Capturing Holiday Lights With Your Digital Cameraby Anita Cross
ne of my favorite things to do in December is drive around town and take photographs of the many beautiful light displays. I've discovered, as you probably have in your town, there are entire neighborhoods where nearly every house has been decked out with holiday lights.
In many ways, it's more convenient to capture holiday lights with your digital camera. You don't have to wait days to see the results, so you can compensate for too much or too little light and take the shot again. You can delete the obvious goofs and use the space for the next photo. And with memory cards costing so little these days, you can afford to take hundreds of shots.
While digital is more convenient, it still isn't easy getting the results you want. It will help if you take the time and effort to prepare for the challenges:
- Proper Equipment Is Essential. You'll need a decent camera that let's you manually adjust the settings and turn off the flash. While it isn't necessary to use an expensive SLR digital camera, you probably won't get good results with a cheap digital. You'll also need a tripod, and if possible, a remote shutter release.
- Run A Reconnaissance Mission. Take a few days to drive around and locate the neighborhoods with the spectacular lighting displays. Many displays use automatic timers, so take notice if a display you saw going in is off on the way out. Write down important information, especially the location and directions to displays you especially want to photograph.
- Know The Weather Conditions. Check the local news or weather channel (or web site) and plan your outings for days with optimal conditions. Avoid evenings that are foggy or raining, as fog will diffuse the lights and the rain can be downright miserable, not to mention the possibility of getting your camera and gear wet!
- Dress For Success. Yes, that old adage applies here too. December evenings can get really cold. Cold or not, you need to take time to compose the shot. (And that can be tough to do when your teeth are chattering and all you can think about is the hot cocoa and warm fire waiting back home.) Dress in layers. If necessary, wear long-johns to reduce the bulk. Ski Jackets are great for this, especially those with extra inside pockets you can use for memory cards and a spare battery. Gloves can be a nuisance while shooting, so make sure you have alternative means of keeping your hands warm, especially in areas with bitter cold.
- Study Your Camera Manual. Things will go a lot smoother if you are familiar with the features and options available on your camera. Things you'll need to know before you go out include: How to use the menu to change ISO, set image size, and image quality; How to turn off your flash; How to use the auto-focus options; How to set Aperture and shutter speeds in Manual mode.