Photographing a favorite amusement park ride

July 25, 2019

My eyes and attention are simply drawn to it every time my family visits Ocean City, N.J.

Just south of East 10th Street on the boardwalk you find Castaway Cove, an amusement park catering to toddlers and teens. You’ll know it by the oversized pirate ship and bearded captain lording over the entrance, not to mention the delighted screams of riders from rollercoasters to those drop towers.

We visit this place at least once a year, sometimes more, and whenever we do, there I find one of my favorite objects to photograph — the 27-foot-high swings.

According to the owners of Castaway Cove, the ride is hand-painted and imported from Italy, churning at 11 rounds per minute.

I’ve been photographing these swings for seven years, and this past Easter, I landed the below shot.

I’m never not impressed how every time I photograph the swings it comes out looking like candy, the colors so rich and thick — even on a sunny afternoon when it’s difficult to balance direct light and shadow.

Fortunately, my wife and kids allow me a good 10 to 15 minutes every year to get “the perfect shot.” So I have to be fast and hope not only is the lighting adequate but the camera settings are too.

I usually set an f/stop of f/9 or greater because I want sharpness and plenty depth of field, not a problem when using a wide angle lens like 24mm.

The most important part of this, though, is your shutter speed. I’m trying to freeze fast motion, so I go for nothing less than 1/800 of a second, a real challenge when you’re trying a small aperture size.

That’s why you have to boost your ISO. But don’t worry too much about losing detail or increasing grain; there’s so much daylight it becomes almost a non-factor.

What’s your favorite amusement park ride to photograph? Tell me in the comments below and link to a place where we can all see your work.

Dave Pidgeon is a photographer and writer from Lancaster, Pa. You can reach him at

More about Dave Pidgeon

Dave is the author of and lives in Lancaster, Pa., with his wife and their three sons.

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