Friendly Carnival Faces

Leo Carillo, 57, of Oroville is the quintessential showman. He darts back and forth "yo-yoing" with the ball as he entices carnival visitors to test their skills at his game booth.Dragging the shutter at 1/2 sec f8 ISO 100 with the 580EX Speedlight in Lumiquest softbox at 1/4 power

One in wins, one in wins” yells Leo Carillo, 57 of Oroville.

His Cheech Marin -like voice could be heard over the din of the carnival activity and music from the nearby carousel.

“You ready?” he asks playfully  to everyone who passes by.

Occasionally they challenge him to show that indeed sinking a basketball in the carnival’s hoop is not difficult and he obliges.

Many step up, pay $2 to try their luck to win a huge stuffed animal.

Carillo says he has a good time at this job regardless of the crowds.

Alejandra Perdomo who mans the ping pong ball throw booth allowed me to step into her office. Speedlight in Lumiquest softbox on the left. ISO 200 1/80 @ f2.8
Miguel Sanchez, paused a moment to allow me to photograph him. Mixed light conditions of mostly tungsten, sodium vapor meant I had to use my flash to light him.


As expected Carillo and his fellow employees of Midway of Fun carnival spend a lot of time on the road.

Most stays at one city is usually one week. They arrive early in the week, set up and are ready for the crowds on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Then they tear down on Mondays and are on the road again to the next city before long to repeat the cycle again.

On the carnival’s recent swing through Moreno Valley, they set up at the Canyon Springs mall parking lot.

Time of the day

This gentleman declined to give me his name but didn't mind that I take his picture. Late evening's directional light gives wonderful warm colors in skin tones.

I’m sure you’ve all heard it repeated over and over again that lighting is at least 75% of any good picture. The remaining 25% may be subject selection and camera technique.

The exact percentages will vary depending on who you ask, but those 3 are the biggies.

Even though the carnival opens its doors at 1pm on those 3 days, the light at that time is just terrible for pictures.

Rather than exhaust myself shooting in bad light, I knew my best bet would late evening–an hour before sunset around 6pm.

Ticket sellers greeted my camera with a smile.

Strong directional light in the evening not only gives you warmer colors, it also gives you options to backlight, sidelight your subject.
And all you need to do is move or change your shooting position.

If you have good people skills you can even get your subject to move to where the light suits your needs.

Backgrounds that would be a distraction at midday will now appear black or dark because they are in heavy shadow.


If you’re interested in photographing faces, get used to talking with complete strangers.

Also, learn to take “no” as a possible answer.

All the employees of the carnival were very pleasant and alright with me taking their pictures

Some even enjoyed the attention.

I had one gentleman say it was okay to take his picture but he didn’t  want to give me his name.

Carlos Serrano of San Bernardino mans the dart game booth. Nikon 135mm F2 lens with Canon adaptor on Canon 5D Mark 2 body.
I goofed on this one. I forgot to ask this very nice lady for her name after she agreed to be photographed.

I didn’t find that to be a problem since I was planning to only use the pictures on my blog.


When you get good at talking to strangers you might be surprised at what they will let you do.

I asked Alejandra Perdomo who was manning the ping pong ball game booth if I could step over the barrier to get closer and she said, “Of course”

My reason?  My speedlight  inside the Lumiquest softbox loses 2 f-stops of light.

Also, by getting closer, the light  source  relative to my subject’s face is now bigger and therefore softer.

Getting closer also allows me to use a lower power setting so that by the Speedlight will recycle faster.

That in turn allows me to shoot rapidly as I work my charm on my subject. 😉

The more important reason to get closer once my subject is comfortable  with me ?

I don’t have to yell over the noise and I can speak at normal conversational volume.

Next: carnival ambience

2 thoughts on “Friendly Carnival Faces”

  1. Hello Wanda,
    Always great to hear from you. Dragging the shutter is kind of fun especially if you can visualize where the light sources are in the frame whenever you’re moving the camera while the shutter is open.

    Hardest part is moving the camera in such a manner that the lights don’t end up bleeding into the face of your subject. If the trail of blurry lights cuts into your subject’s body, it isn’t as bad.

    Do share the hyperlink of the picture you have in mind and I can post it here, so that others may see what we’re talking about.

    Thanks for commenting.

  2. I like the shutter-dragging shot, because I got a lot of those shooting a wedding reception on Saturday night. It was a tossup between getting a clear subject with a dark background, or getting a slightly blurry subject with some of the background, to add to the overall effect of the photo. I chose the latter.

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