Adventures in Photography: Christmas in New England

by Greg Lessard

When many people dream of a “White Christmas”, they are dreaming of a quintessential New England village. Living in the northeast, we have a fantastic opportunity to photograph New England in all of its holiday splendor. Every city and town will be decked out with red bows and boughs of holly. From bright and colorful strings of lights to classic candlelit farmhouses, New England will offer a variety of beautiful subjects. By studying a few tips, we can make wonderful images of the upcoming season.
Many people will drive for hours in all directions looking for the most glorious display of lights in all of the local neighborhoods. This is the modern day equivalent of taking a ride in a one horse open sleigh. While it is quite enjoyable and many photographic gems can be found using this technique, there is an easier way. Go to a Christmas hot spot. There are plenty around. Edaville Railroad in Carver, MA, the La Salette Shrine (free) in Attleboro, MA and the Enchanted Village (free) at Jordan’s furniture in Avon, MA to name a few. The advantage of these places is that photographers can visit professionally designed sets with numerous photo opportunities.

For indoor opportunities, there are many Holiday Open House Tours. Open houses range from historical tours like the Mayflower Society House in Plymouth to the mansions of Newport. Keep your eye out for local house tours that often benefit charities. Seeing how all of the different homes are decorated can be quite interesting and they often present prospects for a unique image. When photographing in a home, be sure to ask for permission to photograph and respect the home by leaving everything as you found it.
In order to photograph a white Christmas, more often than not we will have to get into our 150 horse power sleighs and drive north. We certainly don’t have to go to the North Pole, maybe just Maine, New Hampshire or Vermont. The northern New England states, the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, and the mountains of central Connecticut have some of the most picture perfect villages you could ever hope to see. Somesville, Maine, Waits River, Vermont, and Hancock, NH all offer quiet New England charm. Try to photograph these villages as they may have looked 150 years ago.

When you can, avoid including modern amenities like power lines and automobiles in your photos. Sometimes these modern conveniences are unavoidable in a grand scene. Instead of photographing the entire village, church, or house, narrow your vision down to just the wreath on the door or maybe a candle in a frost covered window. Simplifying your scenes is a great way to improve your photography.
This Month’s Tip: Try photographing beautiful Christmas scenes at night. Not only will the Christmas lights be glowing, the warm light of houses and barns can be viewed streaming through doors and windows. This makes a fantastic contrast to the cold snowy winter just outside. Make sure to bring a tripod for tack sharp images.