Photographing Christmas Lights – Part 1

For the next two to three weeks, Ohio’s holiday season will be celebrated, in private homes and public places, with many beautiful displays of Christmas lighting. Over the next few days, I’ll share some tips on finding and photographing Christmas lights around the Buckeye State.

Christmas Lights at Clifton Mill in Greene County, Ohio

Christmas lighting displays in Ohio

Finding Christmas lighting displays can be as easy as driving around the streets in your neighborhood, although in my area of northeast Ohio I’m finding that folks are being much more frugal and energy conscious in these austere economic times, and there are fewer homes dressed up with elaborate Christmas lighting displays this year than in the past.

However, there are lots of great public Christmas lighting displays to visit around the Buckeye State this year. Here are ten of the best for 2010, including websites where you can find more information:

Cincinnati Zoo. PNC Festival of Lights. November 26, 2010 to January 2, 2011.  5 pm to 9 pm. Zoo admission fee. Exhibits include 2.5 million lights, Fairy Land, a Wild Lights Show on Swan Lake, and a Nativity and Menorah Display.

Clifton Mill, Greene County. November 26, 2010 to January 1, 2011. 5 pm to 9 pm. This is one of Ohio’s most beautiful Christmas lighting displays, featuring 3.5 million lights, including a 100 foot “waterfall”. The lights, which cover the mill and the nearby Little Miami River gorge, take six men three months to string. Other holiday exhibits include a Miniature Village and a Santa Claus Museum.

Columbus Zoo. Wildlights, this year using new, energy-efficient LED lights, is celebrating its 22nd year, from November 19 to January 1, 2011. 5 pm to 9 pm/(10 pm on Fri/Sat). The exhibits include 3 million lights and two miles of “rope” lighting. Zoo admission fee.

Guernsey County Courthouse, Cambridge. The 2010 Holiday Lights and Music Show, which runs from November 1 to January 8, 2011 includes 15,000 lights outlining the 1881 courthouse, 54 animated lighting displays and a 23-foot Christmas Tree with 2,600 lights. 5:30 pm – 9 pm. Free.

GE (Nela Park), Cleveland. This lighting display has been held since 1925 at the GE Lighting plant along Noble Road in Cleveland Heights. December 1 through New Year’s Day. Free.

Public Square, Cleveland. The four quadrants of Public Square are decorated from November 27, 2010 through January 31, 2011 with 4000 strands of LED lights, provided by General Electric. Free.

Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, Hamilton. Holiday Lights on the Hill. This holiday lighting display includes more than two million lights, including “Candy Cane Lane”, which features a quarter mile stretch of road lined with 12-foot candy canes. November 19, 2010 to January 2, 2011. Admission fee.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Akron. More than half a million Christmas lights are strung around the grounds of this historic mansion in the Deck the Hall event. December 2-5, 9-12, 16-19, 21-23, and 26-30. Admission Fee.

Toledo ZooLights Before Christmas, with over a million lights, is the premier Christmas lighting display in the Toledo area. The exhibits include a decorated 85-foot Norway spruce, and 200 animal lights. November 91, 2010 to December 31, 2010. 5 pm to 9 pm. Zoo admission fee.

Washington Township, near Dayton. The Woodland Lights display has been held for 17 years in Countryside Park. Open from 6 pm to 9 pm, through December 30, 2010.

If you know of other photogenic public holiday lighting displays in Ohio, please feel free to share them.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

A fresh snowfall can add a festive touch to your Christmas lights photos. In addition to providing a photogenic seasonal white blanket on the ground, the snow will reflect some of the color of the nearby Christmas lights, reducing the contrast and brightening up the photograph.

However, you might want to avoid photographing Christmas lights when it is snowing. Because of the long exposures needed when photographing in the dark, the snowflakes will appear as white or gray streaks in your photo. If this is the effect you want, shoot away, but if not wait until it stops snowing before you shoot.

Be prepared

Do you want your Christmas lights photo shoot to be very brief? Before you leave home, make sure that your camera battery is running low on power, don’t pack any extra, fully-charged batteries, and never put any extra memory cards in your camera bag. You’ll be finished shooting in no time!

Cold winter weather coupled with the long shutter speeds often needed to photograph Christmas lights can drain camera batteries very quickly, so make sure that your camera battery is fully charged and bring along one or two extra fully charged spare batteries.

Your Christmas lights shoot may also end prematurely if you don’t do some research and planning before your trip. Do you know the address of the lighting display you want to shoot, and how to get there? If the location is a public display, what time of day are the lights switched on? Regretfully, some public displays of Christmas lights aren’t switched on until it’s completely dark, so you may miss the opportunity to shoot during the magic few minutes just after sunset. A Google session checking the appropriate websites prior to your shoot will help you be better prepared for your Christmas lights photo shoot.

Tomorrow, I’ll share some tips on the best camera settings for photographing Christmas lights, and how to get sharp photos.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Most of the times i visit a blog I notice that most blogs are amateurish.On the other hand,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

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