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Photos at the Fair


Mickie DeVries uses her Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lens to zoom in on the Zipper rides, zeppole, and zany carnie games at a local tulip fest.


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By Jenn Gidman
Images By Mickie DeVries


Come autumn, fall fests and community fairs kick into high gear, getting in their last licks before the colder weather sets in. These events are also perfect opportunities to fine-tune your photography skills, offering you the chance to practice taking a variety of images, from portraits and street photos to action shots of the whirling, dipping, and rotating rides.

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (59mm, F/4, 1/1000th sec., ISO 250)
Click image to view larger

When Mickie DeVries visits festivals near her home in Holland, Michigan, as she did on a recent visit to the Tulip Time Dutch heritage and flower fest, her goal is to serve as a documentarian of the day. "I want to capture all of the various facets of what's going on—the rides, the games, the food, and then find the best angles and colors to set that all against," she says. "In terms of lighting, I can't always control when we go to these things, but my preference is to head out a little later in the afternoon or early evening, when the sun is setting behind the rides and everything is that lovely golden color."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (48mm, F/4, 1/250th sec., ISO 200)
Click image to view larger

Mickie's lens of choice when she frequents local fests is the Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD, which allows her to capture a variety of photos from different perspectives for a fun-filled narrative of her family's day at the fair. "I used to shoot more often with primes, but since I switched to zooms, and to this lens specifically, I never feel like I should've brought another lens with me," she says. "That's especially important because I don't like bringing a lot of gear. The images I get with this lens are super-sharp, and it's so light and versatile. I'm able to zoom out to capture more of an environmental shot, where I can get my subjects against a wider backdrop of the festival, and then zoom in on details of the game booths or rides, or on facial expressions as my subjects enjoy the day."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/4, 1/640th sec., ISO 250)
Click image to view larger

One of the challenges when taking photos at a well-attended event like a fall fest or carnival is that you'll have to contend with crowds as you seek out the perfect location to sneak a pic or two. "In some cases, other people can actually add to a shot, because obviously you're not the only ones there when you attend one of these festivals," Mickie says. "But I do try to minimize other people as much as possible if I feel they're distracting from my main subject, either by waiting until people clear out of a certain spot, or by making them not as prevalent in the frame by positioning them so they're not as noticeable. I'll also blur out the background so nothing in it overtakes my subject."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/4, 1/250th sec., ISO 200)
Click image to view larger

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/4, 1/250th sec., ISO 200)
Click image to view larger

Another trick Mickie taps into to make her kids stand out in her festival photos is to plan their wardrobe ahead of time. "Luckily, my kids are pretty cooperative in that way," she says. "I'll pick brightly colored clothing that stands out in the frame rather than more neutral outfits. It also complements the environment of the carnival, which is usually filled with vibrant colors."

To capture the motion blur of a ride in motion, as Mickie did here, she'll first seek out rides that offer an eye-catching color contrast with the blue skies. "Then what I'll often do is stand in back of my subjects—in the case of the photo here, my husband and daughter—and tell them to freeze," she says. "I didn't really care if the other people around them were moving, because that added a cool effect that showcases my subjects in the center. Then I tucked my elbows into my sides, held my breath, and pressed the shutter. I'll usually shoot a picture like this at 1/4th to 1/6th of a second, though that depends on how the lighting is. I'll typically max out my aperture and lower my ISO as much as possible in this scenario."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/22, 1/4th sec., ISO 50)
Click image to view larger

In fact, standing behind your subjects, or off to the side where they don't notice you as they're playing whack-a-mole or chowing down on a deep-fried Oreo, is an effective way to capture some of the day's best moments without making your subjects feel self-conscious. "My own family is so used to me taking their picture that it's not much of an issue for me, but other kids might not be so cooperative," Mickie says. "Just trailing them unobtrusively as they take part in an activity or admire the prizes they've won will help you document those candid moments."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/4.5, 1/250th sec., ISO 250)
Click image to view larger

At any rate, you don't want to keep interrupting the fun by telling your subjects to turn to you and smile. "That can definitely become annoying after a while," Mickie says. "Just let them be in the moment, and they'll eventually forget you and your camera. They'll be having too much fun eating, going on rides, and playing games to really notice or care."

© Mickie DeVries
28-75mm (28mm, F/5, 1/320th sec., ISO 1600)
Click image to view larger





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