide-angle (ultra wide if you have one) and/or a 50mm standard lens – It’s up to you if you want to carry the extra weight around but I recommend one lens only so you are not distracted with swapping lens half way. I shot my entire 2nd visit there with only a 50mm.

4. A compass – I have a tiny one on my Fancier tripod. Also something in my to do list, get a proper compass. Very useful when you are travelling out of the country.

The previsualization

Try to get there around about 7pm, roughly an hour before sundown. So much so if it’s the first time you’re going there. You will need some time to scout the location a bit & find your angles. Before you do anything, check your compass to confirm where is east & where is west! You need to know where the sun is going down.

If you brought your 50mm, this is already a good time to shoot stuff. Look around for unique shapes & colors, odd patterns & angles. Experiment with framing within a frame… underexpose certain shots to create that moody feeling or find riot of colors to photograph. Most importantly while you are using the 50mm, think simple. Remember that less is better so the fewer things that are in your frame, the more powerful the images are. If you brought both lenses, shoot the first half hour using the 50mm & swap to your wide-angle roughly at about 7:30pm.

While you are going around with your standard lens, you can keep an eye for strategic locations for your wide-angle… even if you didn’t bring your wide-angle that day. You can then come back another day to get the angle that you saw earlier. Don’t be limited by the lens that is on your camera but at the same time don’t be distracted by it.

Once you are done with your 50mm swap over to your wide-angle & get ready your tripod. The choice of which to use a tripod or your flash unit now depends on a couple of things.

A well exposed sky with a silhouette of an object – I’ll take the ferris wheel for example

Take some of these shots while the sun is still up but wait for it to be late enough so that the sky isn’t too bright. You will want to capture all the textures on the clouds & the upper atmosphere. Fairly simple, just set to aperture priority & since you are going to point your camera upwards, set to a small aperture like between f/9 to f/16. If you are capturing the ferris wheel as your subject, at your widest zoom setting, get as close as you can to the wheel as you can. Compose your image on your viewfinder, half shutter & snap! You don’t really need to use the tripod for this kind of shots.

At wide angles, to create a dynamic effect for your composition, move closer to your subject. The wide-angle design of your lens will create a somewhat slightly distorted view of the world as we see it & can really create dramatic scenes that our normal eyes don’t see. This is not a rule per say, just a recommendation but there are other ways of composing your image so use this only as a guideline.

A well exposed sky with a section of an object lit – again I’ll use the ferris wheel as an example

How I did this was to snap on my flash unit & configure it to shoot at a focal point further than my lens focal point. Eg. I set my lens to 17mm but set my flash to 24mm or more. Camera still on aperture priority I dialed to f/8. Since I had the flash on the 5Dmk2 selected an ISO400 for the shot. While hand holding, I composed & fired the shot.

The results were darkened corners on the ferris wheel but a brightly lit center. This created an artificial vignette to add to the mood of the shot.

A well exposed sky with a relatively well exposed subject – more ferris wheels haha

There are two ways you can get this shot, either with a tripod on low ISO… or like what I did here, hand-held with medium high ISO800. Again I shot this using aperture priority with f/11. Since the 5Dmk2 can handle ISO800 without any problems, I went for the shot. I didn’t have much time because the red sky had just started & I was on the other side of the field. So while making my way to this angle that I saw earlier, I made minimal changes in settings so that I could get the shot.

Adjust your exposure to get the right colors. Remember if you dial your exposure up too much, the colors will look washed out & the skies as if taken in the afternoon. Slowly bring your exposure down a notch to get an equally exposed foreground against a saturated background.

Slow shutter photography – I’ll use the Discovery ride as an example this time

For all slow shutter shots, a tripod is a must! Depending on the amount of light in the frame, I start off by setting the camera to full manual & set to ISO100. As always, I set to f/11 & watched the light meter as I cranked down the shutter speed. To capture the foreground in bright colors, & to also capture what ambient light is left from the sunset, I dialed to an exposure of +1EV. With all that, what I got was a shutter speed of 5secs. Perfect! Not to slow & not too fast.

When the scene starts to get dark, I normally up the exposure to brighten the colors & maintain a well-lit photo. Once night fall begins, you will almost always have to rely on your tripod to get any usable shots. Do not be afraid to try various ISO settings & shutter speed settings. It doesn’t all need to be slow shutter shots… sometimes a normal looking night-time shot at the Carnival is nice too.

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