By Brian Evans –

Just because summer is drawing its last breath doesn’t mean you have to pack your camera away until the spring thaw.  In addition to the upcoming autumn foliage, fall sports, and your annual covered bridge tour (What, you don’t go on one?) there are also target-rich environments for photography popping up in towns across the Northeast almost every week.

Local county fairs, festivals, and farm shows offer a diverse amount of shooting opportunities.  Whether you like street portraits, do detail work, or focus on the finer things in life (batter-dipped, deep-fried, peanut butter-infused Oreos anyone?) there’s bound to be a subject that catches your eye.  I love shooting at fairs because of the vibrant colors, unique personalities, and wide variety of potential photos I can find in a relatively small footprint.

If you need some ideas for the types of shots to look for, while simultaneously expanding your waistline with your third plate of funnel cake, check out these fair & festival shot suggestions below.

The Animals

Every good county fair has its roots in farming, and with that tradition comes all kind of livestock displays.  Because we’re Lancaster County residents, we probably have more than our fair share of opportunities to photograph farm animals.  A different angle to examine at the fairs is the relationship between the livestock and their handlers. Pay attention in particular to the 4-H kids and how they interact with their animals.   Seeing them together with the livestock grooming them, feeding and caring for them, and getting them ready for show, can be quite fascinating and revealing.

The Rides

The midways of carnivals are bursting with color, movement, and excitement.  Stay for twilight with your tripod to catch the spinning colors of rides with some long exposures set against the fading color in the sky.

The Food

One of the main attractions at the fairs (at least for me anyway) is also one of the richest for photo opportunities.  Whether you’re shooting the food itself, the people enjoying the culinary creations, or the workers preparing the foodstuff, a wide array of shots are available to explore.

The People

Many a colorful character can be found at fairs and festivals, particularly if you attend a Renaissance Faire.  Often, the folks at these types of faires are very proud of the character and costuming they’ve created and are flattered you might want to immortalize their efforts.  Remember it’s always best to engage with your subject and ask their permission first before capturing their portrait.

The Games

Vivid colors, bright lights, winners, losers, enormous prizes, and GOLDFISH!  The drama and explosion of hues and textures inherent in carnival game booths just draw your camera in.

Don’t Forget the Details

Lots of little bits and pieces make up a county fair: the blue ribbons, the grills of the antique tractors, the award-winning quilt, the gears on the mechanical taffy puller, the large grouping of licensed character balloons.  Make sure to get in nice and tight and capture a few of the smaller moments that flesh out the bigger story.

Upcoming Local (and one not-so-local) Fairs for Fall 2015