Despite the monster that has been this year and Dr. Bonnie Henry
cancelling Christmas telling us to stay safe and stay home, one thing that actually won’t change much is the taking of the photos of Christmas Day.
I have always loved Christmas, but it has been a bit all over the place for us the last handful of years. Some years we’ve being back and forth between Vancouver and Lillooet, or one of us working, or trying to visit as much family and friends as we can.
This year we were supposed to go to Ontario to visit my Dad and my sister, and I held out hope for a long time that it would still happen. (Air Canada bombarding me with flight deals did NOT help.) My Dad and stepmom just moved to the teeny lake in Lanark County where I spent summers, and it would have been the first time I’d been home for Christmas. I wanted so badly to cozy up by the fire and skate on the lake and drink mulled wine and eat homemade pizza. To say that I’m bummed about it is an understatement.
But we make the best of things, and so with no choice but to stay home for all of December this year, Kaleb and I are fully leaning into the festive spirit.
We’ve devoted a not-insignificant portion of our limited apartment real estate to a delightful Douglas fir trimmed with the trunk full of ornaments (a literal trunk, it lives in the basement) that we’ve been accumulating all this time. We rearranged the furniture to better allow for lounging and gazing at the tree, and we got a box of this tea to sip whilst gazing.
Apart from the tree, the best thing we’ve got going is our homemade advent calendar. Starting last year, we made little cards for each day of the months, decorated in various ways (last year of letter stamps and green and gold ink, this year it’s watercolours) and inside each card is a small activity or reflection for that day.
Some are super simple. The other day we collected a bouquet of winter plants around the neighb. Some are more involved, like making candles. This one actually took us almost a week all told, but the spirit of the thing is low-pressure so we rolled with it.
Both the making of the calendar and the doing of the things are relaxing and nice, and you can make it whatever you want it to be. You can even stick a piece of chocolate to each card if you want. Highly recommend.
Sidenote: between the watercolour paper, candle wax and some pastry tips for birthday cookie-decorating, I’ve been to Michael’s three times in the last week and a half. Between sourdough and crafting it seems I’m very susceptible to quarantine bandwagons.
Since I still plan to take lots of photos of Christmas Day and the lead up to it, I thought I’d share a couple tips to help those photos turn out the way you want them to without any added stress.
Look for the Light
This is a big one, and a tip that applies in every situation, but especially ones where you’re indoors or the weather may not be great. My strategy is just to position myself near the largest window in the room so I can get as much light as possible falling on whoever or whatever I’m photographing. Believe it or not Christmas lights are also great. I love close-ups with tree lights and candles and such.
Also pay attention to the colour of the light. It is yellow? Blue? White? Play around with the artificial light in your place, and aim for white or warm lighting. A green or blue pall over all your photos of Christmas morning looks a like menacing.
Christmas Memories, not Perfect Portraits
You may have heard me say this before, but I will say it again: it’s never about perfection. Holidays are all about the action. The being together, the puttering in the kitchen, the wintery walks. No need to direct or stage (unless that’s really your jam, then by all means, go for it). Just observe and capture. You never know what you’re going to enjoy looking back on later. Little things have a way of growing over time.
Black & White is Your Friend
It’s timeless for a reason, y’all. Especially if you’re shooting film (you’re shooting film, right??). Black and white film can be pushed mercilessly–the photos below were shot on HP5 and pushed three stops–and you never run the risk of weird colour casts from low light or artificial light. I lean on it for indoor shots and save most of my colour film for the traditional Christmas Day Walk.
Here are a few more photos of Christmas Day gone by, some nearby, some in snowy faraway, all very nice memories.