A tale of two carnivals


The Portland Rose Festival is here again, and once again the Waterfront Park is alive with festivities, food, entertainment and carnival rides.

My wife and I checked out the festivities Saturday lunch time with my neighbor and their two boys. Surprisingly, I expected attendance to be stronger, but I’m not complaining. I lugged along my Nikon D200 and one lens, my trusty 17-55mm f/2.8. I wanted to travel relatively light, and that was as light as I was willing to go.

While the boys enjoyed the rides, I took the chance to shoot a little. My best shots for the day were of the ferris wheel, and of one of the games with a pool of rubber ducks.

Ferris wheel at the Waterfront Park
Ferris wheel

Ferris wheel at the Waterfront Park II
Ferris wheel with Matterhorn ride in the foreground

Hard to keep my ducks in a row
Hard to keep my ducks in a row

So where’s the other carnival I indicated in the title? Well, it’s actually the same carnival but at night. The darkness and the bright lights gave a totally different atmosphere to the images taken at the carnival.

My wife and I went some length to get good photos of the carnival at night. I had an idea how I wanted the photos to turn out. I wanted the motion blur of lights from the turning of the ferris wheel. To achieve that, I needed my tripod, so I lugged that with me for my night shoot.

The Waterfront Park is on the west bank of the Willamette river. We figured we could get good photos of the lights from the carnival from the east bank. Unfortunately, without having to trudge a long distance on the Esplanade river walk, the ferris wheel was blocked by the Morrison Bridge as the wheel was just north of the bridge. So we drove over to the Burnside Bridge, which was north of the ferris wheel. No go. Trees blocked the view. Finally, we drove down to the carnival itself and found the best shots were right where I photoed during the day. Turned out more people seemed to be visiting at night as it was definitely busier than the day.

The two photos below are similar to the first two, but feel totally different. Reviewing the camera LCD after each shoot was important for me to get the right exposure. I took several of each and adjusted the exposure compensation accordingly. In the end, exposures of about 10-20 secs were what I needed to achieve the looks I wanted. Ooo… pretty lights…

Ferris wheel at the Waterfront Park IV
Ferris wheel at night

Ferris wheel at the Waterfront Park III
Ferris wheel and Matterhorn ride at night

The carnival runs through next weekend, so if you’re a Portlander or will be in the vicinity visiting, why not check it out and drop me your thoughts on what opportunities I missed.


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