I'll Be Home For Christmas

December 24, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Well......not exactly, but close.

There are two places I call home. One is the Chicago area, where I was born, raised, and started my career. The second is New Hampshire, my adoptive state, which I recently left after many years happily photographing its beautiful landscapes.

I did get back home to Chicago for a combination photo shoot and pre-Christmas family visit last week, having just returned to snowy southeastern Idaho on Tuesday. 

Given the time of year, naturally I worked on adding to my Christmas Project portfolio while in the city! There are some decorations that are reliably consistent there year after year, while others change. Consequently, margin for error has to be considered when creating the shot list. I plan based on what I expect to be in various locations from previous experience, and then adjust on the fly once I see what's really going on.

Many of these compositions involve lights, which obviously requires shooting once it's dark. However, I prefer to make most of my images before the sky turns completely black, which means there are only so many compositions that can be captured each day. A complicating factor in big cities is the fact that there are (naturally) a lot of people around - sometimes so many that it's nearly impossible to make the image I have in mind.

The solution?

I get what I can in the evening, but save some compositions for very early in the morning. Especially in places like New York and Chicago, most if not all of the lights remain lit all night long, if not around the clock. (This is actually sometimes true even in smaller towns like Portsmouth, New Hampshire.) I arrive on location while the sky is still completely dark, get set up, and start shooting once color begins to appear. It's the perfect combination of the blue/purple sky I seek, and very few (if any) people out and about.

Below is one example of a shot that would never have worked in the evening.

Red LineRed LineAt daybreak on the weekend before Christmas, Chicago's loop is quiet. Red Line subway stations are decorated along with the street lamps on State Street; a long exposure transforms the headlights of a passing taxi into two white stripes.

This is State Street in the heart of Chicago's loop. The Red Line subway stations were all sporting roping, red bows, and the same oversized ornaments which decorated the street lights. Along with the holiday banners above, I liked the vignette - but knew I couldn't make that picture when the sidewalks were packed with people.

I saved this one for daybreak on Sunday morning. The sidewalks were mostly deserted. A few people came up and exited the subway while I was there, and one or two crossed State at Adams in the distance, but I didn't have to wait long for it to clear. There were more vehicles than I expected, so I decided to use them to my advantage. I waited for the light to turn green, which enabled me to include two streaks of white light from oncoming headlights in the shot. 

As for the holiday itself, "I'll be home for Christmas....if only in my dreams."

Wishing you and yours a joyous celebration.


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