Category Archives: Christmas

A Fun Way To Shoot Portraits Using Strings Of Christmas Lights

Christmas Becky

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.

  1. 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.
    8001_View Of Setup8009_Setup View From Camera Angle8005_Looking At The Camera
  2. 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.
    Christmas Becky Green BlobPink BlobChristmas Becky
  3. 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.

    Christmas Becky - Day 1White Lights And A Christmas Tree

  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.

Christmas Becky

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Filed under 5DSR, 85mm f1.2L, Canon, Canon Lens, Christmas, Equipment, Exposure, Photography, Portraits

My New Little Mini-Studio and Fun with the Christmas Lights

studio-2_small

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.

DecantersStill Life With WineIlluminated WineIlluminationPrime IlluminationClear And Bright 2Glass And Pretty Lights 2Glass And Bright ColorsLots Of LightsColored Lights And Blue Glass - HorizontalBaubles And Lights CROP

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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Filed under 5DS, Canon, Christmas, glass, Holidays, Uncategorized

8 Days In London, 2 Days In Paris – Day 3 Christmas Day (Dec 25)

The London Eye At Night

Christmas Day in London was rainy, all day long.  It was quiet, more or less, as well.  I walked up the street and discovered Pret A Manger was open for business (bless them) and took back coffee and breakfast to my room, where I worked on more photos

Pret A Manger

before heading out for a little walk around Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square On A Rainy Christmas MorningTrafalgar Square FountainGift Horse And Trafalgar Square

That horse skeleton above is a part of a program called the Fourth Plinth (I think, I can’t exactly remember).  Every so often, a new sculpture appears on that particular spot.  When I was there July 2013, it was a neon purple cockerel from France.  This piece of art is titled “Gift Horse” and is a replica of a horse skeleton with an actual working neon Nasdaq-type stock ticker as the ribbon around one of the skeleton’s legs.

I was still a little sleepy from the previous night, where I actually remained awake to attend Christmas Eve Service at Westminster Abbey, then couldn’t get to sleep until around 1:30am.  So after breakfast, I edited a few more photos, including this one below that I took of the building sculptures across the narrow street from my room.

The View From My Room

After that, it was time to get ready for my traditional Christmas Lunch in the hotel.  Dress up, make up, heels, jewelry, the whole nine yards.

I will readily admit that while I totally enjoy all of my solo trips (I only travel solo unless it’s with an organized photo tour), I don’t particularly enjoy eating alone.  So, while the food was quite good, I felt like the odd one out as I watched other diners, either in pairs or in groups, enjoy the lunch in a holiday spirit.  I was glad to return to my room, change into my walking clothes, take my camera, and spend the remainder of the day walking the meal off (which consisted of an amuse bouche, ham hocks, sea bass, turkey with the trimmings, plum pudding, a glass of Tattinger, pre-meal and a glass of chardonnay with the entree).

Night Scene Along The ThamesRainy Christmas Night Over Big BenThe Night View During My PromenadeRainy Christmas Night

Still a little rainy – enough so that it made some of the lights look a little “runny”, but a lovely Christmas Day nonetheless.  I was right where I wanted to be on that holiday.

Becky At The London Eye In The Rain

 

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Filed under 5DSR, Canon, Christmas, holiday, London, Photography, rain, Seasons, Travel, Travel and Photography, Uncategorized, Weather, winter

8 Days In London, 2 Days In Paris – Day 2 (Dec 24, Christmas Eve)

A Stroll Along The Thames

Still suffering from jet lag, I slept until about 7AM, got up, dawdled around, then grabbed my camera and set out for a day of walking and photography.  My first trip was via the Underground to Hyde Park to see what the Winter Wonderland was all about.  It was rainy and gray that morning – not at all like the late afternoon photo above.

Pirates AdventureRainy Christmas Eve At The Winter Wonderland

After that, I took the Tube back to my hotel room where I warmed up with some hot tea before heading out again.  The rain stopped, the sun was out, so were some clouds.

Dazzle DesignOld And New In The Afternoon SunSt Pauls CathedralCathedral DetailStained Glass FiguresHeiroglyphic DetailCleopatras ProfileBikes For RentFull Moon And Blue Hour Over The Thames 2 CROPLondon Icons In The EveningBright Lights On The ThamesChristmas Eve Along The ThamesThe London Eye At Night

London Eye-Becky-Big Ben 2

I bought something at one of the many Christmas markets and took it back to my room to eat.  After that, I changed out of my day clothes, got all dressed up, and attended the midnight Christmas Eve service at Westminster Abbey.  It was wonderful.  Not only the service itself and the heavenly voices of the choir, but also the chance to be sitting there in such a historic piece of architecture, with the soaring vaulted ceilings, the carved stone pillars and statues, and the huge, stained-glass windows.  What an experience!

Christmas Eve Service At Westminster Abbey

 

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Filed under 5DSR, Canon, Christmas, holiday, London, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Travel and Photography, Uncategorized

8 Days in London, 2 Days in Paris – Day 1 (Dec 23)

The View Along The Queens Walk

2015 was a horrible year.  So I wanted to do something to send off the year end with a bang.  I happened to see a photo of the 2014 NYE London fireworks over the London Eye, and I knew that was where I needed to be for the final days of 2015.  To that end, I took a 10-day trip to Europe:  8 days in London and 2 days in Paris.

Camera Equipment

What did I take with me for this trip?  Too much.  I’ll have you know, however, that I used almost every single piece of photographic equipment I lugged with me.  So there!

  • 3 camera bodies, all Canon: 1DX, 5DSR, 5DS (in case one body didn’t work, I had two others – redundancy is a photographer’s friend)
  • 1 small flash: Canon Speedlite 270EX II
  • 3 different wireless shutter releases (that redundancy thing, again)
  • 5 lenses, all Canon: 11-24, 16-35 f4L IS, 50mm f1.2L, 24-70mm f2.8L, 24-105mm (I used the 24-105 by far the most as it was the best walk-around lens)
  • My Induro 8X CT-414 carbon fiber tripod and BHD3 ballhead
  • A gazillion memory cards (8, 16, 32 and 64 GB)
  • All of my spare camera batteries for both the 1DX and 5DS cameras
  • A couple of polarizer filters (which I think I used only once, but at least I had them)
  • Lens hoods for each of the lenses

Of course I took my laptop, 2 portable HDs of 1TB each, and 2 memory card readers.  I made copies of the photos onto both HDs and the laptop itself, since – again – redundancy is a photographer’s best friend.

Day 1 (Dec 23)

Iconic View Toward The ShardThe GlobeThe Golden Hinde IIThe Millennium BridgeThe Millennium Bridge And St Pauls CathedralMillennium Bridge And St Pauls Cathedral At NightNight View Of St Paul CathedralFull Moon Over The ThamesNight View From Jubilee Bridge

Royal Horseguards Entrance

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Filed under 1DX, 5DSR, Canon, Christmas, Equipment, Holidays, London, Night Photography, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized