Carnival Rides @ Night – Quick Tips

Author:  Ambika Balasubramaniyan

Time to capture some memorable images of your Summer Carnival fun at night….. — The warm night air, the excitement of your local spring/ summer carnivals, fun times – rides, lights and “carnival food”!


# 1: Shoot RAW – High Quality Images give you flexibility in the Editing Process

  • The color, movement, lights – all make for a wide dynamic range. You want to capture this yumminess to capture the spirit of the Carnival. RAW images will retain the most ‘information’. Allowing you to capture the full dynamic range of the scene.
  • RAW allows for more creative latitude in Post Processing: On things like Color Temp/White Balance, Exposure adjustments

# 2: Use a sturdy tripod.

  • Low light/ Night Photography: Low light, long exposures yield interest in your carnival images – especially when there is movement!
  • When you’re shooting on a tripod don’t use image stabilization. Remember to turn it off. Using image stabilization when you are on a tripod will it will reduce image sharpness rather than increase sharpness.
    • Note: Not all of your low light work needs a tripod (a tripod will typically yield better results). Learn and remember to use the ISO settings. Current digital cameras offer exceptional high ISO performance that open up a whole new range of opportunities for low light work as well as shortening exposure times.


#3: Remember to walk around to Scout your Photo opportunities and plan your time at the carnival

  • A quick stroll around the area when you arrive will allow you to scope out the scene and identify interesting rides, stalls and photographic compositions. This pre-planning will help you when the skies darken, lights come-on & the crowds thicken. It will also allow you to make the best use of your twilight hour.
  • Being a bit early will also typically mean less crowded rides so you can get close to the barriers and get different compositions.

#4: Arrive early twilight and stay after dark!

  • The golden hour for carnivals is different – you have a wonderful 45 min window after sunset (loss of direct light) & before darkness creeps in .Shooting during this time will bring out all the colors in the carnival lights & environmental details against a deep blue sky. Twilight & blue hour offer some interesting possibilities: Twinkling lights on the rides, the vivid paint work on the ride structures, beautiful sunset sky colors, and lower dynamic range across the image; all making for a more interesting image.
  •  As it turns dark, watch for contrast in images and pay attention to shadow detail. Watch your histograms & if you have a ND filter – you can use it to cut back on some of the ambient brightness.

#5: Lens Choices: Go Fast & Go Long, Go Wide

  • Make sure you bring along a good mix of lenses- there is so much variety at a carnival! Wide lens used appropriately can add drama to your images. Long lens are great for candid people images and for isolating the rides.
  • You can use your lens hood to minimize flares from unwanted sources for low light work that may have light sources as part of composition. A carnival has many flood lights that can cause lens flare. Watch for it!


#6: Master the use of Manual Mode:

  •  For nighttime exposures & special effects you should have good command of Manual mode. It will allow you to have more creative control. Carnivals are surprisingly bright – you will generally get better results when you are able to photograph in Manual mode with greater control over exposure /shutter speed combinations.
  • Auto White Balance set to Tungsten will neutralize some the “red-orange” glow.

#7: Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

  • Start with about 200 ISO setting & about 2-3 sec exposure for a start and then adjust from there. Feel free to be creative and play around with settings till you get the feel you are hoping to get in your images. Different rides will end up at a different setting depending on the lighting levels & speed of the ride.
  • Check you histograms — this is the best way to tell if you have a workable image. You can work through your exposure settings to get the image you want by using your histograms as a guide. When you are photographing rides with longer exposures – watch for the blowout in highlights.
  • Take test shots – check focus/sharpness, composition, blur effects – each ride will have a different exposure duration to get the most pleasing light effects. Also check out the different White Balance settings for different moods.


#8: Remember to have fun!

  • After all you are at the carnival….remember to have fun and enjoy your time there! Try a ride (you will get a different perspective!), play a game – take a quick time travel to your youth!

Ambika Balasubramaniyan is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Spring is time for Cactus Blooms…and a new camera

Author: David Halgrimson

It is spring and everyone is taking and posting images of the beautiful cactus flowers currently in bloom. I guess I just have to join in and share a few of my own but with a little twist to the story.

Cactus 5

I normally shoot Canon and know my equipment quite well. However we photographers are never happy just using the same equipment over and over, where is the challenge in that.

So I bought a new camera, not new new but new to me, a Sony NEC 5N. This is a small mirrorless and viewfinder-less camera with amazing abilities. It does all the major things we look for, shoots RAW, has aperture, shutter, manual as well as all the canned settings, i.e. scene mode, video and much more. It also has interchangeable lenses. The problem is, it works completely different than my Canons so after reading the printed manual, very general, the provided PDF extended manual and a third party full detail manual, I was on my way.

Two things I discovered right off 1) using the LCD monitor to compose, check settings and focus is not too easy in bright sun and 2) using the Control Wheel to select menu items and items within the menus is not easy. Trying to rotate the wheel vs. press the wheel, two separate options, takes finesse and creates much frustration.

But that said, I took it in hand and headed out to walk the neighborhood looking for cactus flowers. I used an 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens, shot in RAW and aperture priority and here are some of the images. Not all are as sharp as I would like but that’s me still learning and not the camera.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


A participants view of Havasupai. Thanks Phil. Glad you enjoyed the workshop

Phil Ryan Photography

16-04-26 Havasupai Trip  0020-web Havasu Falls the evening we made camp.

Last week we took a five-day outing with Arizona Highways Photography Workshops to Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. The workshop was led by Suzanne Mathia and supported by Tyler, A.J. and Todd from Arizona Outback Adventures. It was a great trip with some excellent hikes, spectacular photographs, and lots of fun!

More after the break…

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West Clear Creek

Author: Rick Sprain

With the latest issue of Arizona Highways in hand, I walked across the street from work at the Yavapai County Courthouse to Mobster Burger for lunch. Great French fries by the way. While waiting for my Chicago dog, I started flipping through the magazine and came upon the hike of the month article on the West Clear Creek Trail just outside of Camp Verde. If you didn’t see the May issue, you can get the information on how to get there here: The article had great timing as my wife and I were heading to Clear Creek to go camping that weekend.


View of West Clear Creek from Fire road 215 as you drop down into the valley.

On Saturday morning we headed up fire road 619 to fire road 215 and eventually down into a long green valley of large cottonwood trees that was once home to the Bull Pen Ranch. Although fire road 619 could handle most vehicles, I wouldn’t recommend driving anything other than a high clearance vehicle on fire road 215. We parked at the end of the road which by 9:00 am was already nearly filled up. There is a bathroom at the trail head and is the only one along the trail. Also remember to bring plenty of water with you prior to leaving for your hike. Not wanting to carry a lot of camera gear, I only brought along my Canon 5D Mark II with the 35-70mm 2.8 lens.  This setup worked out perfectly for taking pictures of the wide valley as well as photographing the river in tight areas in very low light. There were a few times I wish I had brought along a light tripod for some close up photographs or a long exposure shot or two.

The trail begins along the old ranch road for about the first mile and a half or so and is easy walking. There are a number of trails that take off the main trail that give you access to the river. You can spend hours exploring and taking pictures before returning to the main trail.

Once you pass an old rock ranch building and a few foundations you’ll come to the end of the road trail and begin walking towards the creek. At one point you’ll come to a fork in the trail. Take the downhill trail to the right that leads towards the creek. Don’t take the trail that goes straight as it ends on a dangerous cliff that was used for a flume to carry water to the ranch. Down at the river you’ll come upon some large flat rocks over the deep pools in the water. It’s a great place for a picnic or a short rest before continuing your hike.

Continuing on, You’ll  come to the first of many river crossings about a half mile further along the trail. Not being as balanced as my wife, I chose to walk through the water to cross the river. My wife on the other hand, was able to cross over using rocks and some fallen trees without a problem. I found the river only thigh high which gave me a  better perspective for photographing  the river that I  wouldn’t have gotten trying to balance on a rock.  This also ensured I didn’t slip off a rock or tree into the water ruining my camera.


My wife, Nicole, easily walks across the creek.

The first crossing is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll see. You’ll find a large pond boarded by a cliff on one side a lush forest on the other. After crossing, walk through the brush along the creek until you come to the opposite end of the bond for another all different view of the cliff and creek. The second crossing is only another couple hundred yards up the river. Once you cross the second time, you will start walking away from the river. You will end up in a totally different geographically world of rocks and cactus. The third crossing is probably about three and a half miles from the parking lot. We only went a short distance further to another large secluded pool surrounded by rocks and trees.

If you are really adventurous, the trail continues another 25 miles into the West Clear Creek Wilderness, but remember no matter how far you walk in you have to walk out. Also remember whatever you bring with you to eat or drink, make sure you carry it out with you.

Now once you’ve hiked out and need something to refresh yourself, try some wine tasting at the Clear Creek Winery. Back on highway 260 turn north for less than a quarter mile and the winery is on your left. They are open Wednesday to Sunday 1 to 5 and the tasting is free. If beer is more to your liking, try the Verde Brewery on Main Street in Camp Verde. They have some wonderful hand crafted beers made right on location. Oh, their burgers are the best.

Rick Sprain is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


Memory Card Housekeeping

Author: Sara Goodnick

  • Formatting-quick or full? Do you know the difference?
  • Deleting? When and how is best?
  • Change cameras = change cards?
  • What brands to buy, and what size?

First, when you get a brand new memory card, you put it into the camera, and have the camera “format” it. What is happening here? The card has 1s and 0s arranged in cells or segments and the computer puts them all into its own type of filing system.


Next, you record your images, download to your computer, and also back them up onto another device. Remove your card, and then what?  Put it back into your camera and format it again.

However, the information from those older images is still on the card. They aren’t really erased unless you get some professional help with it. The camera and most other software cannot get to them, but they are still lurking there. I know a pro who recently had a card get corrupted, losing some valuable images from a commercial shoot. When he had them retrieved, using a specialty company, there were over 5,000 images discovered on that card he had just been formatting in camera over and over again.

Here is where a full format, or “wiping” comes in. If you want a truly clean card, you will want to use your computer to do a full format. It will remove all the old information, and possibly prevent corrupted files. (It is also a good way to foil spies-if you’re bothered by that possibility!)

Link to the SD Association with a formatting program for many Windows and Mac systems:

Link to full formatting for Windows:

Link to full formatting for a Mac:

After doing a full format, which will take several minutes, you must also format the card in the camera as usual. Then, to be safe, go out and take a few test shots just to be sure there is no corruption, and all is ok.

Take away:

  1. You should not need to do a full format more than a few times a year. Some pros do a full format before every big job.
  2. Always format a card in the camera you are using. This will overwrite any old images and set up the camera’s own filing system.
  3. Do not put a formatted card into a different camera than the one it was formatted for unless you reformat it in that camera. Which, of course, will overwrite the old images.
  4. Never delete in camera. Download those images and delete from your computer.
  5. Buy name brand cards-Sandisk and Lexar are some of the best.
  6. Buy medium sized cards. You don’t want to be putting all of your eggs in one basket with huge cards, nor do you want to be changing cards all the time when they fill up quickly.
  7. If you have a choice, opt for a camera with dual card slots. Even if one card gets corrupted, the other will probably be fine.

Sara Goodnick is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.