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Wayne Hinshaw column: Christmas is light

The world is bright with Christmas lights …

Wherever did you see

A lovelier sight than shines tonight

From house front, lawn and tree?

— from “A Joyful Christmas” by Nadine Brothers Lybarger

I have always been captivated with the word “light” and the visual effects of physical light. Particularly since I am a photographer, I study light. Eastman Kodak founder George Eastman once said, “Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.”

My other fascination with the word light, comes from all the times light is mentioned in  Bible scriptures. In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

In Genesis 1:4, the word is, “And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from darkness.” In 2 Corinthians 4:6, “Light shall shine out of darkness.” In Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

What do all of these quotes have to do with Christmas and my column and photos of Christmas? In Agnes M. Pharo’s “What is Christmas?” she writes that, “Christmas is a light that has flamed throughout the ages. It is a glow that warms the hearts of men …”

I am trying to bridge the gap between the light  I always look for in photography and the meaning of light in the Bible and Christmas being the “light that has flamed throughout the ages.” When I look for light, I see what direction it comes from and the quality and color of the light.  We are surrounded with light every day and everywhere we go. If you are at all spiritual in a religious way, you understand or are captured by the Bible scripture about light. And too, Christmas is about all the lights for decoration, for religion, and for photography. I’m not really talking about all the commercial use of light at Christmas to sell products, making us forget what the light of Christmas is really all about.

This year, Salem Lutheran Church members decided to share their light and good works. Church member and coordinator Penny Barger explained that they have wanted to have a live nativity scene for several years. The last scene was in 1978 when  Margaret Kerfees coordinated the nativity event. Margaret now is wrestling with a diagnosis of cancer in her body. A month ago, Margaret said that she would like to see another nativity scene this year. Being a lifetime member of the church, the congregation decided to honor Margaret’s wish.

Ray Horton brought his young goats. Braxton Barger furnished a donkey. Rajna Gardner was the narrator for the Christmas story. Mary Brady Agner dressed as Mary, and Kyle Wolfe played the role of Joseph. Thirty-five or 40 members helped by playing wise men, angels, and shepherds or baking cookies and making hot chocolate for refreshments in honor of Margaret Kerfees.

Surely Bible verse Matthew 5:16 is talking about the Salem Lutheran members where it is written: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

A few nights ago, my wife Sammie and I went out in search of the “lights of Christmas.” We found a beautiful decorated and lighted gazebo in the heart of Rockwell next to the museum. The tree, dressed in all white lights with a backdrop of the businesses across U.S. 52, is a place to linger and enjoy.

On the light poles along U.S. 52, the poles are decorated with the red and green lights shaped like poinsettias. Here I had some fun using a 500mm mirror lens. The mirror lens will make donut shaped lights when you throw the lights out of focus. This was especially rewarding to me, in that I learned a new word from the experience. This technique of out-of-focus lights, is called a “bokeh view of lights.” Manually setting the exposure to throw the lights out of focus, creating weird, eyeball-looking shapes around the in-focus poinsettias lights. The English work “bokeh” comes from the Japanese work “boke” meaning blur or haze.

Granite Quarry has large snowflake ornaments on light poles. I played with lining up three of the snowflake ornaments in a row in a photo. I was surprised to get a photo of the snowflakes and a car with the gas price from the Shell station showing through the rear window of the car.

The reflections of the lighted trees in the water of Granite Lake  Park made for a pretty photo. With all the vivid colors of the lights, the ripples in the water, and the water spraying into the air with a green light on it, were very pretty. Well, it was very pretty after I recovered from walking up on a dozen ducks and geese diving into the water to escape from me. I wasn’t expecting the excitement from the birds.

At the Salisbury Depot, the big Christmas wreath on the building caught my attention first. Then the “Star of Depot Street” from a light over the depot made a perfect starburst of light. Even a car moving up the street had starburst headlights.  The wreath brought me to the depot, but the starburst  in the sky was more impressive for a Christmas photo.

On East Innes Street, I enjoyed photographing the Anna Craig Boutique lighted Christmas tree that really is not a tree at all. Driving by, it looks like a perfect tree with white lights, but looking closer, it is a design of boards arranged in the shape of a tree with lights. It is really neat.  Maybe this tree is actually  in front of the Karate school.  At any rate, it has a unique strangeness. By adding the white lights, it becomes magical.


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