How to Photograph Christmas Lights with Your DSLR, Mirrorless Camera, or Smartphone

Christmas Lights, Easton, Columbus, OH

Christmas Lights, Easton Shopping Center, Columbus, OH

‘Tis the season and there are a lot of Christmas lights out there to photograph. It is fun and easy, and with a few tricks up your sleeve there are creative things you can do. Many of these techniques can be used on other lights throughout the year, so this is a good time to practice your skills for photographing lights.

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iPhone vs Canon Rebel SL3

iPhone (inset) and Canon SL3. 100% magnification (“actual pixels”) samples from the center of both images. Click to see a larger version.

Last night (Monday) I was photographing a band concert for our weekly, small town newspaper. The problem is the photo deadline is 5 pm Monday for the Thursday paper and the concert began at 7:30 pm, 2 1/2 hours after the deadline. Depending on where the newspaper staff is in producing the issue, sometimes they can squeeze in another photo or two that come in after the deadline. The sooner I can get them photos, the better, so I sent the paper two photos taken with my iPhone, one of the elementary school band and one of the high school band. But I used a Canon SL3 for most of the concert. I downloaded the SL3 memory card and sent the paper two more photos just in case they were running really late. Why? The Canon SL3 creates dramatically better photos in less than optimum lighting conditions.

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Andromeda Galaxy and its Satellite Galaxies

Andromeda and its satellite galaxies.

For me, December is not only the month for Christmas Season photos and portraits, on reasonably pleasant December nights with no wind it is the time of year to photograph the night sky. Winter has better night sky “seeing” than the other three seasons. Cold air holds less moisture to there is more visual clarity of the night sky. Unfortunately, where many of us live winter is also very cold so I do most of my winter night sky photography in December since it is usually more tolerable.

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Tundra Bean-Goose, Part 2

Tundra Bean-Goose, The Razz soccer field, Graceland University.

I went looking for the Tundra Bean-Goose again this afternoon (see the prior article), along with one of my young grandsons. The light was much better than yesterday which meant a lower ISO setting on the camera and a lot less digital noise than at ISO 6400 late yesterday afternoon. That would mean better photos.

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Rare Event: Tundra Bean-Goose in Iowa

Tundra Bean Goose and Canada Geese, Big G Lake, Lamoni Iowa. Cropped from the original photo.

This is not a great photo, but it is a photo! For the last week a single Tundra Bean-Goose has been hanging out with Canada Geese at the lakes, farm ponds, and corn fields around Lamoni Iowa. This week is the first time ever this goose has been spotted in the state of Iowa. It should be in Northern Europe or Northern Russia so it is thousands of miles away from home. I finally spotted it yesterday.

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Thanksgiving in Haxtun

Grandpa, Grandma, and their six children.
Grandpa, Grandma, and their six children.

When I was growing up, we spent many a Thanksgiving at grandpa’s house in Haxtun Colorado. Thanksgiving was a much anticipated and happy time. We would leave home on Wednesday afternoon after dad got home from work. It was a long 7 hour drive to Grandpa’s house in those pre-interstate highway days, so it would be really late by the time we arrived.

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Topaz to the Rescue

Topaz Sharpen AI software screen. I zoomed in on the face on the left to make my software decisions.

I was photographing a concert Saturday night for the local newspaper and the light levels were low. Using flash was out of the question. A flash would kill the ambience of the lighting.

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Trunk or Treat: Choosing the Best Event Photos

Adobe Bridge: Some of Saturday’s Trunk or Treat Photos

At my first newspaper gig in Oklahoma (back in the 1980s), I learned to take a lot of photos at busy events. Photographing active children is a game of percentages. You might take a half dozen or more images of one trick-or-treater to get the shot you want, or maybe none of the images “work” and the moment is gone. So you take a lot of pictures.

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Camera Equipment and Settings for Event Photography

Adobe Bridge: 24 photos for the local newspaper.

Last Saturday I photographed a Trunk or Treat event for the local newspaper. I took 361 photos with two DSLRs, plus 5 more with my iPhone. On my first cut I picked 63 images. After the last cut I was down to 24 images which I optimized and sent to the paper. In this article I shared the equipment and camera settings that I used.

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How do you figure out the names of the mountains in your photos?

Mountains photographed from County Road 140 north of Poncha Springs Colorado.

How do you figure out the names of mountains you don’t know? It is relatively simple. I will show you how.

Ten years ago last night (October 26-27, 2012), my brother John and I were about a mile north of Poncha Springs Colorado. It was around midnight and we had a bright moon high in the sky. John was taking in the view and I was pointing my tripod mounted camera several different directions and taking pictures by moonlight.

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My iPhone Photography Apps

My iPhone Apps

I keep my photo apps together on one screen on my iPhone. Many of these apps are also available for Android phones. I thought I would share a screen capture of my photo apps and tell you briefly what these apps do. Some of these apps do things with the photos that are on your camera phone. Some of them help you control your camera phone. Some of them deal with an external camera (like my DSLR) or with external hardware. A few apps help you be at the right place at the right time. One or more of these apps might be just the ticket for what you like to do.

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Autumn Shoot with Beth

Beth, Slip Bluff Lake.

Fall is my favorite season for nature photography as you can tell by the number of photos I take per season. But I also love fall for outdoor portrait photography. The colors of fall make a nice backdrop for photographing people. These photo are from a favorite autumn photo shoot with Beth. I hope you take advantage of the colors of the season to do some portrait photography of your own. If you want to improve your portrait photography skills, check out the books at the last link below.

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Two Photographers and Eleven Outdoor/Travel Writers Pick the Best National Parks for Fall

Long’s Peak and Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Fall is a fabulous time of year to visit the national parks. Crowds are usually smaller than in the summer, temperatures are cooler, and some of our national parks have glorious fall colors. With so many to choose from, where should you go? Which national parks will provide the best photographic opportunities in the fall?

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The Best National Parks for Fall Photography

Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

What are the best national parks to photograph in the fall? Here are my choices, grouped by state and province from west to east. This list includes the favorites I have been to, plus the ones I most want to see based on the recommendations of the photographers I trust, like Tim Fitzharris and QT Luong. More about them later.

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Colorado Fall Color Photography and Travel Guide – 2022

Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. Mid-morning. September 24, 2015.

Maroon Bells and Maroon Lake. Mid-morning. September 24, 2015.

Headed for Colorado this fall? Welcome to my complete Colorado fall color photography and travel guide with 131 photos, 18 maps, and over 100 pages of information (if you print it all out). I cover some of the best known fall color locations in Colorado, and one real gem of a road that is not widely known to photographers and leaf peepers. Spend anywhere from two days to two weeks exploring the beautiful Colorado Rockies at a gorgeous time of year.

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21 Years Ago

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I was working in my office. The family/TV room was right around the corner. The phone rang and I picked it up.

“Stop whatever you are doing and turn on the TV.” I walked around the corner and turned it on.

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Chip East Reflects on the Last Photos of His Friend, Bill Biggart, Taken on 9/11

Photographer Chip East was staring intensely at his laptop screen.

It was two weeks after two jetliners had plowed into the towers of the World Trade Center. His good friend, photojournalist Bill Biggart’s body had been recovered from the rubble. His personal effects, including his cameras had been released by authorities to his widow, Wendy.

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