Category Archives: Christsmas

Christmas Fun With The Cameras, Tree, Decorations and Lights

Christmas Cozy

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.

H5T1200_Ornaments Lights and A Glass of Wine

Variation On A Theme #1

Bright Lights and Christmas Colors

Czech Glass and Christmas Lights

Christmas Color-Full

Bright Lights and Holiday Colors

Christmas Colors

Here’s wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Christmas Becky2

 

 

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Filed under Canon, Canon Lens, Christsmas, Holidays, Photography

Christmas Tree in the Window

Christmas Tree In The Window

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.

Beckys Christmas Tree

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.

Christmas Tree In The Window

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.

O Christmas Tree

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.

Magic Tree

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.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Holidays, low light photography, Night Photography, Photography, starbursts

Christmas Fun with the Canon 250D Close-Up Lens Filter

Pirate Nutcracker Ornament

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.

Jingle Bells

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?

Snowflake Ornament

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.

On Camera

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.

Christmas Ball Reflection

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Filed under Christsmas, Close-Up Lens Filter, Equipment, Holidays, Photography

The Trickiness of Christmas Lights and Portraiture

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.

Christmas Becky - Ambient Light

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.

Christmas Becky

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).

Christmas Becky-Flash

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.

Christmas Camera Becky-Flash

Christmas Camera Becky Ornament

Photography is all about practice, experiment, and climbing that learning curve.

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Filed under Canon Lens, Christsmas, Equipment, Flash Photography, Holidays, Photography, Portraits, Studio Lights

What I Did During My Christmas Vacation

U9A0620_Christmas Tree Magic

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.

H5T8422_Snow Line

H5T8437_Chimanea

H5T8433_Joe

H5T7671_Santas

H5T7748_Crystal and Bokeh

U9A0191-2_Crystal Ornaments

H5T7792_Looking In The Window

H5T8190_Casey and Logan

H5T8230_Grammy and Savanna

U9A0235_Stockings

H5T8881_Christmas Dinner Setup

H5T8911_Christmas Dinner Tablesetting

H5T8942_Second Christmas Dinner

H5T8808_Night Lights

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!

H5T0451_Sisters

H5T8732-3_Becky and Friend

What did you do for the holidays?

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December 24

H5T7671_Santas

It’s December 24th. Christmas Eve Gift!

Since I was a toddler, it’s been a tradition in my family to try and be the first to surprise the other person by yelling out “Christmas Eve Gift”! The person who was “got” then had to give a little gift to the person who did the “gotcha”. As the years rolled by, it was not so much about the gifting as it was the “gotcha” part. To this end, family members would go to great lengths to surprise one another.

One Christmas Eve, I had gotten up very early to bake a huckleberry cobbler to take over to my parents next door, for breakfast. Nothing beats a nice, warm-from-the-oven cobbler. So I traipsed over to their house with the food, set it down on a chair outside, and unlocked their back door. The house was dark and I knew my parents (then in their early 80’s) were probably still asleep. As I entered the dark house, my parents jumped from behind the door (where they had been hiding in wait for me) and yelled “Christmas Eve Gift”, scaring the bejeebers out of me. They definitely “got” me! They were quite tickled with themselves, and I was glad I had put the cobbler on the chair outside…..otherwise we would have been eating huckleberry cobbler off of the floor Winking smile

U9A0647_Becky and The Tree

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Reminders of Love, Joy, and Wonder

4608

I was originally going to post festive photos captured during this holiday season.  But after the senseless tragedy in a village in Connecticut on December 14, all I could think about was the total, desolate, dry heave devastation 26 loved ones will experience this Christmas and Christmases to come.

I am not a kid person.  I don’t have any of my own.  But I love my family which includes my great-niece and great-nephew.  I would be devastated if what happened in Connecticut happened to any member of my family.  Because this was on my mind all day, I found myself going through my photographic archives to find photos of my 2010 Christmas visit to my sister and brother-in-law’s home, when the entire family along with some friends gathered for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I needed something to remind me to smile and appreciate just how lucky I am that my own relatives are still alive, and that my great-niece and great-nephew have their entire futures still ahead of them and are excited over what Santa will leave for them under the tree.

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Christmas Wonder

4675_The Night Before Christmas

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

4892_Focus on Playing

Focus on Playing

4932_Piling On The Cracker Crowns

Piling On The Christmas Cracker Crowns

4996_Watching TV With A Friend

Watching TV With A Friend

4585_Gammy and Granddaughter

Gammy and Granddaughter

4867_Mommy and Son

Mommy and Son

5003_Daddy and Daughter

Daddy and Daughter

5246_Family and Friends

Family and Friends

5013_Sisters

Sisters

If you need reminders to help you smile, go pull out your own  photos, drawings attached on the fridge with magnets, and old holiday cards.  Smile, hug your family members, and count your blessings.

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Filed under Christsmas, family, Holidays