I have always liked Christmas lights.   

 

When I was a child my parents used to bundle my brothers and I into the family car and drive up along the high avenues around Salt Lake City so we could look down on all the decorative lights in the valley. And we even got hot chocolate, so needless to say I am a Christmas light junky.

For years I have had business in Kelowna, British Columbia during December and I always brought my camera so I could go out at night and then again at morning’s first light to photograph the Christmas lights along the city streets.

This year I had to come down much earlier, on the last day of November. It was an early day for me and I finished just before lunch, so I wandered around looking through the store windows near my hotel until It had started to rain, no not the snow I was hoping for, but I had hours to wait till sundown so I went into an eatery called the Memphis Blues.  When I entered the place was filled with wonderfully loud southern blues music. I was delighted to find they had the perfect food for a damp cool day, southern barbecued chicken. Gosh, I am sure somewhere it might get better than that, but to me it was the perfect place to pass the time till evening and could photograph the bright Christmas lights in the city.  In spite of the rain, when I finished I decided to wander a bit with my camera for some low light afternoon photos. The last light of the day is always interesting, even on a drizzling over cast day.

Last year I photographed decorated boats moored along the lake harbor and people skating on the outdoor rink. However, to my dismay the barkeep gave me the bad news that the Kelowna winter light festival was days away and it was too warm to use the skating rink. Gosh, I might just be forced to make the winding two-hour drive again in a few weeks. Blast my bad luck.

I snapped a few from my hotel room. My room was on the 5th floor above the street so I had an excellent shot with my 70-200mm down the street towards the lake and after that I meandered along the street and beside the lake making photographs. There weren’t a lot of people, but those I did pass must have already been in a holiday mood because every person either smiled and nodded or said hello. Maybe they just liked seeing an old grey haired guy enjoying himself taking pictures of the city they lived in.

The cold wind coming off the lake finally worked it’s way in and I decided to return to my hotel room to warm up till night fall.

By 7PM the light had gone down. I began by again taking a photograph down the street toward the lake, then grabbed my tripod and camera and went out for another ‘bout with the lake’s cold wind. I photographed many of the same things I had in the afternoon light, except this time the Christmas lights were sparkling in the dark sky.

Sun-up is at 7:30 here in southern British Columbia. I like the light just before that when I am photographing city lights. I want just enough to give the feeling of nighttime without covering building details.

There I was waiting at 6:30 in the cold morning air, and by 7ish I was sadly done. I always have to tear myself away. When I was back at my hotel some time later drinking coffee and having my morning yogurt I got a text from my friend Dave. He wondered how it was going and I replied that standing alone at 6:30 AM on a cold, windy, dark deserted overpass with frozen fingers while taking pictures of street lights is damned enjoyable, Gosh, it doesn’t get much better than that. The only thing that could have made it better was if it started snowing.

Night photography (well actually, early morning photography) gives a city such a nice mood that isn’t really manifest during the day. I like the mystery and, of course, this time of year the frosting on the cake is the wonderful Christmas lights.

Another Year Is Just About Over

 

This year's adventure is about over.

This year’s adventure is about over.

 

Another year has gone by and I guess its time to put the old baggage away and get out the new. Christmas is here and I’m sure the year to come is going to be filled with fun photography.

I hope that the thoughts and experiences I have written about this past year have been interesting and worth reading. My goal is to write articles that are, at the least, a bit different from the exotic location photos in magazines, and that complicated on-line how-to.

I will admit that just posting a couple of pictures with a how I-did-it recipe would be easier, but this damn medium of photography is so damn exciting that I can’t help but talk about why I like it.

As I wrote last year, there are so many people writing about photography that I do wonder if I can add anything worth viewing and reading.

I try to stick with a technique that worked during the many years I taught photography and that is to tell a story that includes photo information I want to discuss.

Something else that I learned during my years teaching was to keep the subject fresh. That meant introducing something new each class and that is how I choose my topics, something different each week.

Changing the subject each week does get hard, and (I wish I could say it wasn’t so) there are other things in life than photography and it isn’t unusual for me to say Linda, “Gosh, I have no idea what am I going to write about this week.”

Fortunately, with Linda’s help it usually works out and I come up with something to say each week.

Linda reminded me that last year I mentioned those subjects that I enjoyed writing about the most. Well, looking back here are my personal favorites.

My article in August, “Two Photographers Are More Fun” was very personal because my wife Linda is the best photo-partner I could ask for. Throughout the year I wrote several times about the Lighting workshops I lead. I enjoy watching others learn about photography and in my articles I try to explain a little about that process and adventure. I also wanted to let people know how much fun I had in September photographing a little location at Vancouver’s Denman Street and Stanley Park. Those are a few. I generally liked all the subjects I photographed and wrote about.

I’ll keep this short and wish all photographers out there a very Merry Christmas.

Twelve Gifts for a Photographer’s 12 days of Christmas     

xmas-tree

night-porch

We finished setting up our Christmas tree, and sat down to celebrate with a glass of eggnog, while listening Christmas music coming from the TV music station. As we rested Linda just asked me that question that I had been side tracking, “You haven’t told me yet what you want for Christmas. Do you want something for photography?”

I hadn’t thought about what I wanted. And regarding anything to do with photography, if I thought I could afford it, I would usually just get it for myself.

I had been enjoying the tree, and the Christmas music, but as far as a gift for me, especially, “something for photography” left me at a loss of what to say, so I replied, “I suppose I want everything and anything that will fit my camera.”

I watched the train go round the tree, and I listened to the music, but I am still thinking about what I should tell my wife.

In keeping with that subject, I decided to pose that question to some photographers I know. There are so many different genres of photography with different ideas on what would be the perfect photography gift for each. I edited them and selected twelve in keeping with the tradition of twelve days of Christmas.

I am sure readers have their own Christmas list, however, here are some items that I picked out for this year.

(1) I had more than one person say, “I would like to move up to a newer model.” And their discussion for preferring full or cropped frame is always fun. The first on this list is one of many that wanted a particular camera. I think a photographer would have to have been real good to deserve this.

(2) I wasn’t surprised with this one, “I asked Santa Claus for the new Tamron 150-600mm lens.”

(3) When I heard this from a very serious photographer I thought, “me too”, “There is a new program called Aurora I would really like to try out over the Xmas Holidays.”

(4) More than one photographer upon retiring has gone this way so I wasn’t surprised with when some said, “After all these years of packing around a big DSLR, I would really like Santa to give me a small, lightweight Mirrorless camera.”

(6) Hey, this idea is just smart, “I’ve asked for gift cards, better chance of getting some of those than the Nikon D500 I really want.”

(7) “A new graphite tripod would be great to find under the Christmas tree.”

(8) I have my fingers crossed for this person, “A new camera backpack to hold the 70-200mm lens I hope I am getting.”

(9) A budding portraitist said, “I am hoping for several things this Christmas. A flash, a wireless off-camera trigger and a light stand with a softbox.”

(10) This is a great choice, “I really would be happy if I could get a macro ring flash for Christmas.”

(11) And I thought, “well of course” with this, “I think I’ll request that Santa Claus puts a couple of good quality, 32GB memory cards in my stocking.”

(12) This last one is practical for both portraiture and garden photographers “I’d be happy with a 5-in-1 collapsible reflector.

Personally, I could suggest many of the previous, but there are two photographers in our household and there needs to be some money left for my wife. So I’ll to put more thought into this before I reply.

There is still time to get your list to Santa. Good luck and Merry Christmas.

Time To Print Christmas Cards 

xmas-geese

santas-workshop

winter-christmas-view

xmas-chicken-1

xmas-chickens

holiday-train-2016

November isn’t even over and stores and television commercials are filled with Christmas advertising. Oh well, it always sneaks up on me, and anyway, I like all the festive celebration and excitement of Christmas. The early start means I get to enjoy all the colourful decorations, and listen to the Christmas music for a longer time. Yes, I like Christmas music.

All year long those photographer social media sites I belong to have been filled with photos made by members, but images posted on the internet quickly fade into memories and are easily forgotten when an hour later someone else posts theirs.

I like photographic prints. Prints have a life, whether framed and hung on the wall, taped on the refrigerator, or thumbtacked in an open space in the workroom. To me a print of any size has more importance than a digital image on my computer or iPhone screen.

Christmas is a great time for photographers that now have and an excuse (and an opportunity) to give our friends and family our photographs.

I suppose that could mean a big framed photograph, but what I am writing about is Christmas cards. Cards easier and less expensive than framed prints. Nevertheless, any card of a photographer’s work is more of a statement as a gift than an email.

I don’t want to believe that any photographer would be satisfied with mass produced generic Christmas cards. Personally, I want people enjoy my photography. Even if it’s only as a 5×7 card, and that’s better than having my pictures left languishing in some hard-drive.

Right now my wife, Linda and I are going through our many image files from this year’s photographs selecting those we want for Christmas cards. I’ll print up lots of different images and place all sorts of greetings on them. It is rare that we give the same picture to more than one person. And not all the cards say Merry Christmas. Although I like “Merry Christmas” what goes on a card doesn’t really matter. Happy Holidays, Seasons greetings, Have fun, A good New Year, and anything else I think fits a particular picture.

I have written before that my wife and I always produce a new monthly calendar, doing alternating months. I always get December even if it’s Linda’s turn. Doing a calendar is a neat way to enjoy our photography, but cards are a lot more fun because they are for others to enjoy. I also make cards for all occasions, like birthday’s, Valentine’s, Mother’s day, etc.,

My family expects me to share my photography. Sometimes it’s only a picture of something we’ve done, but if it’s a special occasion they always get a card. For those photographers that don’t have their own printer, it’s as easy as having a 4×5 print made at a local lab. Then get some construction paper, glue a picture on it, fold the paper, write something like Merry Christmas inside and give it away. And don’t make all the cards the same.                                 What would be the fun in that?

Your Photographs Make Great Christmas Cards

Xmas

My favourite from last year

 

Horse sleigh ride

enlarger ghost 3

xmas chickens

Another favourite

 

The Christmas season is a perfect time for photographers to give friends and relatives some photographs. That could mean a framed photographic print, but personally I like to give Christmas cards.

Last year, at this time, I wrote about an early December visit that my wife and I spent in San Francisco, California, and the scene we were greeted with when we decided to spend an afternoon on a picturesque beach at John Muir Park. There were three young people involved in what we assumed was the production of a Christmas greeting card for a barefoot young woman that stood at the water’s edge wearing a long dark skirt, a billowy white shirt, a red vest, and a Santa Claus cap. She posed and smiled as she supported a gangly four-foot Charlie Brown Christmas tree at her side and her friends laughed and photographed her as the surf rolled in. What a great idea for a card!

There are stacks of generic greeting cards being offered at stores, but for photographers it’s a perfect excuse to give people photographs. Personally, I want people to see and enjoy my photography, even if it’s only as a 5X7 card. I go through the many images languishing in my hard drive, add some festive greetings and voila! I have some cards for the Christmas season.

It is rare that we give the same picture to more than one person. And not all our cards say Merry Christmas. To me, it doesn’t matter; Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, a good New Year, and anything else I think fits a particular picture.

It doesn’t even need to have a Christmas look at all. (Actually, they rarely do and are usually pretty silly) What matters is the picture and it’s important that the card is unique. And I really don’t care what they do with the card I sent. I hope people like what I give them, however, if it gets thrown out with the gift-wrap after the holidays it doesn’t matter either, they had the opportunity to see a photograph taken by my wife, Linda, or myself, and that’s what’s important.

Don’t be a Grinch and hide your pictures away. Just showing some picture on your iphone or facebook isn’t enough. Print it, make a card, put it in an envelope, and give it to someone. And it’s easy, just get a 4×6 print and glue a photo to card stock or construction paper and write something festive on it. In my opinion Christmas cards don’t really need to be just about Christmas. Call them greeting cards, holiday cards, or whatever you want. That way if it’s a bit late for Christmas they can be sent or delivered anyway.

I enjoy all comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photographing a Christmas Concert.

There is nothing like a well lit photograph.

There is nothing like a well lit photograph.

The Yule Log Fireplace channel is now available on TV. That must mean Christmas is coming. My wife and I also just received a call from my son to tell us the date of our granddaughters’ school Christmas concert. And with that festive event, it’s final – Christmas is on the way!

Last year my wife and I joined what seemed to be about five hundred parents, siblings, and, of course, other grandparents in a large hall. We had arrived early because my daughter-in-law said the seating would be limited and as it turned out, it was standing room only for those who arrived late.

There were many people holding their cell phones or little digicams, and I think I saw someone with a DSLR away in the back, but mostly they just sat in their chairs waiting, hopeful their cameras would make wonderful photographs of the childrens’ concert. I heard a parent near us complain she hadn’t charged her batteries.

I had a centre isle seat near the back that was perfect from which to move around. And before everything started I made several exposure tests so I would know my exposure and where to stand to get the best shots.

When the audience lights were lowered and teachers positioned themselves to coach (and coax) the children as they sang I remember looking around watching people holding out their cell phones and digicams at arm length to photograph those on stage.

Flashes on those tiny devices only have a reach of approximately 15 feet, and even if the small figures on the stage were visible in the pictures, everything in the foreground would be extremely over exposed. The person with the DSLR was at the back of the audience with a telephoto lens, but no flash, foolishly relying on her camera’s high ISO. I expect the resulting images were much the same as the digicams with inconsistent exposures.

As the concert began, and before my granddaughter appeared I stepped into the isle and made some shots and as I expected, they were not to my satisfaction. Yes, I could see the whole group with their teacher, back to me, gesturing, but the children were too far away, and although some parents may be interested in their children’s classmates, I selfishly only cared about getting good pictures of my granddaughter, so I moved up close. My technique for being in front of other people is to select my spot, kneel down out of everyone’s view until I am ready, then I stand up, take my picture, and kneel down again.

With my camera and lens pre-set, I only needed to work around several parents sitting on the floor holding their digicams at arms length above their heads, and the one grandparent kneeling and wildly waving.

The concert was fun and my granddaughter was excellent (in my opinion anyway) and I took lots of pictures of her while she was on stage, and downloaded the image files from my camera to my computer when I got home. I edited, re-edited, then edited again for a final selection that I liked, and finally was down to a couple that I really liked. My opinion is that anything but the best is just wasting space and I never want people to see anything but my best photographs.

As I left the concert I could hear people saying they wish they could have got better photographs, and of course they blamed their equipment or other people, but not themselves. Soon the season will be upon us and for photographers the decision should be easy; every photographic opportunity should be thought out and they should always take the time to produce quality images. At last year’s concert most people had inadequate equipment or poor locations, whereas I had a DSLR with a flash attached and had spent some time preparing and selected the best position I good get in that overcrowded hall.

I really enjoy everyones comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

 

 

Twelve Gifts for a Photographer’s Christmas

Tree 2 xmas presents

We finished decorating our 15-foot Christmas tree, and I started putting the tracks together for the Christmas train that goes round and round the tree.  Afterwards, my wife, Linda, resting and enjoying a cup of tea, and perusing the glory of our handiwork commented, “You haven’t told me yet what you want for Christmas. Do you want something for your photography?”

I hadn’t thought about what I wanted.  I had been enjoying the tree, the decorations, and the Christmas music, but as far as a gift for me, especially, “something for photography” left me at a loss of what to say, so I replied, “I suppose I want everything and anything that will fit my camera.”

I watched the train go round the tree, and I listened to the music coming from the satellite receiver (I like the channel that plays smooth Christmas jazz) and tried to think about what I could tell my wife.

In keeping with that subject, I decided to pose that question on a couple of photographer forums I frequent. There are so many different photographers with different ideas on what would be the perfect photography gift for them, that I edited them a bit and selected twelve in keeping with the tradition of twelve days of Christmas.

I am absolutely sure readers have their own Christmas list, however, here are some of the requests I picked out for this year.

(1) “I asked for the Canon 6D, worth a try.”  (The first on the list is one of many that wanted a particular camera, and I just went with the first response of many.)  One would have had to been really good to deserve this.

(2) “I thought about asking for an additional tripod; a smaller, lighter one for hiking… but I would not want to push my luck.”  Good choice.

(3) “I asked Santa for a 70-200mm lens.”  Very nice.

(4) “Lensbaby Composer Pro – This tilting lens is the first item on my list.”  Wow.

(5) “I already bought a Fujifilm X100s…I couldn’t wait.”  Good move.

(6) “I’ve asked for gift cards, better chance of getting some of those than the Nikon D800 I really want.”  That works for me.

(7) “A Bush Hawk Shoulder Mount would be great to find under the Christmas tree.” That would be so neat.

(8) “A 50mm f/1.4 lens would be perfect.” I agree.

(9) “I really would be happy if I could get a macro ring flash for Christmas.”  I agree.

(10) “I would like a wireless off-camera flash, light stand, and a softbox.” Excellent.

(11) “I’d be happy with a 5-in-1 collapsible reflector, or if I am really very good I would like a really big umbrella, 80 inches would be super.”  Absolutely.

(12) “A new camera backpack to hold the 70-200mm lens I hope I am getting.”  That would be so neat.

Personally, I could suggest to my wife that she empty out our savings and get me a really long focal length lens. But I doubt that item would actually find it’s way under our tree. After all there needs to be some money left for her. So, being the practical guy I am, I think I’ll request that Santa Claus puts a couple of good quality, 32GB memory cards in my stocking.

There is still time to get your list ready. Good luck and Merry Christmas.

Got any additions or comments? Let me know – Thanks, John

My new website is at www.enmanscamera.com