When I was younger, and actually, right up to when Dad died back in 2010, my family had a tradition for Christmas Eve. We would sneak up on each other and shout “Christmas Eve Gift!” and the person who was “got” would have to give the other person a gift on that Christmas Eve. Now, usually, no gift was given, as it was just the fun of being the person who got the other person by surprise.
One chilly Christmas Eve in Texas (yes, if you’ve been reading the news and seeing other FB posts, it does get frosty even in SE Texas), I’d gotten up early that morning, as I usually do, and I baked a huckleberry cobbler (huckleberries are just the best). I did my weekend routine of walking next door to Mom & Dad’s to spend the morning and have coffee with them, but this time, I also had a cobbler hot from the oven. I put the cobbler down on a chair next to the back door, and unlocked the door using the key Mom & Dad gave to me some years back. The house was all dark. I opened the door a little wider, and all of a sudden, Mom & Dad jumped out from behind the door shouting “CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT!” Thankfully, I’d set the cobbler down because it would probably have been dropped to the ground otherwise. Mom & Dad were gleefully chuckling over having gotten me (because, it was usually the other way around).
Now that I am living with my sister in Washington state, we don’t do that tradition. Apparently, Christmas Eve Gift was started (or restarted) after my sister had left for college decades ago, because she said they never did it while she lived with them, and she looked at me oddly for trying it out with her. Sigh.
So, no more Christmas Eve Gift, but still lots of memories.
I know many of you will be traveling, if you are not already doing so, solo or with others, to celebrate whatever holiday you observe that comes around this time of year. So, I thought I’d get this posted, in case any of you decide to try out your own Christmas/holiday-themed photography.
Every year, it’s a tradition for me to photograph the decorated tree and to capture the warm and cool beauty of the season where I live. If it snows outside, which it has lightly done on and off for a couple of days, then I like to capture an image of the scene, including the snowy ground and looking toward and then through the window of the house, where we set up the tree and holiday lights.
I capture images of the livingroom decorations, tree, and all the presents as seen during the day and at night. During the day, the light tends to be cooler and the tree lights a little frostier and maybe even not as well seen. There’s a light, airy feeling to the daylight shot. Night, though, is a completely different story. The colors are richly saturated on their own, but with the addition of the warm gold from the tungsten lamps and the sparkly lights of the tree. Everything looks so inviting.
I make it a point to go outside at night to capture the look of the tree and decorations through the large picture window. This scene above is a sort of yin/yang composition that I often create without even knowing it. There’s the cold blue-white light of the outside light, next to the warm, golden light of the house interior.
And of course, I capture the ornaments and decorations, their colors and their sparkle.
This year, I used my Fujifilm GFX 100 and GFX 100s cameras. The GFX100 has a 45-100mm lens attached, and the 100s has a prime 23mm lens attached. The 45-100mm is analogous to a 35mm 36-79mm lens and the 23mm lens is analogous to a 35mm wide-angle 17mm lens. The photo above, however, of the light-up little snowglobes, was captured with a Sony Alpha a7riv and 24-105mm lens.
I hope all of you have a safe, peaceful, and photographically fun holiday time. Never stop taking those pictures, because that’s how you improve and learn.
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Nature does a fine job at making her own Christmas tree, don’t you think? I photographed this lovely, snow-frosted evergreen along the side of the road in Mount Rainier National Park.
And, since it’s Fun Fact Friday as well as Christmas Day, here’s a little bit of Mount Rainier tree trivia for you: The trees in this park extend all the way up to over 6,000 feet along the mountain flanks (over 1,800 meters, more or less). Forests cover approximately 58% of this national park. And most of the trees here are evergreen conifers, meaning they have needles and they keep their needles on their branches year-round.
Many of us have some sort of holiday tradition – maybe even more than one. In my family, the tradition was, on Christmas Eve, to see who could say (or shout) “Christmas Eve Gift” first, before the others could. That meant they’d been “gotten” and they had to hand over a little gift to the person who had gotten them.
One Christmas Eve morning, probably some 12-13 years ago, when I was living in an apartment in Texas, next door to my elderly parents, I woke up early to bake a huckleberry cobbler. An hour and a half later, fresh from the oven, I carefully bore my dark berry prize down the stairs and across the lawn to my parents’ back door. My intention was to get the cobbler safely onto their dining nook table, then go and wake them up with the words “Christmas Eve Gift!” and then we’d all have that luscious, hot, cobbler for breakfast.
Carefully setting the foil-covered hot cobbler down on the chair next to the back door, I brought out my set of keys and quietly unlocked the door. Stepping inside the dark house, I flicked on the light switch to the dining nook.
“CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT!” my parents shouted as they stepped from their hiding place behind the kitchen wall, extremely tickled with themselves. I’d been “gotten.” Thankfully, the cobbler was still outside on the chair, or else we’d have been spooning it up from the floor, because I’d probably have dropped it in surprise. Very clever, my parents were, on that Christmas Eve.
Mom and Dad are gone and we don’t celebrate that tradition any longer. All the other Christmas Eve Gift events, I cannot remember. This one, though, I remember as if it happened just a few minutes ago.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope you have some sort of memorable holiday tradition of your own.
Today’s blog post offers you a national parks 2-for-1.
How many Great Pyramids of Giza could fit into the Grand Canyon? That’s just one of the questions in a short national park quiz I wrote for today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler. In that article is also some interesting park trivia which you might not have known. To take the quiz and read the trivia, click on the image above
And, after you’ve finished the quiz, stay a little longer and read the end-of-year article I put together of the photo articles I wrote during 2019. Maybe you’ll learn some tips and techniques you’ve not thought of to get cool pics during your next national park visit. To get to this article, click on the Tatoosh Mountains image above.
I can’t believe the year is almost over – where did the time go?
From my sister and I (and our Great Dane) to you, we wish you all the Happiest of Holidays!
Not trying to be political here, folks. Before the 25th, I usually wish people Happy Holidays. On the 25th, I wish them Merry Christmas. And to show that I also appreciate globalism, I wish you not only a Merry Christmas but a Joyeux Noel, Feliz Navidad, Frohe Weihnachten, and Buon Natale. I’d do the wishing in Japanese, Korean and Chinese, too, but I don’t have the keyboard for it.
Anyway, you get my point. I hope everybody has a great day, today, no matter whether you celebrate the holiday or not. And, start planning for some great adventures for 2018. I know I’m going to!
I subscribe to Petapixel. It’s an online magazine with all sorts of neat articles about the latest photography news (did you know Lensrentals.com and LensProToGo are merging?), cameras, camera gear, projects, etc. The other day, I read an article that piqued my interest and I ended up sharing it to my Facebook photography page (Rebecca Latson Photography). I thought I’d share it in a blog post too. To read the actual article, click on this link.
After reading the article, I decided to do some experimenting with strings of multi-colored Christmas lights (since I had 5 strings of them and only 2 strings of the white lights), using the same settings that the photographer, Irene Rudnyk applied (ISO 500, f1.2, 1/250 shutter speed, 85mm lens). Heaven knows, I didn’t have anything better to do, like laundry, dishes, or packing. It was a fun little experiment and I gained some valuable insights. Photography is about experimentation as well as about learning new techniques and ideas and stepping outside one’s own comfort zone to apply something new that they’ve learned. That’s how a good photographer becomes a great photographer.
Ignore the clutter in the room and concentrate on the camera/light/backdrop/light setup. Just as in Ms. Rudnyk’s room, this light project can be accomplished in a very small space.
Yes, you can do this project with just one person (yourself), but it’s not as easy. Because I was both photographer and model, and because I was using a remote shutter release instead of being the one to look through the lens at the subject, I kept checking the images to ensure I was positioned correctly in front of the lens and that the string of lights did not get in the way of the lens. You can see what happens when a colored light is in front of the subject and too close to a lens wide-open at f1.2. You also may notice just how shallow the DOF is on a 85mm lens wide-open. I didn’t mind that too much, as it added a teeny bit of dreamy quality to the shot.
I carried out this project twice, over the course of 2 days. During my first attempt, I wasn’t using an 85mm lens, nor did I have the aperture wide-open to get the maximum bokeh. I used different settings as well, since I didn’t remember what Ms. Rudnyk’s settings were – I didn’t learn that until I actually watched her YouTube video embedded in the article.
Ms. Rudnyk used white lights in a light, neutral-toned room with a large picture window letting in natural blue/white side light. Her model was pale and wore light-colored clothing. I was in a cluttered spare bedroom, in the evening – so no natural light – using a black backdrop and strings of multi-colored lights. The strings were dark (as opposed to the white strings used in Ms. Rudnyk’s images, which is why I used the black backdrop). I used a tall lamp near the camera for side-lighting. Sometimes the strings still showed through, but I don’t consider them too distracting.
Because of the darker atmosphere, I used Curves to lighten, and sometimes Levels to brighten the composition. I also had to clone out a dark spot on my front tooth – I have a natural indentation on the tooth and it catches the shadow, so in some photos, it looks like a speck of food (sigh).
I used my Canon 5DSR for this shoot. I love this camera, but it totally stinks regarding low-light, higher-ISO noise (what’s up with that Canon?). So I applied some Imagenomic-brand Noiseware noise-reduction software to the overall composition, which reduced/removed grain and helped my skin look a little more even (I’m definitely not as young as Ms. Rudnyk’s model).
All-in-all, it was a fun project and I like the results. Plus, I learned a new technique for neat portrait shots.
Note: If you are doing this all yourself:
Use a wireless remote rather than the timer on your camera. Really, it is easier.
Make certain you have a sturdy step-ladder and/or a spotter to keep you steady while you hang the light strings from the ceiling.
Unless you want to put holes in your ceiling, I would suggest using something like duct tape. Gorilla-brand tape works really well. If you use any other kind of tape, it may be too weak to hold up the light strings for any length of time. I noticed this morning that the tape and lights had fallen from the ceiling to the floor.
If you want light strings to lead to your lens, don’t use tape or anything else to secure the strings to the lens. Simply wrap the string around the lens itself to keep the string in place.
Remember to stand in front of the light strings to get the nice bokeh.
Have fun! Despite getting all sweaty and hot as I hung the lights up, set up the camera and ran back and forth to take a shot then look at the result, it was a neat, educational project.
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My unwavering goal in life is to eventually move out of southeast Texas and back to Washington State to live close to my sister and her family. With that in mind and because it feels like I am actually doing something toward that goal, I have donated lots of clothing and other items to the local hospice thrift shop and boxed up (and continue to box up) items in my apartment that I don’t use much but don’t wish to part with at this point in time. Over the 4-day Thanksgiving holiday, I managed to move most of the boxes off of my apartment’s spare bedroom floor and into the spare storage closet, leaving enough room in said spare bedroom for a tiny studio, complete with 2 studio lights & umbrellas, black bedspread backdrop and a black covered table. So tickled was I with this setup that I decided to take a break from housework for the weekend and have some fun with glass and Christmas lights.
I used my Induro tripod and Canon 5DS and Canon 24-70mm f2.8L II lens, ultimately switching over to the Canon 50mm f1.2L lens. ISO for all of the photos you see was 100 and aperture was f11. I played around with the shutter speeds, ranging from 1/6 of a second to 30 seconds. For the plain glass images, I used my two studio lights. For the glass with Christmas lights images, all lights were turned off.
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All images on these posts are the exclusive property of Rebecca L. Latson and Where The Trails Take You Photography. Please respect my copyright and do not use these images on Pinterest, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat or any other business, personal or social website, blog site, or other media without my written permission. Thank you.
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