Trees have always been a prime subject for my photography, in all seasons and in all shapes. But during a recent first visit to the annual Chinese Lantern Festival in my hometown just before Christmas, I was a bit surprised that there were a couple of trees included among the varied and wonderful light sculptures. I had never visited the Festival before, and really didn’t know what to expect; but what I saw was truly amazing. I can’t imagine all the tedious work that must have been involved in making each of these displays of shapes formed with wire and wrapped with a thin, almost silky fabric, but see through enough to allow the varied colored lights inside to make the sculptures glow in the night.
Photographing them did present a few problems to overcome, mainly the throng of people, literally shoulder to shoulder, wandering throughout the festival. Backing up to include an entire sculpture was out of the question since people would then fill the space in front of you, thereby blocking the photo. And it was extremely difficult to isolate an individual sculpture from the myriad of others so closely spaced in the area. So for the image above, I opted to take a horizontal, two panel panorama taking the top first and then the bottom, and also keeping in mind the constantly changing colors of the lighted balls throughout the scene to match how were at one particular moment. As it was, there was an extra bit of work involved in post processing to eliminate some things in the distance that proved to be distractions, and in keeping with my photographs of real trees, I tried to be faithful to the main subject, and to display it in all its glory as it was.
I was truly amazed at the intricately twisted and gnarly tree with all the panda bears “playing” on and around it. The “flowers” were constantly changing color and I found that if I timed it right, I could capture the change of colors and not have all the flowers identically colored. However, a second brighter image was needed to bring out the dark textures of the trunk and limbs to make them stand out against the black background. The two frames were easily merged in layers with a layer mask in Photoshop.
Of course, there were plenty of other sculptures throughout the grounds, including dragons and swans, but they were a bit difficult to capture, and I did the best I could considering the crowds. But any subject always seems to look more dramatic with a black background.