My Adventures In Photography

A while back I started a photography column for my hometown's local newspaper — you'll find all of my columns from those pages here as well as new ones that I write.

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A spooky shoot

 JACK-O-LANTERNS: Photographing Jack-O-Lanterns is relatively easy if you use a tripod and a long exposure.

JACK-O-LANTERNS: Photographing Jack-O-Lanterns is relatively easy if you use a tripod and a long exposure.

Halloween is near yet again and everyone is breaking out their spooky decorations to frighten the little ones who roam the streets during the scariest day of the year.

One such decoration is a Jack-O-Lantern. My girlfriend and I set out to Meijer to grab some pumpkins and tea lights in preparation for our carving shenanigans.

The thing is, Jack-O-Lantern’s are a work of art. No matter how complex they are, as long as the intended outcome is achieved when you step back and take a look at what you’ve created, Jack-O-Lantern’s are pretty cool.

So, you’re proud of your (or your kids’) work. Why not take a photo?

This year I chose to carve out Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas into my pumpkin. My girlfriend stuck to a more traditional carving and left the photography to me as night fell over Big Rapids that same afternoon.

I set the pumpkins up in an area that had a lot of leaves to set the scene, and made sure the background was an area that was dark. Luckily, there is a motion sensor lamp where I set up the pumpkins, so that provided some fill light. I found that the fill light really helped because just the lighting inside the pumpkins alone tended to make the photo full of extreme contrast.

If you shoot your pumpkins and don’t have a fill light, maybe plan your photo-taking around dusk so there’s a little ambient light around.

I set my camera up on a tripod, turned off autofocus, and manually focused on the pumpkins using the live view function on my Canon 5D Mark III. Using live view allowed me to digitally zoom in on the pumpkins and set my focus with precision. Once the focus was set, I switched live view off.

Because my subjects weren’t going anywhere, my shutter speed could be as long as I wanted. I chose a lower ISO for a cleaner image and kept my aperture at f/2.8 so the background was blurred and left the rest of the photo’s exposure to my shutter speed.

From there it was as easy as playing around with different shutter speeds to get a photo that looked properly exposed.

Shooting Jack-O-Lanterns isn’t difficult and, in many ways, it’s just like other types of night photography. You’ll need to set your camera up right and choose the correct settings for a perfect photo of your work of art.

Watching your back while taking photos during the spooky season can’t hurt either. You never know what creeps in the night ...