Lights, camera, action!

OK, so we’ve got our Christmas tree up, (in the unused fireplace as usual), and after admiring its beauty and the way the lights looked, I got to wondering, “Just how can I photograph the lights in a creative way?”   Well, the first thing to do was to establish a reference point by photographing it as it looked “naturally”.

"Natural lights" by Derek Gale

I switched off the room lights, put the camera on a tripod, set the White Balance to “tungsten”, and used a little bit of exposure compensation to lift the mid-tones a little.  Because the exposure was quite long, about 1.5 seconds, I used the camera’s self-timer (set on 2 seconds), to avoid wobbling the tripod as I fired the shutter.  It’s got a nice, warm, Christmassy glow to it.

"Zoom lights" by Derek Gale

Next, I used the classic, “zooming the lens during the exposure” technique.  It gave a great set of dynamic lines going from the corners  towards the centre.  The lines taper a little as the focal length changes because the lights are being magnified a bit.

"Bokeh lights" by Derek Gale

For this image I set the focus to manual, the lens aperture to maximum, and defocussed the lens to give these lovely “bokeh” circles.  I’m sure an expert on optical science could explain why some circles aren’t quite perfect, and why some have little round marks in them.  It doesn’t matter though, they’re just lovely.

"Moving camera lights" by Derek Gale

Taking the camera off the tripod, and waving it around during the exposure (about 1/2 a second), gave these candle flame shaped lines.  It’s a creative use of camera shake.  It took quite a few tries to get the lines the right shape, but one benefit of digital is the fact that you can try again until it’s dead right.  They sort of look a bit Christmas tree shaped as well (ish).

"Reflected lights" by Derek Gale

Finally I looked for reflections of the lights.  We’ve got a shiny brass dimmer switch which is highly reflective and gives a very distorted image.  I got really close, and focused on the reflection, not on the switch.  The result was this very abstract pattern of clouds, or fireworks, or melted wax crayons…. or Christmas tree lights!

Just a small tree with some Christmas lights on, but so much to offer by way of photographic inspiration.


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