P is for Present

Five Dutch Windmills

The meaning of Christmas has changed over the decades from a religious and relatively sober festival to an occasion whereby extravagant gifts are exchanged. I just read an article this week that women expect their partner to spend half their week salary on gifts for her, which equates to just under £300 (about $500). Top wanted gifts are top branded shoes or Burberry coat. Men apparently are expecting iPads, Rolex watch and a football season ticket.

According to another research the average UK household will spend around £800 on Christmas this year, with 75% of that going to presents for family and friends, 20% on food and the rest on decorations, cards etc.

Keepsake box with Gorgeous Deep Pink Peonie

Keepsake box with Gorgeous Deep Pink Peonie

To be honest, that is quite shocking.

I remember when I was a child we spend about £10 on presents for each person. We had the tradition with Sint Nicolaas (5th December) to have surprise gifts. Each member of the households had its name dropped in a box and we had to draw one name. For that person you would buy a more elaborate gift and spend maximum £20. To make it more special you had to do some imaginative gift wrapping. This was not simple paper, Read more »

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O is for Outside

Golden Sunset

What I love about a proper winters day is the cold crisp weather. Nothing feels better than going out for a walk, enjoy the sun and coldness followed of course by returning to a warm home. Especially after sitting indoors and eating a lot over the Christmas days it is a great way to feel better and re-energise. As the weather often also is a bit cloudy you come across some fabulous photo opportunities.

The only problem with winter photography is that everything is so bleak. The only colour you find comes from some evergreens and if you are lucky winterberries. Apart from that during the day everything is grey. Only during sunset and sunrise do you get a magnificent display in the sky, providing there are some clouds.

Winter Sunset above trees

The other downside is that your camera is getting so cold 🙂 . Even if you    Read more »

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N is for Nativity

Three Wise Men Ornament

Three Wise Men Ornament

It’s this time of the year again that many children will be asked to take part in the yearly school Nativity play. Many tears will be shed over the fact that they cannot play Joseph or Maria. Many proud parents will have to show up at school to watch their children act, with of course the need for photos and videos. Most of us will still have the evidence laying around from their own childhood play and probably most of us would like to forget it!

The nativity play or scene is a re-enactment of the birth of Jesus. The scene will always include baby Jesus, with mother Mary and father Joseph, but many other characters come and go depending on the space available. Most scenes will include shepherds with livestock like sheep, an ox and a donkey, three wise men with camels and often an angel overlooking the barn. Read more »

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M is for Market and Music

What I really enjoy on the run up to Christmas is visiting different local Christmas markets. Although far more popular in Germany, you can slowly see them appearing in the UK. Traditionally the markets start on the first week of advent and stay until Christmas. You can find the most amazing gifts and foods in these street markets all the while being bombarded with the noise of songs, vendors and visitors.

When you visit one of these markets you should definitely try to taste some Gluhwein and gingerbread as well as some stollen. Here in the UK you might be lucky and also get to taste some eggnog. You really need these warming foods as you will taking ages walking past all the stalls in the cold winter’s day.

Christmas Music

You either love it or hate it – you will not be able to avoid it when you go out shopping the coming weeks. I do not mind,   Read more »

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L is for Light

Golden Sunset over Trees

As mentioned in earlier blogs the Christmas period is also known as the Festival of Light. As  winter deepens (in the Northern hemispheres) the days get shorter, more artificial light sources are needed to brighten up the day. For Christmas this means not only using candles but also the Christmas lights that are used to decorate the tree and the house. The benefit with these lights is that they give a nice soft glow to everything, in contrast to your normal lamp lights.

Having enough and the right light for your photos can be very tricky and there are different tips and tricks for different situations. Most likely during the Christmas period you will be taking your photos indoors so it is important to think about the light issues you might encounter.

The Challenge of Indoor Light

Using your flash

Your eyes are the most amazing things, seeing in places that cameras often struggle and we take for granted the light in a room. Most people will use Read more »

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K is for Kitchen

The kitchen is probably the most central room in any household, specifically around the time when lots of family and friends will be around. In early years the kitchen was nothing more than an open fire with sometimes a stone or a branch to help cooking. Recently I read an article that the most expensive kitchen probably costs in the region of £1m as this included crystal worktops, copper walls and Swarovski Crystal chandelier. Not sure if I want a kitchen like that, I would be afraid to damage anything whilst cooking.

For me the kitchen is a great tool in photography. I love cooking and making a record of what I have done and sharing that experience is an added pleasure. Although I have always been told not to play with my food, I make an exception of that when it comes to photography. I do try to avoid waste and prepare well in advance so everything that I want to photograph will be used.

Kitchen & food photography can be quite tricky but also good fun. It depends a bit what your aim is. Do you want to create professional food images that can be sold and used for adverts, packaging, menus etc. Or do you want to use them to share with friends or family and on your own blog. For the first, you will need special equipment and quite some food technology knowledge to get the best photos. For the last, some simple tips and tricks can give you great results.

 

 

For both there are some great tips that would improve your image quality.

 

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Leica 1 (Model A) Elmax Camera Sells for 2.2m Euros

Simply amazing! A new world record in camera sales.

1923 Leica 1 Model A camera

One of 12 prototype 1923 Leica 1 Model A cameras similar to this sold for 2.2 million euros at auction in 2012

A rare, highly significant 1923 prototype Leica camera has been sold in an auction for 2.16m euros. The Leica A with the Elmax lens, is one of only 12 cameras of this type known to have survived.

Elmax is the name of the distinctive, powerful and technologically groundbreaking lens design, has the acronym ELMAX, for Ernst Leitz and MAX Berek. The later, improved version of this lens is the Elmar.

Leica used to modify existing cameras when updating models, meaning many were cannibalised to accept upgrades. Environmentally sound, leaving very few cameras with all their original components.

Henri Cartier-Bresson first 35mm Leica camera

Henri Cartier-Bresson’s first 35mm Leica camera
descendent of the Leica 1 Model A Elmax

This camera was the basis for the later model used by the legendary photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson who used Leica throughout his professional career.

A smaller modern variant with the same basic lens design philosophy is found in the Lumix cameras made by Panasonic today.

The estimate was that the Model A Elmax camera would be sold for around 0.6m euros, but clearly someone really wanted to get this! The actual final sale price was 1.8m with quite some extra costs for tax and fees.

I wonder who now owns this camera and what they are going to do with it. If it still works, are they going to make photos with it? This of course depends if there are still films left for it as those are getting pretty hard to get hold of and develop.

I am not expecting this under the Christmas tree this year, but someone will be very lucky!

 

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J is for Jingle Bells and Juniper

Jingle bells or sleigh bells, were often found in large numbers on the harnesses of horse carriages during the winter season. City life before cars required something you could hear from afar, which the jingling noise the bells make as the horses move would make up for hooves being muffled by the snow. This helps avoid accidents, especially as will have a hard time hearing the sledge when it is dragged through the snow and is still widely used inside the Arctic Circle today.

The strong association with winter weather and a simpler time means during Christmas time these small bells are also used in decorations, especially door wreaths. It can become quite a nuisance when doing shopping as each time you go through a door you can hear the bells. I can understand why some shop staff feel like they are going slightly crazy in the run up to Christmas. Not only do they have to deal with the noise from the bells, they will also have Christmas songs playing all day round on the stereo.

The best known Christmas song is “Jingle Bells”, originally written as a Thanksgiving song but quickly adopted for the end of year festival. It’s a relatively easy song with a catchy tune and simple lyrics. Many great music artists have recorded this song for their Christmas albums. But what most people might not know is that “Jingle Bells” was the first song ever to be broadcast from space.

Juniper

The original Christmas berries were not holly but juniper berries as these trees are commonly found in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, especially in Asia juniper is known in its smaller variety as a Bonsai tree. Across the world many cultures use the berries to flavour dishes that include rabbit, venison, veal and other wild meats.

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I is for Ivy and Ice

Icicles hanging

What I love about the change in weather is that you get all kinds of wonderful colours appearing in nature. One of the most stunning transformations can be the change of colour in ivy. Many houses, walls and trees are covered with this, not always to the benefits of the material underneath. Although the ivy can look glorious with its shiny leaves, trees can be killed due to lack of nutrients and water and walls can collapse due to damage to the mortar.

However, that does not mean it creates some stunning sights. I love it when you can actually see ivy that has different colours. When turning from green to a vibrant red it makes any dull wall look so much more interesting.

Ancient wall with ivy

During Christmas time ivy is a popular plant to use for decorating. As it comes in such large strings and with nice green or red leaves, it can be easily draped around products like candles and vases. For Christmas ivy leaves symbolise eternity and resurrection so goes well alongside holly and mistletoe.

Ice

Ice comes in many shapes and forms through winter and Christmas (in the northern hemisphere). First of course is frozen water outside. As in the Northern hemisphere the weather most likely will be around freezing (or well below) water freezes and you will see ice everywhere.     Read more »

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H is for Holly and Hanukkah

Holly is an evergeen with some nice red berries, which are slightly toxin for humans. During the winter months you will see holly appear in many Christmas decorations, mainly in wreaths. If you have a holly bush in your garden you might find many passerby’s trying to take a branch for their decorations. The great benefit of a holly bush in your garden is that it will attract many birds as they are able to eat the berries. If you have the chance when planting a bush, put it in such a way that you have a great view from your windows. That way you can capture some nice images of birds feeding on the berries.

Christmas : Winter holly berries

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is an eight day Jewish holiday known as the Festival of Lights, which occurs sometime between late November and late December. As the Hebrew Calendar differs slightly from the common calendar, the festival is not always on the same common date. One of the key traditions during Hanukkah is lighting an additional candle every night. This tradition can be compared to the Catholic tradition of advent whereby every week for four weeks a new candle is lit.

There are some similarities between Hanukkah and Christmas. Both are family driven occasions, whereby exchanging small gifts and enjoying dinner together is central. Like with Christmas there are specific dishes that are only eaten at this time of year. Likewise they are often the more “unhealthy” choices like sweets and fried food.   Read more »

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