20 December 2011 – daylight, winter images around High Level, Alberta; we’re nearly at 60 degrees North. So, sunrise happens quite late (9:00 a.m.) and sunset happens quite early (3:30 p.m.). Daylight is diminished and there’s more dusk at this time of year. The day’s images have been about lines, texture, atmosphere and colour – children sledding in silhouette and a fire burning down to coals.
Posts from the Christmas Lights Category
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- Canon 70-200 mm 2.8 IS L Series Lens
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It has been a whirlwind weekend traveling to Grande Prairie and back, all in pursuit of Christmas.
Of the landscape travelled through, weather’s interaction at the Dunvegan Bridge over the Mighty Peace was shifting mist and cloud against a backdrop of conifers laced with snow – beautiful picture taking weather, mountain weather. I stopped for a few shots, then was presented with excellent colours of the Dunvegan bridge in the two kilometre descent before crossing the Peace River – a snowy, wet world from which the yellows and browns of the suspension bridge stand above the metal grey of the river. With my SUV I trekked down and up a couple of times searching for a safe and easy place to park; no safe place suggested itself. With an abundance of time (one of these times) I will park at the Dunvegan landing and hike back up the North embankment for about a kilometre with camera bag and tripod and get a few good shots … one day.
At Christmas, Grande Prairie adorns itself well with seasonal lighting as does Grande Prairie Regional College and the Automobile Dealerships – I like the shallow depth of field in working with the Christmas lights on the Dodge truck image and the bokeh that was found. The final shot is taken of a farm, well lit, within a dark, dark landscape last night – colourful schtuff.
Canon Lock-up Issue – I did have lock-up issues with my Canon 60D on Saturday night … it probably had to do with using live view and inexact button pushing with gloved fingers; I was sorting things through yesterday morning and by supper time the camera seemed to have good integrity with the shots I took of the farm house. If the problem persists I will most likely re-install the firmware as a means to conquer the issue. If any of you have experienced a similar issue I would appreciate hearing from you.
Leaving school, against the blackness of night, I encountered beautiful hoarfrost on an Aspen Willow tree – a reverse silhouette (white against black). I started my pickup truck and used the engine’s warm-up time to explore the silhouetted Willow. Again, the camera is atop the tripod and again I’m using the 60D’s live view to ensure that I find crisp detail in manual focus. I took three shots of the tree – one I include here; the composition needs work but I’m happy to have captured this image. Consideration – my shots are better and more well-composed when I’m warm and taking time to look seriously around the frame to see what’s there and to capture the image; in winter photography I’ll have winter outwear on … something I didn’t have leaving school tonight.
Later, at home, in front of our Christmas tree the recommendation of photographing Christmas lights against a reflective surface came to mind. Our Christmas tree, like most others, stands in front of our window as Christmas beacon to others in our neighbourhood; this evening, I just needed to recognize its beauty and its potential. I put my Canon 50mm prime f-1.4 lens on my Canon 60D and attached the 60D to my tripod; I worked with live view to find focus detail and to establish bokeh (blurring of lights). I turned out lights in our living room and kitchen making all dark except for our Christmas tree and its lights. I began exploring bokeh, using a small depth of field (lens aperture f-1.4) and blurred Christmas lights against the reflective surface of the window. The images I include appeal to me in terms of shape, colour, texture and mood.
Tonight (15 December 2011) – listening to Martyn Joseph’s ‘Have an Angel Walk with Her,’ from his ‘Evolved’ album http://www.martynjoseph.net/ .
From school I drove home on streets that are slick, polished ice. They are not quite treacherous, only difficult to begin moving on in a half-ton truck without weight in the box.
So … Christmas lights – I arrived early and had good post-dusk light. The homeowner did have the Christmas lights on already and clouds feathered against a silver blue sky as background. I framed the shots taken to include more sky but ended up cropping to balance things out in the images. In terms of setting, I had the white balance set to Tungsten and the blue derived from the sky was more tending to a dark turquoise than royal blue.
The matter of having a reflective surface in the foreground is really the idea that reflection of lights within a foreground surface should artfully double or duplicate the subject photographed doubling the number, size and shape of the Christmas lights. As I thought this through the hood of a vehicle was my first conceptualization of this technique; but, Kyle Thomas www.kylewith.com has demonstrated that the side of a vehicle can be used artfully to bounce or reflect different subjects … the side of a clean, glossy vehicle should serve to reflect among other things … Christmas lights. The snow does reflect light, but it does so more in an atmospheric glow of the dominant colour among the Christmas lights.
I did use a tripod to steady my 60D. But, using the tripod is forcing me to think through composition because manoeuvrability of the camera on top of a tripod has some limitations; usually I see and understand the composition as I move toward it and find it. The movement of the camera to the best composition on top of a tripod is more mechanistic and I suppose I have not only to think through the lens but through the tripod structure and its movement, as well. I’ve been using the live view display with the pistol grip to position the camera in terms of composition; then I’ve been using manual focus with the plus ( + ) settings within live view to focus accurately upon the subject.
Tonight, I worked with an ISO of 100 and f-stops between 8 and 11. The duration of the exposures is anywhere from 8 seconds to 30 seconds. I did shoot once every minute or so and can track the sky’s darkening through the pictures. I took fifteen shots tonight, three of which I include here. Point of Consideration – in these town shots the mix of Christmas lights and ambient light combines with street lights that light the roadway, the yard and the house. The effect of Christmas lights against ambient light should be more striking if street lights are excluded; I may need to find a farm in the vicinity that has used Christmas lights well and on their own, away from powerful farm lights.
Other thoughts – I am taking public shots of Christmas lights around town; watching someone photograph your home and its lights must be a bit awkward if it’s not happened before. Maybe I’ll present a photo of the sight to the homeowner as a positive, goodwill gesture.
The shot I like is the one with grey skies; my daughter and wife like the other two.
The shots taken last night explore bokeh; I’ve used a shallow depth of field for the subject and worked to blur the background light. Bokeh refers to the aesthetic quality of the blur, the out-of-focus areas of an image, or, the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light (Bokeh – Wikipedia).
Christmas lights were the subject of last night’s foray into picture taking around town. A friend’s home had good oblique angles and provided dark architectural landscape that her Christmas lights outlined and accentuated. And, in most instances Christmas lights highlighted architectural shape against night’s darkness, making homes look like Gingerbread houses. Beyond this, Christmas lights add atmosphere and mood with their reds, greens, blues, purple and clear white colours, all of which have a gradient of reflection upon surrounding snow. So, I began the endeavour of capturing Christmas and the Christmas spirit around town.
Tonight, I’ve just read an article on the Strobist blog, ‘Photographing Christmas Lights,’ http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-to-photograph-christmas-lights.html and it contains six recommendations for capturing the outdoor beauty of Christmas. One key concept is that Christmas lights reveal themselves best in fading ambient light following sunset and that the trick is to balance the Christmas lights against the ambient light. Here, framing shots would make intentional use of the sky as background to composition; I would need to shoot across the subject (lights) into the ambient light. And, where I began shooting Christmas lights at 8:30 p.m. I would need to move the photography three hours ahead to 4:30-5:30 p.m. to find the sweet spot of the ambient light fading into background glow. In terms of camera settings, where I had my white balance set to custom at K 10000, the Strobist article recommends using the tungsten setting to bring out a royal blue in the sky. I did use my tripod and took shots from low level, eye level and from the deck of my pick-up truck box as a means to find best angle of view. Strobist recommends a low level shot so as to use much more of the sky as background in the composition. In terms of foreground in most shots I did utilize the light, reflective surface of the snow to create foreground interest; here, there may be better ways to explore foreground use. In the shots I took last night snow tends to add the feel of a large blanket insulating the earth below it.
So, I’ll be out and about in the next few nights, right after work.