Holiday Greetings

Shortly after moving to Sun City West, I joined the local camera club Photo West.  Like most clubs they run various photo contest. One of them is their monthly contest with a different theme each month. The first contest I entered was the December contest “Holiday Greetings”. As much to my surprise as anyone’s my photo one first place, and part of winning the contest is that you then have to explain how you took the photo, so I thought I’d do that here as well.

My original idea was to compose it with the cookies on the Santa plate, a glass of milk and the tree blurred out in the background. Then I saw the bottle of milk from a local dairy while shopping for Christmas baking supplies and decided that would make a better prop than the glass of milk.

Cookies and milk left for santa
Cookies for Santa
Decided to add the candle and make a note torn out of a shopping bag. Then I decided to try to make a snowman out of a couple golf balls, holding them together with some earthquake wax that I sometimes use in macro photography. That idea didn’t work out so well, and I ditched the idea after a couple minutes of trying to get the golf balls to stay together. Since earlier I had been picking up oranges that had fallen off my tree I decided to try to make a snowman out of them. They easily held together with a couple bamboo skewers, the wax that wouldn’t hold the golf balls easily held a few buttons on, add a couple cinnamon sticks and my ‘orangeman’ was all set.

When it came to the exposure settings I did it all in manual mode. I first set my ISO to 100 and the aperture to f/22 to cut all the ambient light, leaving only a faint trace of the Christmas lights. Then I added the off camera flash, also in manual mode, off to the left. As most of my flash pictures do, it had one of those little softboxes attached to it. I started out at 1/64th power and eventually upped it two stops to 1/16th power to totally light the milk and everything on the table. Lastly I changed my shutter speed down to 1/6th of a second to bring in more of the Christmas tree while still not bringing in any of the other ambient light.

The last part of my original concept I never did. I wanted to take a second shot at f/2.8 to turn the Christmas tree lights into a nice Bokeh effect. That would have meant compositing the two images and not being totally familiar with the club’s rules I assumed that probably wasn’t allowed.