There’s nothing about this picture that isn’t artificial, and yet, I kind of like it in a weird way. To wit, the various elements include:

• Plastic USB-powered Christmas tree which was given to me by one of my students when I taught at a K-12 school in Minnesota about ten years ago. (Thanks Rachel!)
• Fake Christmas tree in the background
• Artificial lights on the tree in the background
• Even the ornament itself isn’t really what it seems. It’s designed to sit passively on a desk, but my buddy Stacy is literally holding it up in midair so I could take this shot. I cropped his hand out of the photo

So basically this image, which likely conjures up some very real thoughts and feelings about Christmas, is entirely concocted and created by me, the photographer. It’s manipulative in a way, and almost makes me a bit uncomfortable to even post it here, but I am a sucker for bokehlicious backgrounds, so there you go.

I don’t know what any of this says in grander terms, and probably nothing at all, but it did make me think about the ways in which we surround ourselves with man-made materialism at this most holy time of year when our thoughts often shift to the birth of Christ and His sacrifice on the cross. The simple act of taking this picture (f/1.8, 1/180 second, ISO 140 in case you’re interested) gave me pause because it felt like I was trying too hard to create a specific scene that should be a lot more organic and natural. If I were really trying to capture a picture that embodied the spirit of Christmas perhaps I should have looked for a crèche, or a star, or even a cross. Or maybe a picture that encapsulates innocence, self-sacrifice, or even just love.

I didn’t do any of that though, and instead chose to take a plastic tree, put it in front of another plastic tree with man-made lights stuck to it, and call it Christmas. I think the reason was because I wasn’t really trying to do anything with this picture other than to make an image that looked cool. It could have been a ham sandwich in front of a Lite Brite and it would have had the same effect, but lacking either of those I went with some more readily available implements.

Perhaps the point here is that there isn’t really a point, and if this picture makes you think of Christmas then that’s just as valid as if this picture makes you think of nothing at all. Either way I enjoyed taking this (and thanks to Stacy for helping me out!) and I like that it did make me think a little bit about things I hadn’t really intended at the time.

And with that, here’s to a good 2017 with hopes for a fantastic 2018. For me and my family this year certainly had its share of ups and downs, challenges and rewards, and good times and bad times, but through it all I’m thankful to have had the experience and optimistic for whatever the new year brings. Thanks to all of you who continue to read Weekly Fifty, and I hope your year is ending on a good note with a lot of fantastic things yet to come.


  1. This last post of the ornament in front of the tree you mentioned other things you could have posted. One you mentioned was a picture of a cross. In my opinion, that would have been inappropriate – we’re not celebrating His death, we’re celebrating His birth.

    • You’re exactly right about that Tom. When I went to Christmas Eve service with my family last week they even held a post-service Birthday Party for Jesus in the fellowship hall. It was a great way to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.

  2. Merry Christmas (belated) Simon. Thank you for your simple , thought provoking compositions of subjects which are omnipresent. I find them very educational. Inspires me to go out and keep my eyes open for opportunities for photography. Hope to see many more of them in coming years.

  3. Simon, I like the photo and indeed it did make me think of Christmas. It isn’t that the things are all man-made, but that they are symbols we have produced to direct our minds to the real reason for the season. The season does contain a lot of sparkle and glitter, but to at least some of us, it reminds us of the joyous events that we celebrate. Your image is a good example of this. Now, perhaps I am just trying to justify some of the images I have made this season, because I have done the same thing. What better time to play around with bokeh that at Christmas time with all those lights just screaming for attention. On the other hand, if we were not celebrating the birth of our Savior, the Light of the World, we wouldn’t have those lights to photograph.

    Thanks for your efforts in producing this blog each week. I gain a lot from it and look forward to reading it each week. I hope that next year will bring you more peace and joy.

    • Thank you for so many kind and thoughtful comments on these photos Dennis! I always appreciate reading what you have to say about the pictures and I plan to keep the blog going for years to come :)

  4. Nice shot, sorta magical!

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