Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

Holidays with a flair

Holidays with a flair

Once in a while it’s just fun to break the rules and be creative with your camera especially during the holiday season. With so many twinkling lights aglow in every direction, it’s a snap to use them to your advantage and try something a little different.

My first rule is no tripod for this project. Once you bring your tripod into the equation, it starts to be more like work. The object is to turn those still lights into an amazing pattern of glowing color turning, spinning and trailing into every direction .

One of my favorite locations this time of year is Downtown on Ice at Pershing Square in Los Angeles. There’s a temporary ice rink each year during the winter months. There’s always nice holiday decorative lighting and it’s a short walk from my office at night. It’s perfect for a little slow shutter speed twirling and spinning. Your local mall or home Christmas lights will work fine.

It’s crazy, but I seem to get better results with my iPhone 3G without any exposure controls than I do with my Canon 7D DSLR. I wish I had an answer for this, but I don’t. What could be better? You don’t need an expensive camera and there are lights everywhere this time of year. You can even tryout any of those creative photography Apps you bought for an iPhone here. Remember, there are no rules!

You need to use the sports photography technique of panning.  Panning is a technique where you start moving the camera in a direction before you click the exposure. Practice is important. Start moving the camera, click and keep moving the camera. Don’t stop when you press the shutter. It’s not difficult, but it sort of goes against the normal hold-it-steady technique.

Most advance cellphone cameras will give you the long exposure you will need. It’s up to you as to direction: straight, curves or twirls. Just keep experimenting.

If you have a DSLR or compact camera with manual exposure controls, you might start at ISO 400 1/2 second exposure at f5.6. Results will vary depending on the brightness and color of the sides, so its important to experiment. Having the display screen on the back of the camera for instant results makes checking your results a snap.

Photos: A variety of night holiday lights: Top series of photos taken at the Pershing Square ice rink with a Canon 7D camera. An iPhone 3GS was used for the other photographs. Credit: Robert Lachman / Los Angeles Times


  1. November 30, 2010, 3:56 pm

    Cool images, and thanks for the tips. A bit like shooting fireworks without a tripod.

  2. December 1, 2010, 6:16 pm

    […] Add Sizzle to Your Holiday Photos Holidays with a flair, time for a little creativity with those holiday lights […]

Add a comment or a question.

If you are under 13 years of age you may read this message board, but you may not participate. Here are the full legal terms you agree to by using this comment form.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they've been approved.


Required, will not be published

Browse All Photos »


%d bloggers like this: