Featured Photo: Luminarias in Tubac Arizona

In the American Southwest, luminarias are a traditional form of Christmas lights, made by placing a candle in a paper bag weighted down with a little sand. (They now have electric versions, for those leery of putting a lit candle in a paper bag.)

You can find luminaria displays throughout the Southwest, and we found these during an annual Luminaria Nights event in Tubac, Arizona.

Luminarias in Tubac, Arizona

Luminarias and holiday lights line a walkway just before Christmas in Tubac, Arizona. Tubac is an historic arts and crafts village in southern Arizona.

After wandering about a bit, I found this mix of luminarias and regular Christmas lights outside a group of shops just after the sun had gone down. Dusk (or dawn) is the best time to shoot holiday lights because the sky is finally dark enough to balance against the foreground. The window is narrow, though, because you want to keep some detail in the sky itself (such as the clouds in this photo): shoot too early and the sky will be too bright; too late and it’ll be too dark. (I found this location just a little too late – I would have liked a little more light in the sky.)

The composition is relatively straightforward, with the line of luminarias forming diagonals that lead the eye into the picture. For the exposure, I stopped down to f/11 to make sure I had plenty of depth-of-field, which meant a 30 second exposure at ISO 200.

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