This weekend, we pulled out our warmest coats, hats, and gloves and headed to Salt Lake to see the Christmas lights at Temple Square.
We haven’t been in years, (and really, I mean like 10 years . . .) but it was just as beautiful and cold as I remember.
Riding on TRAX was the highlight of Hannah’s night. It ranked right up there with attending the Nutcracker ballet. Who needs to ride on the “Polar Express” in Heber when you can take your kid on TRAX for free? She kept telling us we were headed to the North Pole to see the “Mo-Tab” (which, is short for “Mormon Tabernacle Choir” to us Mormons) and David and I were like, “THE MO-TAB?” How old is she? Who taught her that? Where do kids pick up on lingo like that?
When she wasn’t talking about the “Mo-Tab” she was asking when her hot chocolate was going to come.
Obviously, she thought we were on the Polar Express . . .
See this get-up here? Not one peep out of her saying she was cold. Not one. (Not pictured is her big winter parka. The kid was WARM thank goodness.)
I think 10,000 other people had the same idea we did on Sunday night, so I had to fight a few crowds to take some pictures.
These floating votives were so beautiful in the water with steam surrounding them.
I experienced something new last night. Usually when I’m out photographing, I’m by myself, photographing something that is interesting to me. When I’m doing night shots, I’m by myself 99% of the time. Last night, 1,000 of the 10,000 people at Temple Square had the same game plan I did to get some shots of “Christmas at Temple Square.”
However, only a handful of “serious photographers” (SLR peeps) had a tripod on them.
I’m now going to interject and tell why it is totally pointless to photograph in a low-light situation without a tripod: Because your images will be blurry.
End of story.
I’m going to be completely honest here, if you have a GREAT shot that is even slightly out of focus or has even a hint of camera shake . . . it’s crap.
Is that rude? Gosh, that’s just how I feel. And let me tell you, I’ve deleted hundreds of good shots that were slightly out of focus. It’s a bummer, but who wants a great composition that isn’t tack sharp? UGH. Not me.
So, back to my “new experience” story . . . every time I would set up my tripod and spend a few minutes moving it around to just the right spot, other photographers would surround me on both sides trying to get the same shot I was.
Now, I want you to know that I wasn’t flattered. I thought it was hilarious. I mean, they’ve never seen my work, so how do they know if I know what I’m doing? Just because you have an SLR and a tripod doesn’t mean you take great pictures. (We all know cameras don’t read minds. It’s our job is to speak “camera” and that is why the 12 inches behind the camera is the most important part.)
I think Ashton Kutcher could use this experiment on “Punk’d.” What do you think? Have someone go to an amusement park, pull out all of their gear and have them start taking pictures of the most ridiculous stuff! Seriously! I guarantee people would flock to the same area to take some pictures!
The moral of this story is: Follow your own style. Be true to your vision. How someone else see’s the world is their perspective, not yours. Variety is what makes art so amazing. The same place can be photographed a million times and look different in each image because each person has put a personal stamp on how they view the world. Don’t assume other photographers know what they’re doing just because they have equipment.
Now, to help you with your vision, I’m going to mention a few tips about night photography:
- Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, use a flash when shooting places or architecture at night. The only time you should pull out a flash for night shots is when you’re photographing people. And even then, please don’t use the pop up flash on your camera. It completely washes out your subject and makes it nearly impossible to see the scenery behind them. Get an external flash. Preferably a diffused flash.
- You must ALWAYS shoot on a tripod. ALWAYS. If I forget to bring mine, I don’t shoot. It’s pointless.
- Set your ISO to 200 or less. I know this is counter intuitive when you logically think about ISO and how it works (the lower the light the higher the ISO needs to be to generally, but trust me, if you want a clean sharp image, set the ISO to 200.) but you don’t want all that digital noise in your night image. It looks messy and the “reduce noise” filter in Photoshop is not a miracle adjustment.
- Your light meter will not give you accurate reading in the dark of the night, so you must do some test shots, and adjust your aperature and shutter speed until you like what you see. In general, on a very dark night, your F-stop could be set at F22 and the shutter anywhere from 15-30 seconds. On a brighter night (like a full moon with lots of lights around) if you keep your F-stop at F22, you might only need the shutter to stay open for 2-4 seconds.
- If your lens has vibration reduction on it, turn it off when your camera is on a tripod. The VR actually looks for camera shake and if it can’t find it, it may produce it making your image blurry.
- If it’s a windy night, FORGET IT. Even with the VR on, a 30 second exposure in windy conditions is going to make a blurry image, and you all know how I feel about blurry images.
- Take a flashlight so you can see your manual control and display screen in the dark.
Where am I going with this post? My intention was to tell you about how beautiful temple square is and how we’ve missed going to see the lights year after year.
However, It sounds like I may have ranted and provided a small tutorial for night photography.
That’s about that.