Most counties around here decorate their courthouse for Christmas, so I drove out to nearby Burnet Texas to photograph their Christmas decorations as I have in the past. I don’t live in Burnet County, but I didn’t want to drive into Austin traffic to have a look at the Travis County courthouse. Burnet is easier to get to and there is little traffic around the building in the late evening, so late yesterday afternoon, with temperatures in the low 20s Fahrenheit, I went to shoot some photos.
As you can see above, there was still some light in the sky when I started shooting. If you wait until the sky is completely dark, the light from the Christmas lights will overwhelm the picture. If taken in the blue hour, the Christmas lights will still pop but be somewhat balanced by the sky. And I think that the lights look a bit better against a sky with some color instead of a black sky.
Also, as you may have guessed, I shot this all using HDR as there is so much contrast between the lights and the background. The HDR really gives you a lot of shadow to pull up without over-exposing the lights, and I like the aura-like affect with Christmas lights. I usually try to keep the HDR effect very subtle, but with Christmas lights I don’t mind getting a little heavy-handed with the HDR.
I shot these photos with a wide angle (14mm) to take it all in, but this really tends to skew the building such that it appears to lean back. I corrected this and cropped it in Lightroom and I think it worked out well, though it does take a lot of your image away in the cropping.
It was also very windy and cold on this evening so there is some camera-shake in these images even though it was on a tripod. So, if you look closely you will see some motion blur in the details. The tree branches are mainly from a fast frame so they aren’t moving too much.
You might also notice a lack of leaves and acorns on the walkway. I got rid of most of that in Lightroom, though it is a very time-consuming process.
Did I mention that it was cold and windy? By this point, I could barely feel anything with my fingers but I managed to get all my gear packed up and get in the truck to warm up. It is difficult to manipulate the camera settings and shoot photos while wearing gloves, so I just suffered for a while. Merry Christmas