About Me

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Spofford, New Hampshire, United States
Jeff Newcomer has been a physician practicing in New Hampshire and Vermont for over 30 years. Over that time, as a member of the Conservation Commission in his home of Chesterfield New Hampshire, he has used his photography to promote the protection and appreciation of the town's wild lands. In recent years he has been transitioning his focus from medicine to photography, writing and teaching. Jeff enjoys photographing throughout New England, but has concentrated on the Monadnock Region and southern Vermont and has had a long term artistic relationship with Mount Monadnock. He is a featured artist in a number of local galleries and his work is often seen in regional print, web publications and in business installations throughout the country. For years Jeff has published a calendar celebrating the beauty of The New England country-side in all seasons. All of the proceeds from his New England Reflections Calendar have gone to support the Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program at the Cheshire Medical Center. Jeff has a strong commitment to sharing his excitement about the special beauty of our region and publishes a weekly blog about photography in New England.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting the Most from Christmas Lights Photography


Finding the Holiday “Sweet Spot”

This is the time of year when every good photographer turns their camera toward the lights that warm our holiday season. This week I completed an article for the New England Photography Guild on shooting Christmas lights. The blog includes a number of tips that I think are especially important when trying to capture the magic of Christmas illuminations. Check it out.  Christmas Lights Photography (to be published 12/23/13)


As always my companion “Getting it Right in the Digital Camera” blog will include some the images that didn’t fit in the NEPG article.
 


 I have never been a great fan of Christmas light photography; 
Lovely Understated Lighting
perhaps because of the tendency of some folks to bury their homes with garish displays that speak more of their egos than the peace and warmth of the holidays. This year I have been giving the lights another chance, looking for more understated beauty and iconic settings, and of course that led me repeatedly to the beautiful and icon Central Square in Keene, New Hampshire. 



 

I have taken hundreds of pictures of Central Square, but the most popular have been those taken during winter with the Christmas decorations and lights. The square has 4 key elements that can be mixed and match in a wide variety of compositions. These include the gazebo, the white church and, during the holidays, the Christmas tree. Oh yes, and the fourth element is the traffic, both human and vehicular, that always has to be accounted for. This year our tree is a bit small, but nicely decorated. I came back to the square 5 times looking for the best combination of light and atmosphere. I think I finally hit on the “sweet spot” earlier this week.





Bare Ground & Dark Skies

 When I started visiting the Square the lights were beautiful, but the ground was bare. I experimented with compositions including all of the elements, the church, the Gazebo and the tree, but later tried other combinations. The first problem was that the brown grass was unattractively barren and did nothing to reflect the lights. I tried to arrange compositions to include as little of the ground as possible, but I needed snow, and that came last weekend.










As soon as the snow had stopped, I was out again, shooting some of my favorite angles around the square. The key to snow photography is to catch it when it is fresh, the "winter wonderland" time when the trees and buildings are still frosted. This is especially true for Christmas lighting. As I discussed in this week's NEPG Blog, the snow on the trees reflects the color of the light best when the snow is close to the bulbs and before the heat of the lamps melts it away. 









The Blue Hour, but No Snow
One of the keys to Christmas light photography is to shoot during the “Blue Hour”, that time just before sunrise or after sunset when the sky retains a lovely blue glow, but does not obscure the illumination. Lighting photographed in the full darkness tends to appear as if floating in space without sense of context with the underlying scaffolding and surrounding, unilluminated structures.

So what is the sweet spot for Christmas lights photography? For me it includes all the important elements; an iconic New England scene, beautiful and not garish lights that complement the locale, cool twilight in the sky and fluffy fresh snow. After last weeks snow, I hit the jack-pot on central square with all of these elements, but there was on thing

missing. 



It was the classic white church at the top of the square. The United Church of Christ was an essential part of many of my compositions, but the flood light which illuminate the facade didn't come on until the darkness had nearly fully descended. I was

missing the "Blue "Hour"! There 
The Sweet Spot
was some reflected light from the gazebo, but even with enhancements in post, it didn't have a natural feel. There was only one thing to do. I called the church and asked them, for one night, to turn the lights on a couple hours early. Everyone was very nice and understanding and after a search for the appropriate people in charge of the switch, the light came on at 2 PM last Tuesday afternoon. The evening featured a snowstorm, but I was able to catch the fully illuminated church, somewhat softened by the falling snow, and the storm provided a fresh frosting on the trees. With the long exposures the snow flakes were not individually visible, but they acted to soften the overall scene, especially with more distant elements, such as the church. As always, it was a hassle photographing in the storm, but I kept my towel over the camera and managed to keep the lens clear. Most importantly, I had my "sweet spot".

Check out my more detailed list of tips on the New England Photography Blog, and get out to enjoy the show before it flies off to the North Pole for another year.

Jeffrey Newcomer
Partridgebrookreflections.com

5 comments:

  1. LED Lights are fabulous. Now so many types,size and designs of LED lights. People like to use LED Lights. LED save the energy and money as well.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow ! Christmas day is a big festival day in the world I was finding a christmas related site at lest I got a beautiful site.I read this site first to last and I achieved more knowledge about your site.If you want same inform about christmas day please go Holiday Christmas Lighting in Orlando.

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  3. Wooow, could you tell me what's that place? :O

    ReplyDelete