In the middle of Michigan’s coveted and short summer season, in the state’s northwestern sector, is a city where the almighty cherry is celebrated officially for one week. The town is Traverse City and the event is the National Cherry Festival.
Traverse City is my hometown so I’ve been to it a couple times. The festival offers a literal ton of events for anyone. There’s everything from parades (yes, plural) to an incredible air show, a concert series and even an air dog jumping event, just to include only some of the extensive list of goings on.
Today was the second day of it, so I decided to check it out and take some pictures with my iPhone.
Here’s a massive ‘Pro Tip’ that I simply can’t recommend enough: If you’re able to, bike into town for this event. Traverse City is wonderful for a lot of reasons; its infrastructure’s ability to handle a lot of people and cars could not be further from one of them. Combine traffic congestion with a sense of lawlessness on the roadways and you have an idea of what driving here in the summer, especially during the Cherry Festival, is like.
This, my friends, is where the bicycle comes in. There’s a great network of riding routes called the TART Trails that allows easy biking throughout town. Bring, or rent, a bike. The ability to bike directly into town and lock it up is priceless. There’s even a bike corral right in the heart of it all, if that’s where you choose to be. I like to park a few blocks away and walk in, but, that’s just me.
That’s really the number one tip I have. Once you’re at the Cherry Festival, it’s all you.
Photography Conditions Assessment
The light was high-contrast today. There were almost no clouds in sight and it was hot. These are not my favorite conditions for photography but I thought, “My favorite conditions be damned, I’m going to make some images.”
The tricky aspect of photographing an event like this is that there’s so much going on. It’s a visual overload. I typically try to photograph with simple compositions and hopefully a person or two.
At the Cherry Festival there are people everywhere and things going on all over the place, so it’s a great exercise on calming yourself down and finding something or someone to photograph.
Today, I wanted to make sure I photographed cherries and people. Nothing complicated. Even though the light wasn’t the greatest, getting out to take pictures still allows one to exercise creativity and it really helps the creative process by doing that.
Street Photography at the Cherry Festival
Since there are so many visual elements going on at the same time, I utilize a couple of different techniques. If you’re not sure what to do, try these or come up with what works for you. The more you do it, the more you’ll find what works for you as far as street photography goes.
One technique I use is to wait at a spot, visualize what might make a good picture, and then wait for some other elements—usually people—to fill the frame the way I’d like. This technique takes a little more time because sometimes you have to wait for a while before the scene is adequate. It works though.
Years ago I attended a workshop by National Geographic photographer Sam Abell, and he emphasized his preference for using this technique for making quality images.
Another method is to move quickly. What’s nice about this technique is that you can get into a pretty good zone by doing this. Your compositions and reactions become this harmonious entity within yourself and you can get into a nice flow. It keeps things spur-of-the-moment.
I used both of these techniques while attending the National Cherry Festival today.
It’s rare that such a people-rich environment is nearby so it takes me a bit to get used to it. My suggestion to you, if you go through the same apprehension about photographing people, is to be patient with the environment and yourself. But, take pictures. Once you photograph a couple of frames, it usually becomes easier and easier to photograph more frames. It’s often the first couple that are the hardest.
Most of all, get out there no matter what is happening in your village, town, city, etc., and have fun with photography.