My sister is doing a self published engagement calendar combining some of her minister’s prayers and some of my photos. I am glad to support her in this and she is free to plunder my pile of images for the few that match the imagery of her chosen prayers. There is very little I actually have to do, which, just in case you’re interested, is my favorite kind of project.
All is good except when a prayer comes up that my sister feels needs imagery that I don’t have. As with the last book she did, my lack of adequate imagery usually involves Christmas.
I don’t know about you but I never take Christmasy pictures- why would I? I love to take wintery pictures, I like pictures with red and green colors but actual Christmasy pictures- sorry can’t help you. Ah, but there is a slight problem with this. My sister doesn’t take “sorry, can’t help you” for an answer. Her response is, “So go get some!”
Going ‘on assignment’ like this is a fun thing to do and I have blogged about the advantages and fun of photographing with a purpose. Instead of going out and just looking for the prettiest picture try going out with an assignment in your head. “I’m going to shoot the doors of old New Orleans” or ” I’m going to look for reflections” or ” I’m going to photograph the things that seems ‘over looked’.” Doing this adds a nice sense of purpose and adventure to your photography and it can be a good way to stimulate yourself into seeing different things and thinking about your photography differently.
That is why I found myself wandering the gayly decorated streets of Vail, Colorado with my camera in hand and my eye out for photos that scream Christmas. I was smart enough to wait for a fresh snowfall and smart enough to wait until after 3pm when the parking garage is free but I wasn’t smart enough to bring a tripod and I certainly wasn’t smart enough to scout out the area before the conditions were right. That’s okay, I can live with 2 out of 4.
I found lots of Christmasy things to photograph but not as many pictures to take. The problem was the lack of tripod. When you are hand holding your camera you are limited by several factors. This is especially true in low light. When hand holding it is very difficult to get very much depth of field because you need to shoot with a wide open aperture to get the most shutter speed. the lower the light the more important this is. You can try to pick a higher ISO and this helps to a point but eventually my experience tells me that much more than f8 is not going to be possible.
This means you have to look for f8 compositions. What is an f8 composition? F8 doesn’t have much depth of field if you are shooting subjects that are close to you so an f8 composition is one that doesn’t have much inherent depth of field. This means that you have to either look for mostly flat subjects to photograph if you want most things in your image to be in focus or subjects that are flat enough for them to be in focus and the background is out of focus. The red ribbon is flat enough for it all to be in focus and the lamppost and wreath are flat enough (in the same focus plane) for them to be in focus while the background isn’t.
The one thing I forgot to do is wait for it to be dark enough for the Christmas tree lights to glow but not so dark for the tree to be lost in blackness. This time of day is called twilight and it is the perfect time to be shooting the glowing first lights of a darkening evening. I’ll have to go back and try again, my sister is only going to be happy with my best images. And, come to think of it, so am I.