Living in the state that has all of the major attractions, you learn how to “work the system”. Anyone can go to Disney or Busch Gardens and pay full price, but who wants to do that? Usually, halfway through the year, Busch Gardens and Sea World will offer a “come one day and play all year” deal. This basically gives you an annual pass for the last six months. I believe that we paid around $65 each for this deal. We went five or six times so we got our moneys worth. If you break it down, you can now go for about $10 a visit instead for the full retail. By the way, the same company owns Busch Gardens and Sea World, so you may see similar deals offered at each park. (We just found out last week that they are going to be putting in the second largest water park in the state about five minutes from our house. I can’t wait to see what is going to happen with the traffic in this county with a median age of 68!)
Having visited these parks many times, after while it gets challenging to find something new or interesting to photograph. Here is the other fun fact; I found out the hard way that my “body type” doesn’t fit the new roller coaster seats that are being developed. My wife who is skinny whinny and is 5’ 3” is the “perfect body type” for these coasters. Some of the parks are now putting out sample seats for you to try before you waste your time waiting in line. While she is off enjoying the coasters, I usually amuse myself with something to photograph.
During one of my trips to Busch Gardens, I decided that I wanted to try and freeze these rides in motion. It’s common practice when you get off the ride that they want to sell you a photo of yourself with your sunglasses going mach two into your face. I look all around the ride to see where might be a good spot to try and freeze the next coming car. This requires a couple of things, first a fast shutter speed. I’m talking at least a 1/1000 to start. Second, you need a lens that will open up wide enough to support this speed and still get a good exposure. If it’s a little overcast, I will raise my ISO to 200 or 400 if needed. I also shoot in manual, I have tried doing this in both aperture priority and shutter priority, and both have let me down. With manual, I can ensure that I get the shot that I’m envisioning. Lastly, I like to use manual focus. I don’t care how good some of these lenses are. I find if something is moving anywhere between 100-600 mph, the auto focusing can be a bit slow. Roller coasters coming out of a loop or a corkscrew can be moving quite fast. (When I’ve had to photograph the Blue Angels, they are moving at 600mph+!)
In the above image, I wanted to freeze the water, as these poor souls got soaked. I guess it’s a good thing that I don’t fit on some of these rides. Here I manually focused on the rail, when the car came buy I took the shot. Here’s one other tip, I use continuous or burst mode on the camera. I’m not that good to get the car exactly where I want it on one press of the shutter button. Rattling off 10 frames a second, will ensure that you will get at least one good one. It’s also fun to stand next to someone and watch their eyes as they hear your camera sound like a machine gun. With a fast shutter speed you can see how the water actually jumps in the car with the people when the car hits the pool of water.
In this photo, this is one of Busch Gardens signature rides. They have a great spot for spectators to stand and watch. I believe this is the area where they take the photo. I kept seeing a flash go off at this spot. Check out the guy in the second row, last seat on the right. He’s giving the thumbs up. I think that he has been to this rodeo before. Some of the folks seem to like this ride and others….well you be the judge.
This is the same ride as above. However, at this spot they use water to slow down the car, which gives it this rooster tail. I was fortunate enough to see this from a distance the first time. There was another photographer who was right up against the fence. When the car went buy…he and his gear got soaked! I guess he missed the sign that said. “Warning: This is a wet area”. I wanted to get a shot of this so I ducked into a shop and used a telephoto lens. I have to admit, this isn’t the greatest photo due to the net at the bottom. I could take it out in Photoshop, but I think that would take to long for my taste. (I did try content aware fill. It didn’t work)
I find that sometimes that the guests themselves are the attraction. In the above photo, do you think that the squirrel is used to seeing people? My wife and I were walking by and this fellow guest, and he was trying to pet this little guy. Now, I’m not the brightest bulb in the pack, but what if the squirrel had bit him? That is why I was taking photos of course! It worked out for him. It looked as if the squirrel wanted something to eat. This is something that you don’t see everyday.
This last photo won’t win any awards either. I was battling position from other tourists so I couldn’t get as close to the glass to eliminate the reflection. Oh well, you get what you get sometimes. By the way, that’s my wife in the box feeding herself to the tiger. I’m glad that I just paid up the life insurance.
There you have it. When you go to any tourist spot, be sure to sit back and take notice of the people around you. You may find that some of the non-traditional vacation photos may be your strongest. I recommend taking a piece of fast glass such as a 50mm f/1.4 and a versatile telephoto such as a 18mm-200mm. These two pieces of glass are light and will easily store in your pocket. This way you will be ready for any situation that may come your way.
Until next time…
Keep Your Glass Clean