I hope you have a great day and even managed to sleep in a little bit!
Tag Archives: Christmas
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.
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.
Becky’s little Christmas tree, with a suitcase on the right to hide the electric cords, and part of a studio light because – at the time – I had no other place to put it
I did not plan on putting up my tree this year. After all, I’d be visiting my sister and her family for the holidays, so why go to the effort of putting up a tree I would not see for the final 1-1/2 weeks of December?
One afternoon, however, during the weekend prior to Thanksgiving, while on a long walk, I was thinking how nice it would be to see bright, multi-color lights. My mind’s eye saw all sorts of photo ops….
No solicitation, Santa. Just leave the presents and don’t try to sell me anything.
My home is small, but cozy and bright with neat pictures hanging on the walls (grin)
I actually wasn’t going to put up a tree this year; too many other things going on. Then, one Saturday evening, I started thinking up photo ops that required the use of a brightly-lit and decorated tree. So, at 10PM that night, I pulled the tree out of storage; it’s fake and pre-lit so it makes setup and decorating a breeze.
Since the tree has been up, I’ve been milking the photos for all they are worth. I used my tripod, Canon 1DX and 5D Mk III, and either a 40mm pancake lens, a 24-105mm lens or my prime 85mm f1.2 lens to get the shots you see below. I love decorations and colored lights, so this has been fun and I’m glad I put that tree up, after all.
Here’s wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
To stave off the post-Thanksgiving-tryptophan sleepies, I decided to clean my living room window so that my lovely little Christmas tree would show up better from the outside. Naturally, I had to take tripod and camera out after dark to capture images of this one little tree glowing brightly in the night. Apparently, I am either the only person with a tree in the entire apartment complex, or I am the only person who likes showing off their tree through the window.
This photo was taken shortly after sundown. I deliberately set the f-stop to 22 so the lights would create little starbursts. The ISO was 500, I used my 24-70mm lens with the focal length set to 24mm, and the shutter was open for 30 seconds.
I switched from to my 16-35mm lens because I wanted a much wider-angle view of the complex and my tree. The only issue was the fact that the oak tree branches in the yard drooped quite a bit. The ever-so-slight breeze took those drooping branches and blurred them during the 30-second shot. The ISO was 250. I had to use noise-reduction with this image (yes, you can sometimes get grainy low-light photos even when using a low ISO) and I ultimately cropped out as much of the offending blurred branches as I could, giving this image a sort of pseudo-pano look.
Lots of frames in this image above: the front lights on the brick columns, the frame created by the apartment complex architecture, and the frame created by the oak tree limbs.
The Magic Tree. Easy to do if you ever decide to experiment yourself. Just put your camera and zoom lens on a tripod, set the camera for however many seconds you wish, then play around with zooming the lens in and out to get some funky effects while the shutter is open.
I recently received my December 2013 edition of Photoshop User. Within that edition is their “Gonzo Holiday Gear Guide”. Naturally that was the first thing I turned to upon opening up the magazine.
The Canon close-up lens filters were items reviewed in this gear guide. These can be used for a Canon or Nikkor lenses. It mentioned how fun these little items were and compared to a real dedicated macro lens, they can be purchased at a fraction of the cost. So I figured, why not?
These filters come in several thread sizes, and there are actually two different filters. The 250D (which is what I ordered) is good for focal lengths of between 30 – 135mm, while the 500D is good for focal lengths of 70 – 300mm.
I affixed the close-up lens filter to my Canon 40mm lens to create a light, easy to carry, pseudo-macro lens which I then used to photograph ornaments on my Christmas tree.
All of the images you see of the ornaments in this blog post are totally un-cropped, so this should give you an idea of just how close I can maneuver my camera and lens to get these shots. Mind you, the depth of field (DOF) is pretty shallow (as you can see) and no, it’s not a dedicated macro. But, for what is essentially a magnifying glass (utilizing pretty good glass) that is light to use, easy to affix, easy to pack into a gear bag, and produces pretty darned good close up images, I’d say my $87 (this includes 2-day shipping) was well-spent. It’s going with me on my forthcoming December road trip to Big Bend National Park.
I like buying local when I can, and I like buying hand-made. So when my friend Sabyn of Simplysabyn crocheted an adorable little Santa holiday hat for a baby, I asked her if she made them for big people, too. Yes, she did. So I ordered one. After receiving it, I thought it would make for a great Facebook profile pic to get a portrait of me modeling the hat in front of my Christmas tree (yes, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet and I have the tree up, lights, ornaments and all).
My goal was to try and get a relatively well-lit shot of me but with all the color and brightness of the lit tree in a darkened room behind me.
Easier said than done.
My first experiment was a shot of me and the tree using only the ambient light given off by the tree. My Canon 5D Mk III was set up with my Canon 85mm f1.2L lens on a tripod. The ISO was set at 1600 with an f-stop of 5 and a shutter speed of 1/10 second. I used my $20 Pixel-brand wireless remote shutter release to get clear images of myself. Oh, and I used myself as the model because I not only like the way I look but I was also the only one around at the time. I wanted to do this experiment right then and there, and I don’t mind doing this over and over until I get it the way I want. I figure other models would get a little bored after awhile. Plus, I wanted to send the final result to my friend Sabyn so she could use them on her FB site if she wanted.
After many takes, here is the resulting image using only the ambient light. The entire image was cast in a golden-red hue which was further emphasized by my red hat and red fleece top. Interesting, but not quite what I was aiming for.
So I brought out a single light stand and screwed in a 500 watt bulb in front of which I put a 24” white umbrella for diffusion since 500 watts at close range is pretty intense – particularly since I was still trying to get the color and glow of the tree lights behind me. The camera was set at ISO 320 with a f-stop of 4.5 and a shutter speed of 1/30.
As you can see, the light was great on me, but it totally eliminated the ambience of the tree lights and ornaments.
I’d been working on this for over an hour, was hot and sweaty and more or less done for the day. It wasn’t until the next day that I considered using my flash off-camera. The only problem with that was my focus issue. I couldn’t have my Canon dedicated flash remote trigger on the camera *and* a wireless shutter release (I probably could if I had a different setup). In the end, I relied on manual focus. That was tricky because the only light in the room was provided by the Christmas tree. So I had to set up one of my camera backpacks in the chair in front of the tree, then shine a flashlight on the backpack to help me get the focus correct. Eye roll. But it worked.
This little photo session took forever, because I just couldn’t get the whole lighting thing right. I set the flash to one side of the camera, then I set the flash to practically in front of me, then I set the flash directly behind the camera and raised the stand about a foot above the camera. Finally, just as I was about to give up, I decided to try something. Leaving the flash on the stand behind and above the camera, I deliberately set the camera shutter speed slower than the flash, so that the flash would trigger but the camera shutter would be open for just a bit longer after the flash went off. ISO was 160, the f-stop was 7.1, the shutter speed was ½ second, and the flash intensity was set to between 1/128 and 1/64 (with it being closer to the 1/64 mark).
Ultimately, I had to brighten my face up post-process, but by golly, I got what I was working for: a nicely-lit view of my face and the colorful, glowing ambience of the tree behind me.
Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.
I had planned on a relatively quiet Christmas, with 9 days left of vacation time to use up. I figured I might venture out to the nearby national wildlife refuge and maybe a nearby state park to check out the birdlife, but other than that, I had no big plans.
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Back track to December 2010. I was visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted family members for Christmas in eastern Washington. We were standing around their kitchen island conducting a whiskey taste testing (Redbreast Single Malt won hands down). Andrew and Julie (the sister to my niece-in-law) turned to me and said how much they would like to have me photograph their wedding…..whenever they set the date. I told them that would be awesome. We resumed our whiskey tasting.
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Fast forward to late September 2012. While talking to my sister, she mentioned that Julie and Andrew had set the wedding date for sometime in early December. This was the first I had heard of their pending wedding, and I knew I would not be able to make it because my remaining vacation days were already committed to those last two weeks of December. Sigh.
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Fast forward to early October 2012. I received an email from Julie telling me they’d set the date for December 28 in Tacoma, Washington and would I be able to photograph their wedding if all expenses – including the plane flight – were paid? December 28 was during my vacation, so I was beyond thrilled to be able to say “YES” after all! (It heartened me mightily that Andrew and Julie felt so strongly about having me as their wedding photographer).
We made the plane reservation with enough time for me to first spend several days before and after Christmas with my sister, brother-in-law, and assorted relatives in eastern WA. I had a white Christmas Eve and and a White Christmas Day and a wonderful time while there.
Lights and ornaments and tinsel and pretty presents. No arguments, lots of laughter, non-stop eating and a little bit of egg nog. I soaked in the love and closeness and humor of family and the joyful screams of my great-niece and great-nephew as they opened their gifts. “This is the best gift ev-oh! You actually listened!” (this coming from a 4-year old who received a pair of Stompeez slippers).
It was a great Christmas!
What did you do for the holidays?