Street Photography When You Live In The Boonies


An Argentinean writer and photographer living in the Pacific Northwest, Lorraine Healy is a long-time fan of plastic cameras and is the author of “Tricks With A Plastic Wonder,” a manual for achieving better results with a Holga camera, available as an eBook from In this article, Healy explains how you can find ways to do street photography even if you live in a rural area.

According to the latest statistics, 80% of the U.S. population now lives in cities or suburbs—a great thing for the street photographer! I imagine the percentage is true for many countries in the world. Chances are, if you like doing urban photography, you already are close to a significant urban center that allows you to do so. For those of us who live in more rural areas, street or urban photography becomes harder. Yes, there is always driving to the closest city, but that is not always possible.

One of the ways I have found to do street photography where I live is try to shoot at festivals, fairs, farmers’ markets, and bigger community events especially in the summer, when there are many of them and the weather tends to be nicer so more people show up. One weekend in August, there were two events happening simultaneously that I wanted to shoot. They were both annual occasions that I had photographed previously so I knew what to expect and how to prepare. The first one was the 17th Annual Whidbey Highland Games at the Greenbank Farm in Greenbank, Washington.

Carrying the caber into the Opening Ceremonies. Sprocket Rocket, Fuji 400 Color Negative © Lorraine Healy

Highland Games

While our local games are one of the smallest in the country, proud Scots and fellow Celts from Western Washington State and British Columbia, Canada come down every August for a Saturday of crazy athletic feats, beautiful Scottish and Irish dancing, and a healthy dose of bagpipes and drums. Almost everyone wears kilts and there is tartan everywhere you look, so it is a paradise for color photography.

Scottish dancers getting ready to perform at the Opening Ceremonies. Holga N, Fuji 400 NPH © Lorraine Healy

This time, I took one of my Holgas and a new Sprocket Rocket that I wanted to test. It was heavily overcast with dark clouds threatening a rain that never came. It’s my absolute favorite kind of sky and light: not too flat, but not too bright that it becomes the issue to deal with.

One of the delights of attending Highland Games is the chance to see a bunch of burly men in kilts and tank tops throwing immensely heavy things up in the air or sideways in a field, or huge stones as far as they can manage. But wait, there’s more: women do it, too! But with a wee bit less weight, or in some cases a bale of hay with a pitchfork over increasing heights. I wondered how my plastic lovelies would do with these action shots and I was very pleasantly surprised. Both the Holga and the Sprocket Rocket came through.

(1) I merged two negatives in post-production since I had taken them from the exact same place one after the other. Holga N, Fuji 400 NPH (2) The 56-pound bell-weight for height. Sprocket Rocket, Fuji 400 Color Negative (3) Throwing for height for women. Sprocket Rocket, Fuji 400 Color Negative ©Lorraine Healy

And did I mention some of the characters? Here’s Mark of the McGregors, who graciously gave me permission to take this shot. And answered that question for the ages: what do they wear under the kilt???

Holga N, Fuji 400 NPH © Lorraine Healy

The County Fair

Our local fair started out small in 1912 and it truly has not grown that much over the years. It takes place every August on the fairgrounds of the charming town of Langley, Washington. Not having grown up in the U.S., I find these agricultural fairs endlessly endearing, like something from an old movie that has come to life: the rides, the 4-H kids and their animals, pie-eating contests, chainsaw carving demonstrations, greasy delicious food, and a chance to see tons of neighbors, friends, and acquaintances.

The rides. Holga N, Lomography Xpro Slide 200 © Lorraine Healy

Even though the day I attended the fair was the day after the Highland Games, the weather was completely different. So I brought a different film: the Lomography Xpro Slide 200 for the Holga N because I knew it would give me great warm colors and was unlikely to blow the highlights, a couple of 100 ISO films for the Sprocket Rocket, an ancient expired roll I got from an online auction, and a fairly fresh Fuji Reala.

(1) The rides. Sprocket Rocket, expired 100 ISO film (2) More rides. Sprocket Rocket, Fuji Reala (3) Carnival man in the shadows. Holga N, Lomography Xpro Slide 200 © Lorraine Healy

This summer I have been on a “childhood” kick, looking for ways to shoot children just being children but without, in any way, alarming parents or needing to ask for releases. So I’ve been practicing getting sideway shots or images where there is more emphasis on gesture than a really clear face. With that in mind, I headed for the pie-eating contest for kids.

(1) Pie-eating contest: we have a winner. Sprocket Rocket, Fuji Reala. Highlights a tad blown (2) Pie-eating contest: it’s all over. Holga N, Lomography Xpro Slide 200 © Lorraine Healy

After two days of rural street photography, I was tired, dusty, and ridiculously happy. I had several rolls of film to send out to my lab and an anxious week to wait until they came back. In the meantime, there was the Farmers Market beckoning.

written by Lorraine Healy on 2015-10-05 #lifestyle #summer #medium-format #festivals #35mm #street-photography #fairs

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  1. poglad
    poglad ·

    Wonderful photos, Lorraine. :-)

  2. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @poglad Thanks so much!

  3. kimmiechem2
    kimmiechem2 ·

    Great article!

  4. lorrainehealy
    lorrainehealy ·

    @kimmiechem2 thanks so much! Apologies for not replying sooner, I was traveling (and shooting some more!)

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