Lights, Colors, and Action!

How to Photograph Amusement Park Rides

by Kerry Drager

Whirling Colors 1a
Whirling Colors 1a
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
When it comes to Ferris wheels and carousels, the photographic fun begins when the sun goes down and the lights come on. Best yet, you don't need a major theme park to capture eye-popping colors and studies in motion; local carnivals and country fairs are visually exciting too.

Working with Light
Midways can produce fantastic photos in any light, but with an evening sky as a backdrop, the bright rides will pop out of your picture in contrast. And, thanks to the resultant slow shutter speeds, you'll end up with streaks of lights and swirls of colors.

Although nighttime is always dramatic, be careful when composing your shot, so large areas of black sky and land don't overwhelm your picture. Many "night" shooters, however, actually prefer twilight - the magical time between sundown and darkness in which land and sky take on dramatic tones and multiple colors. Another twilight benefit: A brighter sky means an overall brighter scene - less of the dark vs. light extreme that makes nighttime metering a challenge.

Ride at Twilight
Ride at Twilight
© Kerry Drager
All Rights Reserved
Picturing Motion
To achieve the slow shutter speeds that produce a real feeling of movement, you'll need late-day conditions (sunset, twilight, or nighttime), a low ISO, a small aperture (large f/stop number), and a tripod or other support to keep things steady. If possible, fill the image with the subject, since the closer you are to a moving object the easier it is to show motion.

Rides and compositions vary, so to achieve the desired effect, you might want to experiment with different shutter speeds. A good place to start is in Aperture Priority mode: Set your lens at the SMALLEST aperture (biggest f/stop number), which will automatically result in the slowest possible shutter speed for the given ISO and light level. Then try another photo or two with slightly larger apertures (thus, resulting in faster shutter speeds).

Lastly ...
For inspiration, check out BetterPhoto.com's Amusement Park Pictures gallery.





Article by Kerry Drager. To learn more about photography, explore the many online photography and Photoshop classes offered here at BetterPhoto.com.