Friday, December 3, 2010

Phun Phriday - Christmas Lights

One bright oasis in a sea of gray, bleak, depressing, wintry days, (did I mention how much I dislike winter???),  is the holiday season with bright, cheery, colorful lights to brighten my mood!  As I mentioned in the last post, I love Christmas lights in all forms, colors and quantities!  But how do you photograph them?

The answer to this question should be a "Tech Talk Tuesday" discussion, except that the only answer I can really say with any certainty is, by trial and error!!  Thank heavens that is a fairly simple task with digital cameras and instant feed back!  Seriously, if you read about how to do this, you will get many different answers.  And my own experience is the same.  There are so many variables to consider.  For example, how much ambient light is there, such as, are you shooting your Christmas tree indoors, or Christmas lights outdoors on a dark night.  Do you want the lights sharp and in focus, or part of a dreaming bokeh background?  Do you want lights to look like lights, or different shapes, or something creative and altogether different?   You just have to experiment and have fun.  So below is my little experiment:

All of these photos were taken with a zoom lens at 200mm,  ISO at 200.  The first two were f/22 for 1.6 seconds and the last two were f/4 at 1/15 second.  I manually focused at different distances to create the different looks.  As you can see, I was going for a soft, dreamy look.  And because some were shot with a slow shutter speed, I used a tripod.   Interesting to see the different effects, shapes, sizes and even colors.  To create beautiful, big bokeh light balls, use a zoom lens and focus on an object close to the camera and your background lights will look similar to these.

Use this effect as a backdrop in a holiday composition you want to shoot, or take a series of bokeh backgrounds for future use.  Then, when your creative juices are flowing, combine two images in Photoshop, add a texture or two and see what happens........

The next image shows another effect that is easy to do.  If you want your lights to turn into star bursts, use the smallest aperture (big number), your lens will allow.  Then make sure you focus on the lights.  I hope you can see the light stars in the following image.  If the lights were bigger, the stars would be bigger.

One more hint.  If you are taking outdoor shots don't wait until the sky is completely dark.  Your lights will look brighter and more colorful, your exposure will be better and the sky will be beautiful when there is still some color in the sky. 
So now it'll your turn.  I would like to see your favorite Christmas light image.  Maybe it is a happy accident like Sandra posted yesterday, or some creative light painting or beautiful bokeh, or blurred action, or maybe it is just a beautiful light display, or your own Christmas decorations.  It is show and tell time, and if you can't decide between your two favorites, post them both!  Follow the directions below to post a thumbnail of your image here with a link to your blog.  P.S.  You can post anytime during the next week.