Two years ago, I took a week off from work in August and decided to spend a day at the fair. I had the itch to photograph the variety of things I'd heard about or seen in media coverage over the years. And after I got into and out of an off-grounds parking lot easily (paying a mere $5) on that trip, fully enjoying my leisurely stroll and picture-taking experience on the grounds in between, I wanted to kick myself afterward for not trying harder previously to make more annual treks.
I didn't make it to the fair in 2012, but I resolved to do so again this year. I kept that resolution on Wednesday, which -- except perhaps for a brisk wind that at one point knocked off the cap I was wearing -- was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outdoors. Temperatures were in the low 70s, and the crowd was on the thin size because of the weekday. And, like in 2011, I very much enjoyed the experience.
I tried to photograph new things, and I did accomplish that for the most part. Still, there is a bit of tradition at the fair, and you like to see familiar things year to year to remind you that you're in the right place, and that this should be considered a home away from home for Hoosiers. So it was inevitable that I photographed things I did two years ago.
Probably the biggest "new" picture thing this year was the harness racing, which I happened upon by luck as my leisurely stroll reached the eastside of the fairgrounds and I came upon the horse stables and track gate opening, giving me brief, unfettered photo access. I photographed participants as they entered and left the track through the opening and during warmups. When it was race time, I slid over behind the wire fence and poked the camera through an opening to capture racers as they rounded the first and second turns. I also quickly grabbed a profile of a horse at the end of one of the stables along the track, one of my favorite shots this year.
I'm not a horse "expert," when it comes to photography. Amy Latka, a fellow member of the Indy Meetup Photo Club, answers that description. I hope she looks in on the few samples of my shoot here and lets me know how I did. There's an art to capturing a horse in stride, and I think most people who photograph horses in motion will agree that you'll always have "misses" among the "hits." I'm hoping I found enough "hits" in the inclusions here, beginning with the one that leads off this post.
I also was fortunate to come upon showings of some sort in the cattle and hog barns on the south end of the track and, a bit later on the north end, some sheep in a mini-exhibit of sorts in the FFA building. Two years ago, I somehow missed the neat arched gateway to the midway that westbound pedestrians see as they approach the rides from the south thoroughfare, so I made a point to photograph that, too.
It's hard to miss the coliseum as you walk along the south thoroughfare, but I didn't take any pictures of that storied structure two years ago. Perhaps that was because, just across the thoroughfare from the coliseum, is the enormous grandstand that overlooks the track, and in 2011, I focused on the dramatic angles and height of that structure. This year, I made a point to pay attention to the coliseum exterior, but curiously, I didn't think to see if I could go inside to check on the progress of the remodeling project.
I did pay attention to the exterior of the new Glass Barn on the north end of the grounds, photographing it from several angles. I didn't go inside, however, electing to save that for next year's trip. And yes, I'm confident there will be a trip there in 2014.
And like in 2011, I chased after as many opportunities to bracket my exposures for later processing in high-dynamic range (HDR) software as possible, even if the main subject of a photo (a building or other stationary object) happened to also involve people on the move. As expected, the HDR versions resulted in motion blur after processing the composite, but I'm growing less and less bothered by that aspect in HDR, even though I would prefer it sharp like single-frame shots.
Given all of the above, and the fact that my goal was to travel light to avoid early fatigue, I turned again to my Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD lens for everything, and it did not let me down. In 2011, I also carried a small bag to hold a Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 wide-angle lens, which I turned to exclusively when I photographed the classic cars on the northeast end of the grounds. But I left that lens home, figuring I'd have enough breadth with the Tamron' 18mm ... and I knew I wasn't going to devote much time, if any, on the classic cars this year.
The Tamron lens, and its superior vibration compensation (VC) technology, has enabled me to do what no other lens I own has -- hand-hold the camera for bracketed shots to process in HDR. It's become a no-brainer for me when I need to be on my feet all day ... and I want to dabble in some HDR. This year I found, that even when indoors, the lens' variable f/stop aspect didn't deter me. My Canon 7D's very good light sensitivity sensor allowed be to use an ISO as high as 4000 without serious image degradation, although I rarely went higher than 3200, which I've found to be the 7D's threshold for noise I find acceptable.
So enough on the background story; time for some pictures. Enjoy. A full gallery of shots can be found among my galleries at SmugMug.
Above and next two below: Youths with their cattle in queue for showing competition.
Above: At a hog showing competition.
Above and below: Sheep in the special exhibit at the FFA building, including a youngster (below) who is getting a charge out of one animal feeding out of his hand while the boy grabs more food from the dispenser.
Above and next two below: Variations of my shots of the Midway entrance from the south thoroughfare.
Above: A sketch and caricature artist, composing from a digital image on a mobile device provided by the customer.
Above: The historical Hook Drugs store near the southwest gate.
Above: The main entrance to the Home & Family Arts building, where submissions for the annual photography contest are displayed. I saw the names of several acquaintances under work on display this year.
Above: One of my compositions of the coliseum exterior. This is an HDR version, which I liked because of the way the composite enhanced the detail of the gentleman in the foreground and the concession stand behind him.
Above: Of the "new" food vendors I noticed this year, this one stood out because I don't remember seeing it two years ago. I didn't try these; maybe next year?
Above and below: Gardening and wine, a couple of my favorite things, had a splash in the DuPont Food Pavilion.
Above and below: Waiting in line (above) in the DuPont Food Pavilion for my free container of popcorn (below). 2013 is the Year of Popcorn at the State Fair, and being a huge fan of popcorn, I was thrilled.
Above and below: So what food DID I sample this year? For lunch, I elected to go with the white fish sandwich basket (above), which includes sides of fries and coleslaw. For garnish (and for the picture), I sprinkled the last few kernels of my popcorn on top. I chased down the meal with a Diet Pepsi. For my afternoon snack, I turned to a cob of roasted corn and my first-ever lemon shakeup. The beverage ($5) cost more than the corn ($3), but you get a nice reusable cup and sturdy straw ... and they said you can get the cup refilled with lemonade drinks throughout the grounds for $3 each. I didn't stick around long enough to see if that were true.
Above: Concluding the food portion of the photos with a huge more-than-life-size pineapple, which was at a vending booth near the grandstands along the south thoroughfare.
Above: Noticed this reflection in one of the exhibit cars on display in the median of the south thoroughfare.
Above: A stab at profiling the columns on this building along the south thoroughfare.
Above and next several below: Shots from my time photographing the harness race participants and competition. Amy ... good, bad or ugly?
Above: A profile shot of a horse in a stall near the end of the stable not far from the east gate onto the track.
Above: From the water conservation area north of the stables and east of the track.
Above and next two below: Frames from the pioneer village, where the old-timers needed to take time to catch a couple of winks during the day ... or show visitors some of the newest tricks of the trade.
Above: On the fringe of the pioneer village.
The Greenhouse Garden (above) and the new Glass Barn (below).
Above: Craft work by youths on display.
Above: An exhibit/display in the FFA building.
Above: In the butterfly garden near the DNR building and free stage area.
Above and next two below: I photographed balloon caricatures on my last visit and couldn't resist this year. The one of Dora the Explorer (first below) I grabbed for my two granddaughters; the one of Spider-Man below is for my two grandsons.
Above and below: Shots from vendors selling stuffed animals. The one above grabbed my attention because of the bright color of the larger one; the one below reminded me of GinaMarie on this season's Big Brother 15 television show. She owns and occasionally wears a pink animal hat like the thing on the left.
Above and next three below: Some of the most interesting artwork at the fair can be found on the facades of the midway attractions like these.