OK. Let's start with the basics. You need a bunch of holiday lights and a camera which lets you control the focus and shutter speed.
The first image was taken from this Christmas tree. This is one of the "normal pictures" that I took when first approaching this tree. I set the camera on my tripod, focused on the tree and took this. It is pretty, but not spectacular, and my first thought was "how do I make this more original?".
So...I turned off the auto focus on my DSLR camera and manually set the focus to purposely blur the lights. I liked the results, but this started me thinking about other ways that I could turn this tree into something even more. And then the fun really began!
If you are a regular reader of my blog you have undoubtedly seen me use my zoom during a long exposure to create some cool effects. I did this once again, but like the image before, wanted to push myself to get something better. And after going back to my computer and looking at these images, I decided to go back to the tree to try making some more "art".
For this image and the rest of them in this blog entry, I did not use a tripod, but handheld the camera to shake things up a bit. For this image, I once again put the camera in manual focus mode and made sure that the lights were very much out of focus. After doing this, I then combined that with the zoom effect, where I zoom the lens during a multi-second exposure (typically between .5 sec and 1.5 sec).
This image was taken like the one above, but I extended the length of the exposure (1.5 sec) to create more blur. Hopefully, at this point, you are seeing what I was thinking. Continually asking myself "OK, that was cool, but what else can I do?" There were people in the area who asked me what I was doing. I showed them the images on the LCD of the camera, and after seeing their overwhelming positive reactions, I knew that I had some images to share with all of you.
After shooting the out-of-focus images, I decided to try and shoot some images in which I would handhold the image and change the focus during the exposure. You can see the results of this technique by looking at the smaller focused points of light within each of the blurred lights.
Next, I kept with the out of focus setting, but instead of keeping the camera pointed at one part of the tree, I moved the camera back and forth to create the waves of color that you see here.
...And again with a longer shutter speed.
I then tightened the focus a bit more and swept the camera back and forth as I moved it down a portion of the tree to create these snake-like shapes.
I even tried moving the camera straight up and down the tree to see if that would be interesting.
I saved this image for the end of the blog (as I often do) because it is one of my favorites from the evening of shooting. As you can see from this photo, I had a pretty tight focus on the lights of the tree, and twisted the camera during the exposure, hence the circular pattern. But, it wasn't until I got back to my Mac and saw the face in the middle, that I realized how cool this was. Do you see it? It looks to me like a smirking cartoon character right in the middle of the circular lights. No planning, just great luck!
I encourage everyone to try these techniques, to find the enjoyment and amazement that I did last night. If you do, make sure to share your images with me!