Naples Island at night with Christmas Lights


If you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California or are visiting during holiday season between Thanksgiving and the New Year, you have to check this out.

No, you don’t have to be a photography buff to enjoy this free attraction in the city of Long Beach.

I have a minivan that seats 7, so I somehow ended up with all the kids by myself while the adults hopped into 2 other cars.

I happened to have my Canon 40D with me but I didn’t have 2 critical pieces of equipment : an external flash and radio slaves. Luckily I had my tripod.

Once there, I saw I could get some nice night scenics but kicked myself for not having my external flash with me. I could have done so much better. Live and learn. I’ll remember next year. I didn’t plan on doing this. It was pure luck I had my tripod in the van.

I didn’t feel like doing the entire walk around the canals, so I just hung out at the bridge on E The Toledo near Rivo Alto Canal.(see Google map below)


Highly recommended is a cable release. If you don’t have one, use the camera’s self-timer. I set mine to fire after a 2-second delay.

My exposures were about 15 seconds @ f11 ISO 200. If you see a light trail in the darkness of the foreground, that’s a little boat going by in the canal.

For White Balance, I used “Tungsten” or the “light bulb” setting. I fired a few with the setting on Daylight or Automatic White Balance and everything looked too yellow.

Automatic and Daylight White Balance gave me the colors in the picture below. There is a cast of yellow and possibly red depending on your monitor. If you don’t see that, just take my word for it.

The key thing to remember is at least at the scene I was aware of this and tried to correct this in camera. I still needed to tweak in Photoshop.

Even now as I look at the pictures, the images still look a little yellow, so I used Curves in Photoshop to remove the yellow.

Next year, I’ll plan better.

Arrive earlier

Needless to say, parking will be tough. So get there before sunset. There is a small window when the sun is just setting and when the Christmas lights will be about the same brightness as the ambient light. That will take care of the yellow cast.

Remember to bring a flash/strobe

A fresh supply of double AAs. If you have access to some radio slaves, bring those! If you have a way to trigger the camera when it’s on the tripod, that will give you even more flexibility.
You’ll be able to paint the scene with your flash units during the long exposures.

I had my flashlight in my pocket so I could see what I was doing. If the temperature is cooler than normal, you might consider extra batteries for your camera.

Remember, no batteries in the digital age means all you got is a paper weight in your hands and some war stories with no pictures to back ’em up.

Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.–Louis Pasteur.

Happy New Year everyone! Thanks for visiting my blog. For those of you who have taken the time to comment, keep them coming. That’s what makes this fun.

Next fall, this may well be my field trip for my class!

Best f-stop or aperture for night photography

This depends on how well your particular SLR or camera handles noise. Since I was using a tripod and wasn’t concerned about camera shake or stopping motion or freezing people, I left my ISO at 200. The 15 seconds would have been perfect for me to paint the scene with a flash if I had one.

What lens should you use?

I used my 17-35 mm zoom set at 35 mm focal length. Filling the frame enables your camera’s meter to get a better and more accurate exposure. Noteworthy is this: the longer the focal length, the more likely camera shake will be an issue. Foot traffic and cars will shake your camera enough to impact your image on long exposures.

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