I’ll keep the commentary short. The pictures speak for themselves. Since getting the new camera, I’ve done more night work. More specifically, I’ve done more night time street photography. Focusing and stopping action at night can be taxing on a camera system. I’ve struggle with this with my Olympus E520 DSLR, but what a difference an upgrade can make. I have always said that new gear won’t improve your photography and I still stand by that. However, new gear can increase your opportunities to capture moments that require a better or specific tool for the job. Utilizing a better tool for the task at hand has given me more opportunities for capturing night time events like a Christmas tree lighting and a Christmas parade. Accurate fast focus, better dynamic range and better high ISO performance are just a few improvements that have helped my keeper rate for night time shots.
These images were taken on two consecutive nights. Other than the cold temperatures, you couldn’t have asked for better weather. I packed my hiking bag with the Olympus EM1 Mark II and 4 lenses: 17mm f1.8, 25mm f1.8, 45mm f1.8 and the 75mm f1.8. The 17 and 25mm lenses saw the most action. The street lights did not provide a ton of light, so I had to utilize ISO settings up to 5000. Depending on the subject, I dropped it down below 1000 on occasion. I mainly tried to keep the shutter speeds between 1/80 and 1/125. The fast f1.8 prime lenses were key in obtaining those speeds. I’ve found that the auto white balance is quite accurate. Thus, I shot the white balance in auto and made changes as needed during post processing. I also shot in shutter and aperture priority. This would be my first time working a parade at night. The very first parade I worked was the Mule Day Parade back in 2017. I actually shot that parade on black and white film with my trusty Olympus OM1 SLR. You can see the photos from that parade in my post titled, “It’s a Southern Thang.” I chose to shoot at the end of the parade route along the town square. I figure the courthouse with the 40 foot Christmas tree and the buildings around the square would make a nice backdrop.
Let’s get started with the tree lighting festivities. I really did not know what to expect. I know Columbia has had Christmas tree lighting events in the past, but to my knowledge, this was the first 40 foot Christmas tree for Columbia. I have to say that I was not surprised to see a large crowd already assembled. Columbia has had a renaissance over the past few years. It’s becoming a destination city. Events like the 40 foot Christmas tree lighting are becoming common place for the downtown area.
Who is more excited about this time of the year than kids? The excitement and anticipation of the evening was best seen on the faces and in the eyes of children.
Street photography is my favorite genre. In an event like this, a street photographer can have a field day. I was mainly there to document the event as a whole. It was tempting to go full bore into street photography mode, but I held back. Along with the candid images above, I captured a few more.
There was no shortage of music. The Mule House was rocking the stage with some of the latest dance beats while the crowd danced and partied to the music. Local adult and children’s choirs performed the traditional Christmas songs. County Mayor Andy Ogles and the Columbia City Mayor Elect Chaz Molder performed a duet of Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. At times, it seemed like I was at a rock concert in downtown Nashville. In fact, it really started to feel like a Nashville venue when The Mule House brought out the one and only RaeLynn.
Well, you can’t have a Christmas tree lighting without good ole St. Nicholas. The crowd cheered Santa when he took the stage. The children reached out to him as the Columbia Fire Department gave him a ride in the basket above the crowd. I have to admit it was magical watching Santa wave out to the crowd from above. The faces of the kids lit up with joy. If you was not in the Christmas spirit up til that moment, you were then! One of my favorite pictures of the night that sums up the magical feeling was a shot of a little girl reaching out to Santa while he floated above the crowd.
I’ll end the Christmas tree lighting event with four final photos. These photos include the lit Christmas tree, Mayor Dean Dickey, RaeLynn, Andy Ogles and last, but certainly not least, the Sweet Bakes camper. An event is not an event if the Sweet Bakes camper is not parked somewhere nearby.
What a night! The city of Columbia did a fantastic job of planning and executing this event. I’m glad I made time to capture these moments. With the tree lighting event coming to an end, I was stoked and ready for the Christmas Parade the next night. Temperatures for the tree lighting event were very cool, but the temperatures for the parade were hoovering close to freezing. Nevertheless, I was prepared. When the action started, I forgot all about the cold. I posted the parade images in the order taken, so there is no rhyme or reason other than shooting what caught my eye. I captured quite a few floats, but I did not get everything. Enjoy the slideshow!
Phew! That was a lot of images to curate and process! That’s not a complaint. It’s a labor of love. Given the dark setting, I wasn’t sure how these photos would turn out. I must say that I like the results. However, there are a few things I could have done better and will do better in the future. Isn’t that’s what it is all about, live and learn? Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos. Watching the slideshow of these images brings me back to those nights, and it puts me in the Christmas spirit all over again. I hope it does the same for you. Thank you Columbia, Tennessee for two excellent nights of Christmas Celebration and thanks for taking the time to read my post. From my family to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!