Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Lights and Photography


When we got out the trees for the back deck this year, we discovered that they would not light up anymore.  These are the pre-lit metal trees that you can find at most drugstores and chain stores.  I came across the 90% off sale at CVS one year after Christmas and bought a few (I just can't resist a bargain!).  The trees have been subjected to extreme weather conditions for several years, so it was inevitable that they would "die" eventually.  Rather than toss them out, my husband had the great idea to keep the trees and just wrap some new lights on them.  We chose to use more of the super energy efficient LED lights that we have been using on the back fence and deck railings for several years.

I have been experimenting with taking photos of the lights and the trees.  I often turn off the flash on my camera but then I find that my photos are sometimes blurry.  I finally decided to get out my tripod and do a few experiments with the lighting and camera settings.

These photos of the small tree in our back hallway were all taken using a tripod and no flash with the overhead light turned off.  During the holidays, I keep the overhead light off most of the time and this tree serves as the light for the hallway.

To add even more light, I filled a large glass vase with some white lights and placed it in the base of the table, with some of the lights nestled around the vase on the outside.

I got this vase at Costco several years ago - you can often see similar ones there for fairly low prices.  If you are lucky, you might find something like this at a rummage sale or in a thrift shop.

The tree and the lights below it make a lovely glow.  Since we generally enter the house through the garage this is the first thing that we see.  As Christmas gets closer and we have more company I put out some of our favorite candies on this table.  I decided to try to take some photos of the candy dishes.

Here is the first photo I took of the candies on the table.  This was taken with the ceiling lights on and the flash turned off.  The slow shutter speed needed for natural light makes it difficult to hold the camera perfectly still long enough and the photo is blurry.

Using the flash gives a bright and sharper photo but the image is a bit harsh and flat looking.

When I used the tripod with the flash turned off, I got this image - the items are in focus and the light is much prettier.  You can see that there are no harsh shadows when you compare this to the flash photo just above.  The tree lights also have a pretty glow around them.

Here is a close up example - candy in natural light, no flash, hand held camera - blurry photo (it might be less blurry if you have steadier hands - not all of my photos without flash turn out this blurry).

Flash used, in sharp focus but the colors are washed out and there are reflections of the flash on the foil wrappers.

With the tripod and no flash I got a much prettier and more realistic image.  The candies are in focus and the reflections on the wrappers are from the lights on the tree.

Since I had the tripod out, I decided to try some outdoor photos.  It was rather chilly so I didn't take very many but I am planning to bundle up and take more photos of our house and the decorations in our neighborhood with my tripod.  This is a view from the lawn, looking back toward the house and the trees on the deck.

This was taken from the far corner of the lower deck and you can see some of the lights on the lower fence in the lower left corner.

These are the lights on the lower fence, taken from the deck - I really like the clear jewel colors of the LED lights and they are so much more energy efficient than the old style lights.  I don't particularly care for the white LEDs (they are not as warm as the old fashioned white lights) but I think the colored lights are very pretty.

Using the tripod makes such a difference because the shutter can be open for a long time with no motion blurring.  I think this photo took about eight seconds of exposure.  I like the way the landscape lighting on the tree in the center also lights up the tall tree above.

This photo also shows the landscaping lights along with the holiday decorations.

This is one of my favorites.  The reflection of the lights strung on the inside of the railing makes such a pretty glow on the slats.

Here I cropped in on a small section of the railing - wouldn't this make an interesting background paper?

I have had a tripod since high school when I got my first "good" camera.  I used it a lot but then fell out of the habit.  It really is not much trouble to set it up and I am looking forward to trying more low light photos with the tripod.

On the Craft Gossip site I saw a link to a blog with some more information about shooting photos of your Christmas tree.  Click HERE to go to the August Tea Photography blog to read Rachel's helpful post.

Just a couple more things to mention today...

It's Monday, so there will be new sales posted on Blitsy.  They are having a "Race to 20,000" on the site right now.  When the 20,000th member joins that person and the person who referred them will each get a $200 gift card to spend on Blitsy.

So far the items for sale have been great with lots of Tim Holtz, Spellbinders, Ranger products, Zutter, 3M ATG gun and LaBlanche stamps!  If you haven't joined this free membership site yet, here is my link that you can use to sign up - there is no cost or obligation for you to sign up. 

After you join, you can refer your friends and family - go to the "invites" page to get your link and you may earn some credits to use for shopping on the site.  Sales last for a week (while supplies last) and new items are posted on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. Central Time.  If you become a "fan" of Blitsy on Facebook, you can get a code for 10% off your first order - on top of the great prices they have already!

I'll be stalking the site at 10 a.m. Central to see what new items are offered today - and may be placing my third order!

Lettering Delights - new Bundle 

If you like the style of the Cricut Imagine "Snow Angels" and "Nursery Tales" cartridges, you might want to take a look at a new bundle from Lettering Delights with artwork by the same designer, Sheri Berry.

There are cupcake wrappers, a paper pack, and alphabet and four graphic sets (labels, borders, ornaments and snowflakes) in the bundle - all for $20.  You can also take $5 off an order of $20 or more with the code "snowflake."

Just click on the name to see everything in the Holiday Frosting Bundle.

My "to do" lists are getting a bit shorter but I still have some more decorating, shopping and wrapping to do.  How are your holiday preparations coming along?  I hope you have a great day and can cross some more off of your lists by tonight!

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  1. Theses are wonderful photo tips. Thanks! Your home looks beautiful.

  2. Your home is beautiful. My son-in-law is a professional celebrity photographer, Bob Davis. He has written a photography book on lighting and it well-published and called "Lights, Camera Capture" it is creative lighting techniques for digital photographers and includes a workshop DVD. He gave me a copy (I don't do photography) but it is very inclusive. If you go to his blog, you will find out alot about his quality of work. It is well worth the time to go to their site. Alot can be learned just by visiting.

    Dianne Bell -

  3. Beautiful picutes Diane. I love the different contrasts just by turning the flash on or off. I have the Canon P&S, but all I do is P&S! My husband has the Big Canon and is really into photography like you. I've bought a lot of gifts but they are hidden in the closet so now I have to start listing what I've bought so I don't give one person more than the other one. I love this time of the year.

  4. Thanks for the tripod tip! I never would've thought it'd make such a difference. That's how much I know about photograp

  5. Love your photos Diane! I like to play around with my camera at Christmas to see what sort of shots I can get of my tree. I like to lie on the ground and shoot up at the tree. It gives me very pretty "light" shots. TFS!

  6. Tripod is a must in some of those conditions. I hate using a flash. If you don't have your tripod practice holding your arms tight at your sides, lean against something stable if you can and let out your breath just before taking the photo. Also always use the viewfinder, never the LCD window, because holding the camera to you face make it more stable than holding it in the air. Just a few tips. It is such a pain to carry the tripod ;- ) We did take ours when we made a trip to DC and did one night to do the night photos, because we felt they were worth it. Thanks for your comparison photos, Diane. It's always great to see ;- )

  7. Diane, your photos are lovely. Thanks so much for sharing.

  8. Wonderful pictures! I love what you did with the Christmas tree in the entryway. My husband enjoys photography so I forwarded this to him. He is always into looking at others photos to get ideas and tips. Thanks so much for sharing!

  9. This is a lovely post Diane. I love the vase idea with the lights. You're always so creative. This was a timely post. I'm getting the tripod out tight now! Happy Holidays to you and your family! Hugs, Pam


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