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Oh Christmas Lights, Oh Christmas Lights

I'm constantly on the lookout now for new and fun things to photograph as part of my quest to get better.  I think honestly I'm probably going to focus on landscape photography since it's almost an automatic, being in Colorado, that there's awesome landscapes.  Not just around my house, but close by my house, in the mountains, and tons of other places I haven't been to yet.

In any case, our neighborhood has a ton of Christmas lights up, more-so than normal I think.  Since I knew virtually nothing about how to really photograph them, I did a web search, and came up with an article from Strobist.  For those who don't know, that site is an excellent resource for lighting, specifically off-camera flash.  What it said in the article made a lot of sense, but the big thing it stressed was timing. You don't want it to be too light outside, but you don't want it to be too dark, so you need something in between.  As I don't have control over the lights I was going to photograph, I had no idea if that was possible. Tonight right before sunset, I went out to get the mail, and noticed one of the houses I wanted to photograph was lit, so ran inside, grabbed my camera and tripod, and ran over the house to set up.  

Now here's the funny thing.  The photos from that initial house I wanted to photograph didn't turn out as well as I would've liked, but I ended up taking some close-up shots of the house next door. Those turned out decently:

Mariela's House

Nothing was done in the post processing for this one except I up'ed the exposure by 1/2 a stop, and used Matt Klowkowski's Warm and Fuzzy Lightroom preset.

Notice the royal blue sky. Thank you Strobist for that tip!  It's a combination of not only getting the correct light, but setting the white balance to Tungsten.  I never would've thought that.

As I was turning to go back to my house, I saw a lone little lit up tree between a couple of houses, so figured I'd try to do a quick HDR shot of that and see what happened.  Very little processing (after the PhotoMatix HDR merge) other than a few filters in PhotoTools to pop the tree a bit, and voila!

Lit Tree

Thanks to Lorne for helping me with the crop on this one.

The learning continues with all of the awesome resources available online, and in book form.