Christmas Floobydust

My first engineering job was at National Semiconductor back in 1978. I had a huge interest in analog design, having built my own preamp and power amplifier for my keyboards when I was in college. So I would walk over to National’s Building D on my lunch breaks to see what databooks they were giving away.

One of these was the Audio Handbook, mostly written by design legend Bob Pease. There was a section titled Floobydust, with topics that didn’t fit anywhere else. As Pease put it, “‘Floobydust’ is a contemporary term derived from the archaic Latin miscellaneous, whose disputed history probably springs from Greek origins (influenced, of course by Egyptian linguists) – meaning here ‘a mixed bag.'”

So a mixed bag of Christmas pictures – appearing here for the first time. Christmas floobydust!

Moonrise sans clouds

Moonrise sans clouds

Winter Moonrise
Winter’s early sunsets and clear air give better-than-average night sky shooting. But there are a few things to remember for successful moonshots. The moon reflects full sunlight, so an unobscured moon is a daylight exposure. I exposed as much as I could while avoiding highlight blowout and keeping shadows out of the weeds. I also waited for clouds to partially cover the moon and reduce the exposure, but they obscure lunar detail.

Moonrise with clouds

Moonrise with clouds

The late Galen Rowell used to talk about the need for visual sea level in a photograph, something to give the viewer a reference point. Tighter moon shots with the 400mm on a crop-sensor camera showed great detail, but no visual sea level.

The scrubby mountain skyline and soft cloud textures with the 250mm full-frame view add that visual sea level, and give a viewer’s eye a lot more to do.

Front porch Farolitos

Front porch Farolitos

Southwestern Farolitos
Farolitos (luminarias in southern New Mexico) are my favorite Southwestern Christmas decoration. A simple votive candle stuck in sand inside a paper bag, they can be found around plazas in most New Mexican towns and on churches in December. We use an electric version with LED bulbs, but the principle is the same.

Once again, because your camera wants everything 18% grey, it will grossly overexpose any mostly-dark scene with small bright hotspots. I either set -3 EV in aperture-priority auto or manual shutter speeds and aperture to make it look like the night scene my eye sees. I could have used a tripod, but instead sat down against a wall and cradled the camera against my forehead with both hands.

A mirrorless camera avoids a dSLR’s mirror vibration, so I was able to handhold 1/15 second. That’s usually the worst shutter speed for a dSLR – too slow to avoid the vibration effect, but too fast to even it out over time for a sharper shot. I used f/1.4 for narrow depth of field (range of focus) – I didn’t want the background house to be sharp, yet I wanted the line of farolitos to lead a viewer’s eye into the picture. I slightly overexposed the lights.

Daisy waits out the morning coffee ritual

Daisy waits out the morning coffee ritual

Dogs Wait for Everyone
Our Bernese Mountain Dog Daisy is very patient. Without one of us opening a door, she can’t go outside. She goes everywhere with us, and especially likes cooler Christmas temperatures. And she gets to enjoy all the holiday food smells and guests!

This was one shot where center-weighted metering worked well. I zoomed with my feet to isolate her in the frame with a 50mm lens. At f/1.4, depth of field was very narrow. I focused on her eyes to capture viewer interest – that’s usually where they’ll want to see sharp focus. Daisy was patient enough to lie still while I moved in. Another dog may be too excitable.

Dangling Santa in the spotlight

Dangling Santa in the spotlight

Going All-Out with Lights
We have one neighbor who defines Christmas lighting, bordering on Griswold-like intensity. Don’t get me wrong, we love it – there’s always lots to look at, and it changes a bit every year. My favorite this year is the dangling Santa in the spotlight. There’s also a door-opening mailbox with wishlists for Santa.

Ants-eye view of Christmas lights

Ants-eye view of Christmas lights

There are enough lights here for the camera’s exposure to be close. I used a Really Right Stuff pocket tripod and Live View for the ants-eye view picture. I focused and composed the conventional straight-on shot in the camera’s viewfinder.

Christmas Sunset

Christmas Sunset

Christmas Sunset
Winter light comes from low-angle sun, so I get softer shadows all day long and more atmosphere filtering the light. The added filtration makes sunsets more intensely red, and New Mexico’s evening clouds give eye-leading sky textures. Our local Smiths grocery stands on the east heights of the Sandias, blessing its parking lot with great views of sunset color. I always carry a camera, and this was an “Oh, wow!” shot before last-minute dinner ingredient purchases. I used slight underexposure to make the colors pop. Underepxosure will increase saturation pretty naturally. I must have spent ~20 years underexposing everything in my film days, just for that reason.

So there you have it – Christmas Floobydust. Happy holidays, everyone.

Shot Notes
I used a Leica M10 camera for all of these. The moonshot lens was a 250mm f/4 Telyt-R lens on a Novoflex LEM/LER adapter, everything mounted on a Gitzo G1325 mk II tripod with Wimberley Sidekick head.

Moonshots happen at slower than handholding speed, hence the tripod. The G1325 mk II is long discontinued, but may be available used from KEH or eBay. It has no center column for added rigidity, and extends to eye level. Its leg spread is pretty large, though – I need some space to use it.

The 250mm Telyt is manual-everything, but that’s a good thing here. Autofocus tends to hunt in night shots, leaving me with no focus at all. And the camera will either grossly overexpose the moon or leave everything else in the dark, so I set the M10’s shutter speeds myself too.

More Information
National Semiconductor 1980 Audio Handbook, retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/y74wxqld

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Lampoon%27s_Christmas_Vacation

Pocket ‘Pod Packages, retrieved from http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/Pocket-Pod-Packages

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