When the Manistee County Fair Bump-n-Run came to my attention on an online calendar of events, I knew there were busted metal and brave drivers in my near future. When there are no paying photo assignments coming your way or if you simply want to keep your photography well-oiled—as one should since like anything, it’s important to keep the creative muscles working—it’s time to look for a fun self-assignment.
Side Note: Access– Village Voyaging friends, one of the most challenging elements of photography can come down to access, or lack thereof. In my experience it’s all about the access. Once you’ve gained access, it’s nice when there isn’t fierce competition or interference from other photographers. This is one of the many benefits of small-town photography; oftentimes, access is much easier and competition from other photographers is minimal.
Arriving early to the event, or any event, can be crucial for access and also for scouting and getting the lay of the land. For this self-assignment, I arrived about an hour-and-a-half early. This was extremely helpful because once an event gets going things can be hectic. Photographic opportunities often about before or after an actual event.
My idea for the bump-n-run was to capture some portraits and details. For this my primary gear was to be my DSLR and a 35mm lens. I like the 35mm because it’s perfect for environmental portraiture. You have to be comfortable with getting close but it’s a fantastic perspective. Also, I figured that not many photographers go to the trouble to bring a portable softbox for such an event so I schlepped my C-stand and softbox around with me. It was heavy but so worth it.
Another tip is that sometimes that first photo can be the hardest, not unlike writer’s block. For this it’s a good idea to take photos of something you find even slightly interesting to help break through; it’s like priming the pump.
One of the most exciting aspect of portraits in a situation like this is that you don’t know how it’s going to go but you’re going to try and be determined. When you will yourself to come away with something good it often happens. Positive self-talk goes a long way if you’re in a rut. Not far from where I parked was a group of drivers who’d just parked their rig and car. I approached one of them to take a portrait and they were game to do so. Excellent!
After the first portrait I photographed another and then one more. The light was magnificent; a thin layer of clouds were overhead which allowed just enough evening warmth to make it through. Once you find your photo groove it’s nice to stick with it. A couple of people didn’t want their portrait taken which is always fine because one can kindly continue asking until someone says ,”Ok.” While I was portrait shooting, I was keeping an eye out for details unique to the event. Bump-n-runs and demolition derbys are great for details.
Before I knew it, green flag was waving and the metal beasts were roaring while making haggard ovals.