Candid Christmas


My sister-in-law asked me to bring my camera Christmas Eve, so she could get a few quick shots of her family. I’ve gotten to where I generally don’t bring my camera along to such events, because going into photo mode gets distracting and becomes a chore. But I actually hadn’t taken any photos of the fam at Christmas for a few years, so I decided to bring it along and see how things turned out.


The family in question – my brother and his wife and kids

I tried to learn from past mistakes and bring along a few different lenses, instead of just picking one that I think will work and only bringing that one along. In the end I took everything with my trusty 50mm, but I brought along my wide-angle lens in case I needed it in  small spaces. In the end, the 50mm worked fine (one lesson I’ve learned from my recent outings with the 17-40mm is that it just doesn’t take people photos all that well, and if I can ever get by without it when taking people shots – which I can’t always do – I should).


For the most part, I was able to simply pull out the camera on occasion, then put  it aside and partake in the Christmas cheer. I think I’ve gotten better at discerning when it’s time to take photos and when it’s not necessary, so that I’m not constantly snapping away because of a misguided belief that if I stop, I’ll miss out on some amazing shot that I would totally regret not taking if I put the camera down to eat a tamale or something (if you do not eat tamales with your Christmas dinner, well then, you’re not from Texas). I think years of leaving such events with thousands of photos that are basically the same thing over and over has finally taught me to relax a bit and not try to shoot everything.


For the most part I took pictures of people as they arrived, which, in my family, is a fairly spread out affair because at least half of them have no concept of time. Usually when someone is planning a get-together, they don’t even bother to tell anyone what time to show up, and if you ask, you get an estimate (and an apathetic one at that) rather than an actual starting point – just be there around 4 PM, or you know, whenever.  The problem is no one wants to eat, or in the case of Christmas, open gifts, until everyone has shown up, which as you can imagine becomes a problem. This time, we were told to be at my sister’s house at 4:30. Doug and I arrived at 4:30 on the dot and there were already three other groups of people there. Then guests were trickling in all the way until SEVEN-THIRTY PM, all done while periodically texting the hungry, prompt participants that they were ALMOST THERE. One of my  nieces texted her mother that she was about twenty minutes away, only to post a photo to Facebook five minutes later which clearly showed her still in her bathroom at home getting ready to leave. All this to say that I decided to just break out the camera every time a new group of people arrived, and then tuck it away until the next round of entrances occurred. Since people were wandering in for about three hours (and of course, as soon as the last tardy group arrived, people immediately started to leave) it made for a relaxing evening of picture-taking, with lots of downtime in between to just sit and chat. So, win?


Another lesson learned (and man, it sure takes me a long time to learn such things, doesn’t it? I’ve been taking pictures for at least 7 years) is that I simply cannot edit every single photo I share with others, nor do I need to. In considering the purpose of taking such photos, I realize that most people just want to see some recorded moments of the event, and would be perfectly happy with iPhone shots so therefore do not need perfectly lit, color-balanced, and perfected photos – that shit just takes way too long, and people don’t care anyway. So, for most of the Christmas family shots, I just uploaded them straight from the camera into Photo Ninja (the camera RAW editor I use), cropped them, sharpened them a little and did my best to color balance, then loaded them immediately onto Facebook. And everyone was happy. I did, however, choose to edit the pictures my sister-in-law wanted of her family, since she was going to print those and use them as family shots, and there were a few others I liked enough to also give the Photoshop treatment. All of the big ones I’ve shared here were edited, but most of the ones in the collage were not.

And of course, being me – I just had to play around with Portrait Pro tools on at least one of them! In this cause, my niece Chana gave me the perfect shot for some Photoshop trickery:


Her original hair is fun, but I just wanted to see how many different colors I could make it in PortraitPro (answer: many). And it was too easy to add makeup for me to resist. Not that there was anything wrong with the original shot – I just wanted to play around a little.


My new less-is-more philosophy also came in handy when I went with my father out to IAH today to watch some planes land. Since I have over a zillion shots of United Airlines planes landing and taking off (IAH is one of their hubs) and I’ve plane spotted there plenty of times, I no longer go completely insane when I get there and feel like I have to snap everything. It was a pretty slow day, being a weekday and all, but they were using the good runway (over the parking lot with the port-o-potties – very handy) and I managed to snap a few non-United planes without going too crazy. Sure, I still ended up taking about 1,000 shots, but that’s easy to do when using high shutter speed, and in actuality I only shot about 20 planes total. In the past, I’d shoot as many as 4,000 shots out there, and end up having way too much to sift through when I got home. This was much easier, and there were a few planes I didn’t shoot at all, and just sat back and watched land over my head alongside my dad.


So, in spite of feeling recently like I’ve become pretty bored with taking photos, I’ve actually taken a ton of them lately. I also gussied up in some of my new Free People stuff (because they KEEP HAVING GOOD SALES, dammit) to show it off, but I haven’t processed those yet because then our impromptu plane-spotting trip came up instead. But I’ll get to those soon. If I don’t pop back in here again before the weekend, happy new year everyone. Here’s hoping 2017 is better than the shit show 2016 has been, but I kinda doubt it. But that’s for another post. For now let’s enjoy this one last week of peace on earth and good will towards men before that all goes to hell in the new year, shall we?


6 thoughts on “Candid Christmas

    • I think it’s always been a thing. My dad and I have been attending the air show here for years; my dad’s been going for decades! And we grew up near Hobby airport and used to go watch the planes land as kids all the time. Generally the lot where we go now is full of people, many with their kids, watching the planes fly overhead. A lot of folks in the area will also drive there during their lunch break and sit and eat while watching the planes. I think ‘plane spotting’ as a hobby is probably a lot like bird watching – maybe not quite as popular but it’s got that sort of a community built up around it. Looking up the exact plane online using the ID number of the plane is kind of a thing too – you can look up the planes you took photos of and see who else has gotten shots of the same plane – trust me, the nerd factor here is HUGE LOL.

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