In a final push to capture nighttime holiday decorations, I accompanied a group of photo enthusiasts to the town of Zionsville, a northwest suburb of Indianapolis, on Thursday night, two days before Christmas. It was my fourth or fifth opportunity to put my new PowerShot G12 to the test, and I remain pleasantly impressed with its ability to deliver fine, sharp RAW images at shutter speeds as slow as 1/15 and even an occasional 1/6. Those were my default settings using Program mode and an ISO of 1600.
We were hoping to hook up with the Indianapolis Hiking Club, which was having its annual tour of Zionsville and Chocolate shop stop outing. But by the time we got out of the eatery where we dined beforehand, we apparently had missed the rendezvous. The four of us meanered through the nearby neighborhood then returned downtown to shoot.
We ended the evening in the upstairs restaurant called Plum's, where we had a chance to experiment with different still life opportunities using our plate and drink dishes as subjects. Our nice waiter, seeing us shoot away, even brought over an empty wine bottle, suggesting that it might make for an interesting subject of our images. He was right.
I also tinkered, for the first time, with the HDR (high-dynamic range) feature on the G12; it captures three images at different exposures with one press of the shutter, then automatically melds the best exposure elements of each of those three captures into one, amply-exposed image. You get the best brightness, best contrast and best dark characteristics of the image. Because you are shooting multiple images when using HDR, you need to use a tripod to ensure stability (no camera shake). I didn't have a tripod, so I rested the G12 on the table. The HDR feature is an "automatic," not "creative," mode, however, which means the image will be rendered as a JPG, not a RAW data file. That was fine with me, as I didn't buy the camera for this feature, though it did pique my interest. However, I did like what I saw of it, and I'm likely to explore it more. I'll show you a frame from one of those HDR images near the bottom of this post.
A lot of the shots you see in the second half of the photos are looking into window displays of downtown Zionsville storefronts. The lead image at the very top of this post features two Zionsville landmarks: In the foreground, the Christmas tree that the town erects in the middle of brick-covered Main Street each December. And yes, cars respectfully drive around it. The structure in the background is Carter's Toy Museum and Ice Cream Parlor.
The first several images below are simply homes within a two- to three-block range of the heart of downtown.
I would like to have tried to capture the tree above with a DSLR mounted on a tripod and equipped with a wide-angle lens. But as it is, it didn't turn out too bad.
Above, a member of the photo group silhouetted while taking a shot of the most spectacular home we came across. We chatted briefly with a resident of this home who had come out to go to her car to run an errand. The image above and the next three below are from the same residence.
Above, a holiday decoration in the display window of the studio, shop and gallery of "Painter of Light" Thomas Kinkade.
Above and below: Two frames from the 15 or 16 I took of the combination of candleholders, water glass and wine bottle.
Above: New props: a dish with leftover brownie and orange slice (two forks indicating the person who ordered it -- not me -- offered to share) and a saucer and expresso cup.
The picture above is the HDR-treated capture. Notice the background details picked up and the milky brown color tones to the table, which was actually very close to what I remember of the table's color. You can see from the pictures above this, however, that the single-exposure, non-HDR treated photos pick up very little by way of background.
Above and below: I couldn't decide which of these -- color or B/W -- I liked better.
Above: A college sports-neutral retailer displaying the logos of Butler, Indiana and Purdue.
Above: It seems like model trains are part of so many decorative holiday displays this season. The gnomes on the right are a different touch, however.
Above: An exterior shot of the studio and shop (the Sanctuary) and restaurant (Ghyslain at the Sanctuary) owned by painter Nancy A. Noel.
Above: A horn of plenty, but hardly plentiful, in another window display among the downtown shops.