The holidays offer a fantastic time to work on photography skills as there is so much to see, from winter landscapes to Santa in the mall to glimmering photos of Christmas trees.
I belong to a photo club that establishes a monthly theme to help spur creativity all year ‘round, and December’s theme is “anything holiday.” Since my fellow photographers tend to capture pretty traditional holiday photos, each year I like to work hard to come up with something a bit more unique.
I ask myself, “What is a creative take on the holiday theme?” and see where my mind takes me.
It started with the photo in the header of this story, titled “We Three Kings.” It was shot at dusk in the parking lot where I used to live. The concrete and brick wall paired with the dried pine needles against the colorful ornaments struck the right sort of modern look I’d visualized.
So the next year, I had to up my game. Since I had made those ornaments look so pretty, it was time to clear a corner in the studio and gently apply a hammer.
I’m often asked how I got that photo and I say “I had a lot of fun, and it was a lot of mess to clean up.” The cheapie ornaments I bought didn’t smash as much as splinter, sending tinted glass shards skittering across the floor. It was far longer to cleanup than to set up, but smashing those ornaments was a fantastic holiday stress reliever. (Some friends have told me seeing these broken ornaments increases their stress)
This photo was well received and was hung as part of a gallery show at a local library here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The next year I felt I had said all that I wanted to say about ornaments, and I had to think a bit harder about how to show the holidays in a different way.
Since I love to photograph ordinary objects to show the beauty in the mundane, I turned to my baking drawer and pulled out some cookie cutters.
This photo was taken to satisfy a Flickr group’s theme of “photos by candlelight.” The yellow glow from the flame lit up the copper colored metal of the cookie cutter and produced a very satisfying warm orange glow.
In that same shoot, I also did one in black and white, still using the candle flame. This has more of a German expressionist feel to it. Or a police lineup.
Whereas the star is a warm glow of home, the black and white is more stark. Exploring that dark side of the holiday imagery is a lot of fun.
Last year I decided to go a bit more traditional. With the help of a theme of “stick” from my photoclub to get the gears turning in my creative mind, I looked to my spice shelf and pulled out the cinnamon sticks. I found some glitter ornaments in the box of holiday stuff and had my background.
It took a while to organize the cinnamon sticks in an interesting way, and as I was shooting, I was not sure I’d produced anything interesting. Then going back through the photos, I found this one to be intriguing and now I love it and feel like it perfectly captures the holidays in a new way.