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Shooting Christmas lights

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I thought I would throw out a few tips to make your holiday lights stand out from the crowd. This is a resurrected post from last year.

1. You will need a tripod or some type of good support. A remote shutter release will be a plus as well, though you can get by with using your cameras self-timer, this works for point and shoots as well as DSLR cameras.

2. Most people shoot Christmas lights when its dark, what you really want is to catch the lights when the ambient light is close to the Christmas lights themselves. Another words you should be out shooting just before sunset. You will be taking a a lot of shots and you will find that there is about a 10 minute window of really good light that balances out your Christmas lights. Your colors will pop off the screen.

The problem with shooting them when it is dark is that the camera will overexpose the Christmas lights and underexpose the dark scene around it. If you expose for the Christmas lights you will have points of light in a sea of dark. Get out and catch the lights when you have some color in your sky.

3. Christmas lights are tungsten balanced light. If you are shooting in AWB you normally will end up with white lights yellow, red lights orange, etc. Set your White Balance for tungsten or indoor lighting. Your bulb colors will be close to what they actually are. Your sky, since you are shooting with some ambient light still around, will take on a nice blue color as well. This one tip will make your shots stand out from most others! Many point and shoots have the ability to set WB so you can get beautiful results with them as well.

This is not the greatest, shot a bit early. You can see the blue tinge caused by the adjusting the WB, but the sky should have been a bit darker to bring out the blue lights in the tree to the left.


4. Use some interesting angles, a lot of sky, experiment if you have a zoom by zooming in or out while tripping the shutter. Use reflections from sheets of ice and bulbs to show objects or yourself. Shots that use the environment around them make the most memorable photos.


These two photos are not my best efforts but they illustrate some of the ideas from this post.

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Nice post. I've found that the same principles apply when shooting neon lights as well. Years ago I did a series of unique and colorful neon lights in the area around where I lived. Back then I was shooting Kodachrome and had to bracket pretty wide but all in all got some really nice results.

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Thanks Dan, this is a very nice tutorial. I've never played much with shooting lights because I've never been very happy with my results. You've given me the itch to try again.

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Thanks, Dan.

It's always good to review this because I only seldom shoot these and unfortunately at my age, remembering isn't my strong point.

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  • Your Responses - Share & Have Fun :)

    • Your point is very valid on the lack of habitat in much of southern MN as it is in much of the old zone 4 area. Each area of the state has a different "hole in the bucket". While that area lacks habitat, many other areas, including mine, have plenty of habitat, but lack high quality food to get the herd thru hard winters.
    • Leech,  I think many areas in WI have herds that have declined just as much as MN. I hunt SE of Turtle Lake, and used to see 25+ deer on opening morning before 9am on a regular basis. Now I feel good if I see a few critters the whole weekend. The many years of "T" seasons, "Herd control, and liberal antlerless tags have  dropped numbers in that area to a fraction of what they once were. It is what it is. I don't think they are doing better than MN is, but they started with a lot larger herd.  Their wolf issues will continue in the north, and CWD in the south. I don't envy their situation either.   FYI,  My land sits on the south end of the wolf range in NE Wadena county, MN. They generally do not bother my area except in the spring during calving season, although I have two of the buggers wandering around last November during rifle hunting. I usually have way more issues with coyotes and bears taking my fawns than wolves. 
    • I like sustainability as well. We party hunting and while that is a dirty word to many of the solitary hunters it's what we do. We never deplete the deer in our area and it's rare for us to fill even half our tags. Nobody gets more tags than one in our area.  I did actually make a solid proposal- habitat. But nobody took a moment to even touch that one.   I'm not sure if you are familiar with the southern part of the state but here is very little habitat outside of the southeast region. You just can't maintain the numbers to hold the numbers of deer that you need to get to where everyone who wants to harvest a deer can do so.   There was one specific post calling for an end to party hunting.   Habitat, habitat, habitat.   We should be focusing on improving habitat, bringing youth into the lifestyle and providing a positive public image to ensure future generations can enjoy hunting as well.    
    • Big Dave2, Just throwing the no party hunting out there as one possible solution. I certainly do not advocate getting rid of it. There are several other things being thrown around out there that I don't agree with as well.
    •   I would bet some cash there is a ton of lady bugs that wintered in there!
    • Well i wasn't sure if its the glue in the plywood or what. Have they been known to do tge same to a cedar or redwood built house?
    •   Op, ran off to the Sportsman show with my son before posting the map that went with my post.    Satchmo, I didn't think you were saying that Wisconsin was doing anything better.  It's just a lot of folks hold them up as a better state for Deer when there are a lot of factors our DNR has to deal with that they don't.   Good thread. Lot's of close personal feelings being shared.
    •   Improvements for you are not necessarily improvements for everyone.     Who advised you to do that? I didn't hear anyone give out that advice.     No one called you a name at all. Seems like you are being a little dramatic today especially since it is the "meat hunter" label that is really disparaging these days.     So you want changes only where it will benefit your way of hunting?
    •   Ummmmmm, I think you should read your posts and Wanderer's posts again.....      
    • Been a busy morning. Kettle if soup, venny neck roast for deer camp 2018, and Chinese chicken for supper tomorrow. Sure hope the photography passes leech approval.