Fun at the Fair

September 07, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Idaho likes fairs. Each year it holds three big ones: in Blackfoot (Eastern Idaho State Fair), Boise (Western Idaho State Fair), and Coeur d'Alene (Northern Idaho State Fair). Not to be confused with county fairs, of which there are a few dozen, Idaho state fairs are the really sizeable shindigs.

The Blackfoot Fair, which opened last Friday and continues through the 9th, takes place in my neck of the woods. It's the region's largest and longest-running annual event: 2023's celebration is the 123rd edition.

What began as a modest livestock competition at the turn of the last century has grown into a huge festival hosting more than 250,000 people. Animal competitions and displays still play a major role, but people also head out to the fairgrounds to see all sorts of exhibits and demonstrations, sample a wide variety of food, and enjoy entertainment ranging from free acts to big name headliners. There's a rodeo, too.

Speaking of food, it wouldn't be an Idaho State Fair without an Ice Cream Potato. Not really a potato, it's a sundae camouflaged to look like a baked spud - though there really is such a thing as Idaho Potato Ice Cream. Look for the recipe on the Idaho Potato Commission's website.

But wait, I haven't mentioned the rides - of which there are many.

I don't go to the fair to ride the rides. I go to photograph them. 

The carnival area at Blackfoot is sizeable, bustling with activity and decorated with bright colors. Wander around to find plenty of interesting subject matter. 

Once the sun begins to set and the rides light up, though, it's a whole new ballgame - similar to shooting a fireworks show, and the fact that it lasts a lot longer is a big bonus. Should you so desire, it's possible to spend a few hours making abstracts before they close up shop for the night.

As with any pyrotechnics display, there can be frequent shifts of color temperature and intensity. Unlike fireworks, you'll probably also find yourself adjusting composition quite a bit: many of the rides bank to the left and right or move up and down while spinning. They're also quite a bit closer than a fireworks show.

Spinning speeds vary during the course of a ride, too, which - depending on the result you're trying to achieve - requires shutter speed and/or f-stop adjustments. Or both.

I used a 70-200mm lens the entire time I was at the fair. Of course the camera was on a tripod in order to photograph the rides in motion. Shutter speeds ranged from 1.3 to 1.6" - around one second or so. Though I was initially a bit concerned about whether the tripod would be an issue, I was able to find a spot where I was tucked out of the way but had good line of sight to five different rides without having to move very far.  

The only issue was tearing myself away!

If you like to make abstracts or are into street photography, take your camera to the midway. 

Following is a sampling of the Eastern Idaho State Fair's carnival grounds.

In Other News 

If you care about the well-being of bears - and grizzlies in particular - please consider contacting your representatives regarding pending Federal legislation to remove grizzlies from protection. I'm sad/embarrassed/frustrated that Idaho's Senator Jim Risch is the one who introduced S. 2571 which, if passed, will fully delist grizzly bears in the Lower 48 from Endangered Species Act Protections. Idaho's other Senator (Mike Crapo) and Senator Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming) co-sponsored the bill. 

In the House, H.R. 1245, if passed, would delist grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. That legislation was sponsored by Rep. Hagemann (Wyoming). Also in the House, Rep. Zinke (Montana) secured an amendment to a federal spending bill that would delist grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Given the fact that Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are openly hostile to grizzlies (and wolves), none of this is surprising. Lamentable, yes. Unconscionable. But not a shocker.

It's all over for the bears if any of this legislation passes. 

Neither the Feds nor the states are the good guys - Fed-sponsored extermination wiped out most wolves across the U.S. in the 1920s and '30s, after all - but in this specific instance, Federal protection is the lesser of two evils, at least for the time being. 

The bears need our help.

Just my two cents.  


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