Photographing Christmas lights    

I have always liked Christmas. I won’t go as far as saying that it’s my favourite time for year. Gosh, anytime time of year that I get to point my camera at something is my favourite time.

Christmas is special. I like the music. (Don’t ride in my car or visit me at my home if you expect any other kind of music till January 2nd) I also like the festive spirit of those people that remember this is a time of caring, giving and friendship. And, of course, I really like Christmas lights.

My last article was about using my ultra-wide lens Saturday morning to photograph the Tree of Hope, but the night before found Jo and I wandering in the cold photographing the city lights.

Jo used a 28-300mm and I used my 24-70mm and we both carried tripods. I think the lowest ISO I used was 800. Jo said she kept hers set at 100 ISO most of the time.

There were the usual strings of lights along the city streets, but it was the cheerful holiday lit Okanagan Lake waterfront that we wanted to photograph.

Kelowna goes all out and even has a skating rink that is open till 11PM and this year there was a big fire at one end for people to gather around.

Everything was perfect for two prowling photographers hunting for interesting and creative photos. I was hoping for snow. I like how the white covering reflects light at night.

We were ready for the cold and the snow and we even went shopping when we first arrived in Kelowna for a pair of insulated boots that Jo got for an early Christmas present.

What a fun overnight trip we had. We checked in to our downtown hotel, went Xmas shopping, had dinner at my favourite Kelowna restaurant (That plays blues music as you eat) were out till 9:30ish photographing the lights and got up early the next morning to photograph the 250,000 bulb Christmas tree.

As Jo and I drove home after that exhilarating time we talked about how we each found our own personal views of the lights. Would that be Perspective?

Photographing in low light or after dark helps to slow us down. One employs a tripod and most of the shutterspeeds are slow.

I think those photos that visually work usually take some forethought.

I’ll end this with a quote by American photographer Elliott Erwitt that I have used many times before because it fits so well, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.”

 

 

 

 

Road Trip to Penticton  

SS Sicamous

Walking the beach at night

SS Sicamous Penticton

StearnWheeler

Penticton Waterfront

 

The month of November has began and my wife, Linda, and I thought it might be a good idea to take a drive south before the cold winds blow the last leaves of fall from the trees. Sometimes it’s just nice to go for a drive. So we decided on Penticton; a scenic three-hour drive from our home for a fun, fall, overnight getaway. Any pictures we could get would be a bonus.

During the summer the city of Penticton, situated at the southern tip of British Columbia’s Okanagan Lake, is a thriving tourist destination. And I didn’t doubt a friend’s statement when he suggested that Penticton, a city of 30,000 plus population easily doubles in the summer. However, everything changes in the lull between summer and winter. When I called a motel the clerk told me, “You don’t need to bother with a reservation as there are plenty of rooms.”

I like cities at night. The lights sparkle and beckon to those of us that have our camera and tripod ready. Arriving after dark and settling in to our room it was no time at all before we had bundled up against the cold lake breeze and rushed out into the dark to wander along the wide sandy beach.

It’s easy to get sharp, colourful night pictures. I was out to photograph the SS Sicamous, said to be the largest surviving sternwheeler in British Columbia. The SS Sicamous, now a museum, prowled Okanagan Lake until 1936, servicing the lakeside fruit growing communities of Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon.

The big stern wheeler had strings of lights that illuminated and outlined it bow to stern, and the lights were perfect for some night shots. As I mentioned, it is so easy. I selected Aperture priority, and chose a small aperture that would give me lots of depth of field, and with the camera securely mounted on my tripod, set it on self-timer to reduce camera shake, and released the shutter.

Then after four or five shots I turned around and shot down the beach toward the brightly lit, big casino hotel in the distance and walked back to our room to stow our gear so that Linda and I could go out for dinner. Even in the off-season the charming Italian style restaurant was filled with happy patrons.

In the morning I returned to the now sun-lit beach to photograph the SS Sicamous again.

I think fall is a great time to go for a two-day drive. We called it our end-of-summer, mini vacation. Most people are more interested in getting ready for winter, which leaves plenty of accommodation available and reasonable prices.

I expect Penticton will fill up again when the snows arrives, and vacationers that spent the summer boating, wind-surfing, playing golf, hiking and cycling will return for downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing adventures in the winter.

For my wife and I the cool autumn stay in that lakeside city was perfect. And I couldn’t ask for a nicer time to take pictures.

A road trip to Peachland.

      Lakefront view

Peachland town clock

Boat dock flag

Orange wall with green lamp   Wall lamp

Church window

Roof stars

My friend Dave called and said, “Want to go on a road trip to Peachland tomorrow?”

Peachland is an easy two and a half hour drive south from my home in Pritchard along highway 97 and although the elevation of both Pritchard and Peachland is the same at 1,180 feet, it is still quite cold at my house with lots of snow, while Peachland was a balmy +13c with slowly greening grass along the road and the lakefront.

So without hesitation I agreed, and when Dave parked his truck in my snow packed driveway at 9am the next morning, I was ready with a 18-200mm lens mounted on my camera and we drove south through the wide Okanagan valleys toward Peachland.

I like the small community that is mostly located on a hillside beside the 135 km long Okanagan Lake and always enjoy wandering its lake front street with my camera. In the summer the restaurants, shops and park are filled with people, but this time of year it is easy to get photographs without anyone getting in the way and I walked back and forth across the street while photographing interesting features on the buildings without worrying about cars.

Dave had his 150-500mm Sigma and began photographing some ducks and fifty or so American Coots (I think some them Mud ducks) swimming in the small boat harbor.

As we stood talking in the warm sun I looked across the lake trying to see the infamous Rattlesnake Island, where the legendary Ogopogo is said to have it’s home.

Ogopogo is the name given to a 40 to 50 foot long sea monster allegedly seen in Okanagan Lake since the 19th century. However, because the evidence is limited to blurry photographs, unbelievers suggest that the sightings are misidentifications of common animals like big otters or floating logs.

I like mysteries and I thought how nice it would be to get a nice sharp picture of that elusive beast with my 18-200mm.  Heck, I’d even share he moment with my friend Dave. After all, he had a 150-500mm lens and surely get a closer picture than me. But the Ogopogo monster wasn’t interested in getting it’s picture taken and was most likely hiding out of site in the lake depths. So, with a disappointed sigh, I left my friend to photograph the cute little Coots and walked down the street to get a picture of the town clock.

I have mentioned before that I like photographing buildings, and strolling along sidewalks with my camera, in cities, large or small is exhilarating. Whether the architecture is low and flat, skyscraping, old bricked, wooden or shiny metal and glass, I always find something different to photograph.

This time I was a bit hurried, we wanted get home before dark and Dave had almost another hour to go after dropping me off. So I ran back and forth trying to limit my photos to shadows, roof ledges and windows. Ok, I strayed from that goal a bit, oh well. Anyway I expect to be back soon.

Summer is on its way and wife and I expect to do some driving around British Columbia. My short trips will always include architectural photography opportunities in the towns and cities I visit and I think its fun to change the visual story by picking out intimate features or only a small part of a scene instead of making a photograph of the whole structure.

I always enjoy comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com