On Friday the 7th of October, our course went to the annual Tewkesbury Mop Fair to shoot our first location images. Having experimented in lectures with flash and ambient light, I felt more confident going out into these conditions to take images. After looking at Robert Vali’s work I knew that I wanted to produce some slow shutter speed images whilst at the fair as I love the effect and the bright colours really tell the story of being at a fair.
We arrived at the fair at around 5pm, meaning that it was still daylight when some images were taken. The weather was overcast so it wasn’t the nicest conditions to be shooting in, however we have to work with what we’ve got. I personally dislike most of the images I took at this stage in the day as a lot of them look rather dull, and I prefer the images I took during the evening as I quite like dark backgrounds and high contrast in my images, so I was looking forward to having that natural dark background of night time.
Although we experimented with speedlights during lectures, a lot of us used our pop up flashes when needed. However, I didn’t use flash a huge amount as I felt I could control the outcome of my images a lot better if I just manually experimented with apertures and shutter speeds. I will admit I found it difficult as I am used to using auto settings on my camera, however shooting a large amount of images allowed me to change things and learn from my mistakes.
The first image I shot that I liked was this one. I personally love it’s simplicity, and how the bright colours contrast against the dark sky. I shot this at an F stop of 5 with a shutter speed of 1/200 and an ISO of 200, which, with the amount of noise in the sky slightly shocked me, however I feel the balloons are sharp and therefore the noise isn’t a huge focus. I used my pop up flash on this and it was essentially an “off the hip” shot. I like the amount of negative space in the image due to the fact that this would be a perfect image to use in a magazine; negative space allows for writing on the image.
I enjoyed experimenting with slow shutter speeds at the fair, much like Robert Vali. I feel the slow shutter speeds looked a lot more appealing at this event because the lights on the rides really pull you in and can make some interesting shapes. Both the first and last images above I used an F stop of 16 and a shutter speed of one second, which I feel worked relatively well. Other images which I took using a slow shutter speed came out very light, which is why I used f16 to easier control how much light was let in. I’m very happy with how consistent the shapes are and how the lights from the ride allowed the crowds to become black silhouettes. The second image on the left was taken at f20 for one second, and I really like it because it’s shape is different to the circular slow shutter speed fair photos I have seen other photographers use. I also feel this image is very consistent, and I love the orange cutting through the middle. The middle image is clearly a lot lighter than the other three images, which is because it was shot at an aperture of f4.5 and a shutter speed of 0.4 seconds. However I like this image because it allows for the viewer to really look at it, in a way it feels quite abstract, yet I feel it shows exactly what it’s like to be at the fair; chaos, speed, colour, excitement etc.
One thing that I need to do better on is asking people if I can take their picture. I didn’t manage to pluck up the courage to get any portrait images, however I got a handful of nice natural pictures of people enjoying their time at the fair. My favourite image of the 3 above is the first one, which I shot of a man and his son acknowledging each other whilst the song was on a ride. I watched the two of them for the entirety of the ride, and every time the son would go past his father they would high five and the son looked so happy, I just had to get an image of it. I think it’s such a sweet image and although there are many people around I made sure to allow the father to be central. This image was shot without a flash, just using the lights around, which I feel adds a sense of warmth to the image. I used an ISO of 200, an F-stop of 5.6 and a shutter speed of 1/80 for this.
Personally I prefer photos like this than portraits as they are so much more natural and I feel they tell a story a lot more.
The below image I have mixed feelings about. I like the warmth that the lights give and the red tint of the photo, however I feel it’s underexposed and having had another chance I would have opened the lens up to 4.8 (this was taken at 5.6) to let a little bit more light in, or perhaps used the pop up flash. However, I do like the subject of the little boy stood on his own. It allows the viewer to want to know more about this little boy; where are his parents? Is he safe? Is he with the man in the background, clearly more interested in the arcade game? Why isn’t he smiling like the other children at the fair? In a way, the redness of the image almost heightens the idea that this young boy isn’t safe (although he may well be safe), which gives this image a story, and contrasts with all the other photos of young children at the fair.
Some of my favourite images from Tewkesbury were ones that only focused on the lights and allowed everything else to be dark. To me, when you think of a night at the fair, the lights are high up with what I think of first, so I wanted to show these lights in my photos. The below image was taken in a window opposite the fair. I like how the reflection slightly distorts some of the lights and makes it slightly confusing as to what you’re looking at. I shot this at f 5.3 with a shutter speed of 1/200. I like how the sign saying “kids” is backwards, so it is clearly a reflection, however the image so sparse in detail you really have to look at it to get an idea of what’s going on. The below image is the fair opposite the window. It is taken with the same F-Stop and shutter speed as the above image, it is essentially a flip around of what we’re seeing in the reflection. I personally like the below image a lot more purely due to there being more detail, however I wanted to experiment with other ways of showing the fair, so I am glad I used a reflection as a medium.
Overall, I enjoyed photographing Tewkesbury mop fair and would definitely go again. It has changed my opinion of photographing in the dark as I would never have wanted to do anything like this beforehand due to the fear of lots of noise and under exposed images. If I had a chance to do this again I would try to include a lot more people and I would try and experiment more with different angles and heights, rather than just taking images from my standing height.