Here are some tips for photographing pumpkins at the Jack-o-Lantern Spectacular at Roger Williams Zoo. Click on this image to access the event website.
Last year my attempt at photographing the illuminated pumpkins met with some reasonable results, but I used my flash to partially light the exterior of the pumpkins while the internal lighting. I had read that tripods were not allowed, so I didn’t bring mine; although I did meet a club member who did have a tripod. He noted he just carried it in hanging from a strap on his shoulder and no one said anything. This year, the web site states that both tripods and flash are not allowed. The rationale is that they “may not be used out of consideration for other people enjoying the magic of the trail”. I guess countless numbers of excited, screaming kids running around and the corresponding number of strollers that serve as tripping hazards don’t count as irritants to the rest of us. Don’t get me started.
Anyway, this year I did bring my tripod, which I kept folded and retracted by my side, blocking its view from any official looking individual. I was approached three times on the trail by security people who indicated that tripods were not allowed. I politely noted that there were no signs at the entrance, and no one pointed that out to me when I came in. I said that I understood the concerns, would not spread the legs out and would not cause a tripping hazard. I did use the tripod, but only spread the legs out about a foot apart. This was sufficient as I kept one hand on the tripod below the head, and kept downward pressure on the tripod to provide a stable enough platform to make ½ second images at f8.
The images shown here were taken at ISO 1600, with exposure compensation set to -1 2/3 EV (remember our exposure lecture?) when the camera was set to aperture priority. I later switched to manual mode and set the exposure manually and left it there for the rest of the night.
If you plan on going to photograph the pumpkins at the zoo, you don’t need to bring a bag full of lenses. I recommend taking just one lens mounted to your camera, the widest zoo you have. This lets you get close to the main pumpkin in your composition, and it lets you get closer to the displays. It gets very crowded, and photographing through a crowd can be frustrating. I was able to stay out of the main flow of visitors by getting close to the display. The key is don’t be obvious (with your tripod), and don’t be obnoxious. If we can show that photographers can reasonably use tripods during this event, perhaps it won’t increase the scrutiny of the security staff and get people tossed out.