Christmas In January

If you’re like me, you wouldn’t be caught dead with a fake Christmas tree in your house. I want to savor the sweet aroma of a Fraser fir tree in my living room, not the pungent smell of plastic and carcinogens.

Christmas tree covered in snow

Snowy Christmas tree. Two-shot blend. Nikon D800, Nikon 14-14mm f/2.8 lens. One shot for sky at ISO 1600, f/2.8, 25 seconds. One shot for tree at ISO 400, f/13, 8 seconds. Blended in Photoshop using Lighten blend mode.

That said, there is the issue of what to do with the tree after Christmas is over. Patricia and I have used live trees a couple of times and planted them in the yard afterwards. It’s a good way to go, but much more expensive, time consuming, and back breaking. (I HATE digging holes!) Many municipalities offer tree recycling, where the tree ends up as mulch. And there are other types of recycling programs available depending on where you live, such as for use as sand traps in coastal areas and for creating fish habitat in lakes and ponds.

All good stuff, but if you are a night photographer, I have an even better idea. Why not put the tree out to pasture—literally—and string some outdoor lights on that baby. I started doing that this year after those live Christmas trees we planted several years ago got too big to string lights on. I keep the lights on the tree all through winter, connected to a long extension cord. If the conditions are good, like with snow or ice, I plug in the cord and take some pictures.

If you keep the tree in water, it will last longer than you might think outside. Even if the needles start to turn brown, the tree will still look fine when covered in snow.

I shot the accompanying image back in mid-January. It’s a two-shot blend—one shot for the sky at ISO 1600, f/2.8, and 25 seconds and the second shot for the tree at ISO 400, f/13, and 8 seconds. I blended the two shots as layers in Photoshop using the Lighten blend mode.

So if you’re a real tree kind of person, I encourage you to give your tree a second life after next Christmas. If you’re a plastic tree kind of person, what’s the matter with you?

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