In lieu of the perfect holiday card

One day, back in the days when we used to have snow in winter (i.e. last January), I was passing by some holly bushes with snow on them, and thought – Hey! I can use this new hobby of mine to create some lovely holiday cards next year! I had the S90 with me that day, and so I took a few minutes to snap some macros of holly berries and snowy leaves.

Holly Berries

Holly Berries

The results were OK, but not especially compelling. I decided to wait for another sunny day with fresh snow. I’m still waiting. It looks like there won’t be any pretty cards with fresh snow-covered berries this year.

My next photo card idea, which occurred to me right around Thanksgiving, was to play a bit with bokeh – you know, the circles (and other shapes) that you see when there’s an out-of-focus light source in the shot. (My husband claims that he sees bokeh all the time when he doesn’t have his glasses on.) I still kind of like my first attempt at this idea, but it was voted down by the spouse.



While reading about bokeh online, I came across a reference to the Bokeh Masters kit which turns your bokeh into different shapes. Wouldn’t that be fun for a card! And I had just the subject (husband approved), a reindeer in the snow, on a starry night.

Well, I worked and worked and worked with the reindeer, on multiple occasions. I just couldn’t get the lighting right – the reindeer was too dark, or the fake snow was overexposed, or you could see the wiring between the “stars”. And my favorite prop, a red light for the nose, just kept falling over. Trying to fix these things in Photoshop only made them worse. I started thinking of changing the name of this blog to The Frustrated Photographer.

Starry starry night

Rudolph takes a break

Yesterday I made one last attempt at a nice holiday bokeh shot. (I say that, but the perfectionist in me suspects that I won’t actually let this thing go.) I pulled out the new tripod I got for Christmas, filled a holiday wine glass with Christmas balls, set the glass on a table in front of the tree, and fired away. I’m disappointed with the outcome on many levels, but I think the biggest problem with it is the two flavors of light (warm and cold.) Also, there are too many points of light in the background – I couldn’t get any closer to the tree without blocking the kids’ view of their new video game.

Holiday bokeh

Holiday bokeh, warm and cold

And so I’m afraid that I won’t be sending out any nice holiday photo cards this year. I long for the days where I could just go card shopping at Hallmark. I gaze with envy at the photo cards that my friends have sent, thinking how much better they look that what I’ve been able to produce. Sigh.

Despite all this, I had a wonderful Christmas day with family and friends, and am grateful for all I have and for all I’ve learned. I hope that our friends know that even though we didn’t send cards this year, that we’re thinking of them and hoping that they’re well.

Happy Holidays, everyone.



  1. You are too critical on yourself, Barbara, since ANY of the above shots would have made beautiful holiday cards! (I especially LOVE the reindeer!) You could have sent the last image as a card to any of your friends who celebrate Hanukah (just has that feeling to me with the blue, silver and Star of David-shaped bokehs).

    NEXT year, post them here way in advance and we will certainly reassure you that you did GOOD! πŸ™‚

    Happy Holidays!

  2. Thanks, Tracy and Deb! … I think I’m going through one of those phases where nothing looks right! Maybe I should start working on the cards sooner, like in July or August. I really appreciate your supportive comments!

  3. I like the reindeer idea but you should have just Photoshopped in the nose. The rest looks fine to me. Of the three, I like your last attempt. Now, play with different colored balls in the glass and bokeh shapes from the kit. Try it with multi-colored lights, too. I just know you will find something you like. Oh, yeah, start earlier. πŸ™‚ I looked for my photos for next year before Christmas this year. Got it already, in fact.

  4. Those last 2 bokeh images are fabulous! Now I love the warm and cold contrast. And I don’t think the reindeer image is too dark. (Afterall, the stars are out at night.) And both images would make great stock photography as well as your own personal Christmas cards!

    But I don’t want to disagree with you on everything. πŸ™‚ You are right about the candle shot…I’ll call it a work in progress.

  5. It’s completely true about seeing the bokeh when you don’t have your glasses on. I lost a contact at work once and took the other one out when Dave drove us home (at night, of course). Literally every source of light, from cars to traffic lights to street lights, was broken into giant flickering spots, and it was pretty enthralling (Dave said I was acting stoned).

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