Capturing the glow of Christmas

Story and photos
by Linda Henderson

The 501 will very soon be transformed into a winter wonderland. Many communities within the 501 will be decorating for the holidays.

Communities all over the state will be having lighting ceremonies, parades and pageants to celebrate the season. Landmarks, courthouses, churches, libraries, banks, businesses and neighborhoods will be setting up dazzling light displays to entertain visitors.

Arkansas Parks and Tourism hosts a Trail of Holiday Lights every year. This is an annual statewide event that usually begins shortly after Thanksgiving and will run through the first week of the New Year. Many of these events take place in the 501. Displays include driving tours, decorated government buildings and county courthouses. Most are free and may include food and music. Santa and Mrs. Claus usually make special appearances.

Downtown Conway celebrates with traditional window displays, a parade and tree lighting.

Hot Spring’s Garvan Woodland Gardens has one of the region’s largest light displays. The Garden is decorated with millions of lights and holiday-themed statues. There is an admission fee for the Garvan display.

Saline County celebrates big with thousands of lights, Santa appearances, cocoa and cookies at its courthouse.

Fireworks and Christmas lights illuminate the state Capitol.

Searcy decorates its downtown in an old-fashioned Christmas village theme.

One of my favorite lighting ceremonies is held at the Arkansas State Capitol. The building is illuminated with thousands of lights, and the lighting ceremony finishes with a fireworks display. The inside of the Capitol is also beautifully decorated every year.

So gather up the kids, grandma and grandpa and take a short December road trip. Make new memories seeing the twinkling lights, watch parades and attend festivals in the 501 during the Christmas season.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As the Christmas season gets in full swing, Arkansas will be awash in red, green and glimmering lights. Everyone will be getting out their camera to capture the beauty of the season. It can be a little tricky to get a good picture of bright subjects such as Christmas lights in a low-light environment.

I have found with lots of trial and error that my best Christmas light pictures are taken during twilight, the time of day about 30 to 40 minutes after the sun has set. It is before the sky has turned completely dark. During the twilight of the day, the sky has a deep, dark blue color and is the perfect complementary color to glowing Christmas lights.

You can get good outdoor Christmas light pictures with a point and shoot compact camera as well as DSLR camera. Turn the flash off. Your camera is fooled by the dark background. If the flash is used, the Christmas lights will be overexposed and washed out looking.

The Faulkner County Courthouse adorned for the holidays.

The exception is if a person is in the picture. In that case, use your camera’s night portrait mode; most new cameras have that feature. Use a tripod and your camera’s self-timer. In low light situations, your camera will use a slower shutter speed, so securing your camera will enhance the chances of getting a good picture. Don’t touch the camera while the shutter is open, because touching your camera will cause the picture to blur.

Fill the frame with your main subject. If you are taking pictures of a building and Christmas lights, do include a little bit of sky. The deep blue sky sets the mood and will set off the golden color of the lights.

If you are using a DSLR camera, set your camera on a tripod. On its manual setting, increase your ISO to 400 to 800, a shutter speed of 1/15 of a second and an aperture of f/5.6. If the image isn’t light enough, gradually increase your shutter speed. If you don’t want to try your hand at a manual setting, use the (P) or program mode on your DSLR and not the auto setting. The (P) mode is a little bit more intuitive to the lighting conditions and will likely give you an acceptable picture.

If you would like to learn more about photography, look up the Conway Photography Club on Facebook. We have a monthly meeting, with many opportunities to learn skills and very good presentations on a variety of different types of photography. 

Linda Henderson
Latest posts by Linda Henderson (see all)