Land of Fun

April 20, 2019  •  Leave a Comment

Last summer I was asked to create images for a book about a truly special place in Rehoboth Beach, DE -- an amusement park called Funland that has been operated by the same family since 1962.  As I learned, this boardwalk attraction has been enjoyed by many generations of families who have lived or vacationed in the area for decades.  The number of stories heard that included phrases such as "my parents brought me here and now I'm bringing my kids" are countless.  The book, "Land of Fun" has just been published so I'm able to share my cover image with you now.

In order to capture this image and others for the inside of the book, I made two trips to Funland -- the first for research purposes and to envision possible images; the second was a full day of shooting.  The author, Chris Lindsley, and I agreed that something including the iconic merry-go-round was likely the most suitable cover image.  The trick was capturing the right image.  We wanted an authentic image, not something staged.

On a busy Friday night we "camped out" near the merry-go-round watching fun-loving people of all ages hand a ride ticket to the operator and rush to get onto their favorite horse.  We would need permission from the parties photographed to publish their image in the book, so Chris and I would see someone we thought would be a good subject, approach them as they exited the ride, explain what we were doing, and offer them another (free) ride if they wanted to participate. It took a few attempts before the parents of this wonderful little girl and her younger brother agreed.

There were several elements I needed to consider when making this image:

  • We wanted parent and child as the subject to show the multi-generational appeal of Funland;
  • I needed to compose the image in a manner that would provide relatively blank areas for the title and the author's name;
  • I wanted the lights from the merry-go-round to be illuminated, so I needed to shoot with settings that would allow the background to go dark enough for the lights to glow;
  • I wanted to use studio strobe in order for the primary subject to "pop" from the rest of the image;
  • I wanted to have some blur in the image to show movement.

All of this was complicated by the fact that the merry-go-round was actually operating.  Since final composition was so important, I choose to set my lighting and focus on a particular spot, then recorded one image each time our subject came around and hit that spot.  Suffice to say, timing of the shutter release was critical.  

Both Chris and I are very pleased with the outcome.  It accomplished all that we wanted and more.  What's more?  Those florescent lights create "leading lines" that bring the readers' eye to the title and sub-title.  I had not foreseen that in my original plan, but it certainly is a nice bonus.  Additionally, I love that the American flag is visible in the background.  Amusement parks like Funland are a (dying) part of Americana, and I like that subtle reminder that Funland is an American success story.

"Land of Fun" is available for sale; you can learn more about the book and Funland,  and purchase copies here: https://www.land-of-fun.com/


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