Photography

A visit to the 2021 Indiana State Fair

Well, this post was originally scheduled to go live on Tuesday, but there was a glitch and it went live immediately. I pulled it, but then thought better of it and am putting it back up. Today is the last day of the State Fair anyway so it’s appropriate.

Before my kids grew up and launched into independent adult lives, we went to the Indiana State Fair every summer. It lasts most of August every year. Our last visit was in 2017 — and this year, I decided I wanted to go because I enjoyed it. Margaret and I went on the Saturday after my birthday. I ate a giant smoked turkey leg and fried walleye, and bought a big bag of kettle corn. I managed to forget my other State Fair tradition, which is to have some soft serve at the dairy barn. Drat it! Next year.

I brought my Nikon Df along, to which I had mounted my giant 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Nikkor lens. I got that lens with the Nikon N65 film SLR I used to own. Keeping the lens but not the body was the right call, and I love it that it mounts natively on the Df. At 70mm this lens provides about a 1:1 view of the world. Once in a while I had to back up a little to put my subject fully in frame, but only once in a while. At 300mm it feels like I can see halfway across the fairgrounds! This isn’t Nikon’s finest lens in either its optical design (distortion abounds) or its build quality (it’s a giant hunk of plastic, even its mount), but for days like this I’m very happy to own it.

Here are a bunch of images I made that day.

Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Indiana State Fair 2021
Photos from the 2021 Indiana State Fair.

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Bee rider

Bee rider
Canon PowerShot S95
2011

What are your thoughts about photographing children on the street?

Before I moved out of Indianapolis, I went to the State Fair every summer. I enjoyed it in its own right, but I also enjoyed practicing street photography there. Lots of people bring cameras to the State Fair, so I never stood out. I prefer not to be noticed when I make photographs in public.

The midway rides offer good opportunities to catch faces full of emotion. Most of those people are children. I didn’t used to think anything of photographing children, but I’ve since changed my mind. I finally realized that if someone had photographed my children on the street when they were small, I wouldn’t have liked it one bit.

It comes from a fatherly feeling of needing to protect my children. But protect them from what? Someone on the street with a camera probably has positive intentions and is harmless — like me, by the way, if you ever see me on the street with a camera! I suppose some creeps might photograph children on the street for their own sick purposes, but I can’t imagine it’s the common case.

As an adult, if some stranger photographs me on the street and I don’t want to be photographed, I can do something about it. I can ask them to stop, or leave. I suppose I could tell them off, or punch them in the mouth, or call the police on them — probably not the best responses, but you get my point: there are things I can do.

Children lack that agency. When I aim my camera at them, they are at my mercy. So I don’t do it anymore. I will photograph scenes where children happen to be in it, along with adults. But I don’t make photographs like this one anymore.

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Essay, Photography

single frame: Bee rider

A girl riding at the State Fair.

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Sunset at the fair

Sunset leaving the State Fair
iPhone 6S
2017

At Christmastime last year I got an email offer from the Indiana State Fair to buy tickets at an incredible discount. So I bought four. Naturally, come July I’d forgotten all about it. Another email offer came to buy more discounted tickets, and I bought four. And then I discovered the email confirmation from the Christmastime purchase. Indiana State Fair, I’m wise to your ways now!

Margaret and I and some of our kids used six of the tickets the day before my 50th birthday. I figured I’d never make time to use the last two tickets, but then a Thursday evening opened up unexpectedly while the Fair was still running. Margaret and I headed right down there after work.

It was a lovely, cool evening. The sun had almost finished setting as we were leaving. This was the view across infield parking. Typical of Indiana sunsets, the colors were lovely. What made it remarkable were some unusually low clouds that the fading light silhouetted.

This day I brought no good cameras, as Margaret and I just wanted to soak in the fair and in each other. Thank heavens for my ever-present iPhone.

Photography

single frame: Sunset leaving the State Fair

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Photography

Light and color at the Indiana State Fair

It’s become personal tradition that I go to the Indiana State Fair at least once when it comes around, which this year is August 4-20.

New this year is the Skyride, which spans 1,400 feet across the fairgrounds’ front promenade. While it’s cool, the reconfiguring necessary to accommodate it cut out a lot of pedestrian space. It was crowded. I’d rather have the old configuration back.

Skyride along the fair's mains treet

But the Skyride didn’t take away any space from the food booths. All the usual vendors are back.

Funnel Cakes

My favorite two foods at the Indiana State Fair are the smoked turkey legs and the Indiana ice cream from the ice-cream barn. Oh my, the turkey legs are outstanding. Dairy doesn’t sit as well on my stomach as it used to, so I forewent the ice cream this visit. Frowny face.

Fresh Turkey Leg

I like photographing the midway the most. There’s so much to focus on, and it is challenging to capture the moving rides at just the right moment to make interesting photographs.

Swinging

I am pleased I got that fellow with his arms out like that, and the young woman looking like she was calling out to someone.

Swinging

We went to the fair after work and stayed until darkness fell. At dusk, the lights go on.

Midway entrance

Dusk is my favorite time at the fair. The hot sun has gone away and the lights are on, yet there’s enough natural light to see well.

Jessop's

The games seem even more colorful at dusk than they do in daylight.

Fabulous prizes

The midway is just at its most photogenic when it is lit.

Rides

I like to get people in the foreground of my fair-scene photographs, especially when they’re doing something interesting. I was super pleased that three Indiana State Police officers wandered into my shot as I was composing, and that my Canon S95’s shutter lag was not so bad that I couldn’t keep them in the frame.

Ferris wheel

Where night falls slowly in July, it falls quickly in August. All of a sudden, it was dark.

Sweets

We came out of the midway and walked the back half of the fairgrounds, where booths are set up with all sorts of things for sale, from hundred thousand dollar farm tractors to ten dollar pendants.

Wares

By this time we were tired. I bought my traditional giant bag of kettle corn, and a box of taffy for my youngest son, and we headed home.

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At the Fair

The fair at dusk
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
2015

Film Photography, Photography
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Thunderbolt

Thunderbolt
Pentax ME, 50mm f/1.4 SMC Pentax-M
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 800
2015

Film Photography
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