Featured Image of the Week | 1/29/2016

The Capital Christmas Tree (2015)

It was another extremely busy holiday season for me but I did find the time to head in to Washington, DC to see the Christmas Trees.

I’ve seen the National Christmas Tree many times over the years but I had never been down to see the Capitol Christmas Tree. This year I made sure to finally see it up close and personal.

the History of the Capitol Christmas Tree

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or “The People’s Tree,” began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. It survived three years before it had to be replaced.

In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree and ever since a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide “The People’s Tree.” This years Tree came from Alaska’s Chugach National Forest.

The 2015 Capitol Christmas Tree, a 74 foot Lutz Spruce, arrived on November 20 and was decorated with thousands of ornaments designed and created by school children from across Alaska. Ornaments that couldn’t fit on the big tree were used to decorate smaller Christmas Trees located in congressional offices.

Getting the Shot

To get my shot it pretty much was business as usual. Place the camera with a wide angle lens on a tripod, set the ISO low to prevent noise, choose a good sharp aperture setting, let the camera decide on the shutter speed (at night it can be several seconds) and trigger the camera with a remote to prevent the camera from moving. For this shot I used one of my small mirrorless cameras with a 12mm lens set to f8 and ISO 200. The camera picked five seconds of shutter time. The end result was a shot with a bit of movement in the clouds (and the other visitors) but a super sharp Capitol Building and Christmas Tree.

One trick I always use for getting long exposure shots is capturing a bracketed set of shots (one shot properly exposed, one under exposed and one over exposed). With three shots from the same position you can decide which exposure you like best or combine all three in to a single HDR image. For this shot I liked the properly exposed shot the best and didn’t feel a need to give it the HDR treatment.

The final image was processed in Lightroom (for lens correction, noise reduction, pre-sharpening and basic adjustments) and finished in Photoshop (targeted color corrections along with some local filtering to achieve the final look).

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