A day at the fair

If summer in central Indiana were a sentence, the Indiana State Fair used to be its period. But the start of the school year has moved earlier and earlier over the years, and now the State Fair begins just as many kids return to school. Fortunately, my sons’ school district hasn’t gone fully bonkers yet; it calls children back to classrooms in the middle of August. That gives us time for at least one State Fair visit before school starts.

I took my Canon PowerShot S95 along. I’ve shot so much film this year that I’ve neglected my little digital workhorse. The S95 features a fine zoom lens, from f/2 at 28mm to f/4.9 at 105mm. This camera has considerable strengths, but it’s not perfect and I’ve learned how to work around most of its weaknesses. Isn’t that the trick with any camera, though?

We always start with my favorite State Fair attraction: food. This year we visited the Indiana Ribeye tent. It’s a fixture of the fair for good reason, because the food is delicious. The boys had ribeye sandwiches and I had a beef bratwurst, and we all left happy. This fellow was making short work of his ribeye sandwich.

Chowing down

I like to see the animals, too. I think my boys humor their old dad while we do that. The animals judged for show are usually not photogenically arranged, but the ones in a little petting zoo are.


Young goats make me smile. Old goats are disgusting creatures.


The midway always offers great opportunities to capture color and practice basic composition.

At the Fair

This shot’s a little busy, but captures how there’s something vying for your eye at every turn.

At the Fair

Shots like this one involve timing and luck with the S95. I suppose it would be the same with all digital point-and-shoot cameras, thanks to their inherent shutter lag. I zoomed out to max and followed this ride’s arm as it arced, waiting for my camera to focus and set exposure. I had just a couple seconds to get it right. At the moment focus and exposure locked, the contraption at arm’s end met the cloud. The whites are a little blown out, but I’m very happy with the composition.


Color is simply everywhere on the midway.


This is my favorite shot of the day. Pioneer Village is my favorite part of the fair. Normally I shoot the vintage tractors but this year I was looking for color and texture, and found both in a booth where handmade corn brooms are sold.

Corn brooms

Check out photos from last year’s fair too, here.


14 responses to “A day at the fair”

  1. N.S. Palmer Avatar
    N.S. Palmer

    Beautiful pix! I especially like the fifth one, showing the ride in motion.

    The midway was always my favorite part of the fair — partly, I suppose, because I’ve only gone a couple of times since I was a kid. A friend of my grandparents ran the midway and I always got a handful of free passes for the rides. To a young boy, those were more valuable than gold coins. In recent years, my friend Kerry used to show her leatherwork at a little table run by the Leathercrafters’ Guild. Maybe I’ll go this year.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m really happy that my camera stopped the motion in the fifth photo. That shutter lag often keeps me from getting shots like those. As with any camera, you just have to learn how to make it do what you need it to do.

      It sounds like you have great childhood fair memories. That’s awesome. I first enjoyed the State Fair about five or six years ago. I used to have an excuse for not going – I didn’t live in Indy! But after moving here it took me more than ten years to visit for the first time.

  2. vanilla Avatar

    I photograph the fair and bring you mundane. You photograph the fair and bring us art and beauty!

    Soapbox alert. I remember when the State Fair was a bit later in the calendar. It was moved up to avoid the start of school; then the people who run schools moved school up to the middle of summer. Growl.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Vanilla! I appreciate the compliment.

      Back in my day, sonny, school started after Labor Day, as God intended. My sons start next Wednesday. IPS started this week on Monday! Of course, when I was a kid few schools were air conditioned; it was murder in those buildings in August. I’m sure you can relate.

  3. dmswriter Avatar

    Love the last photo! The depth makes it interesting, especially contrasted with the long lines of each broom. Glad you could get out to enjoy the last bits of summer – we braved the Wisconsin State Fair over the weekend, and made our way through the throngs to the cream puff stand. If you ever feel like venturing north, the cream puffs just might be worth a stop!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s a mighty long way for me to go for a cream puff! Maybe I’ll stick to the deep-fried butter at our fair. Ok, not really. The whole idea of it just doesn’t appeal to me.

  4. Dani Avatar

    Breathtaking pictures! Unfortunately, we won’t make it to the fair this year. I’ll miss the animals. And some SMTW alpacas will be there! Brownsburg schools started on August 1. About a month too soon in my mind.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Too bad you’ll miss this year! If I get to go back I’ll look for the alpaca.

  5. pesoto74 Avatar

    Good point you make about working with your camera’s capabilities. Some nice results from that fair. I have been to the Illinois State Fair a couple of times when my sister was showing her horses. The Midway is a nice place for photos.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Is the Illinois State Fair a long drive for you? The Indiana State Fair is 15 minutes away so it feels like a shame not to go.

  6. Ron Avatar

    I went to the Indiana State Fair once when I was a kid in the ’70s. I remember seeing an auto stunt show on the race track and a rodeo in the show arena. The last few years, my kids have exhibited at the Ohio State Fair, so I have been going there. The state fair is everything I like about a county fair, multiplied by a hundred.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      They have all kinds of crazy stuff during the fair. We saw thick black smoke coming from the track when we were there with an awful lot of engine racket; we assume it was a tractor pull or something.

  7. Bernie Kasper Avatar

    I always hated the fair Jim….clown phobia lol !!! BTW Very nice pics !!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t like clowns either! Glad you liked the pics.

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