Shutterings and Mutterings - photography blog

Photo of toy carol singers and toy soldiers by Beowulf Mayfield

Music for Christmas Past

Every year I think I should get myself organised to create a festive photograph and print out a few cards. Usually I don't think of it early enough but this year a chance find at London's Spitalfields Thursday antiques market gave me an idea in good time.

Vintage carol singers photographed by Beowulf Mayfield

I chanced upon a trio of lead Victorian-style carol singers gathered by a Victorian-style lampost... They were in pretty good condition, the colours were good and the seller wasn't asking the earth for them.

I already had three lead soldiers playing instruments - a bugler, drummer and tuba player - and I figured they would make an interesting "backing band" set in the middle distance slightly out of focus.

A set of battery operated coloured lights wrapped around a black pole provided distant background interest and the whole set-up was placed on a black card base with a black card backdrop.

I really disliked the sandy coloured base of the singers so I hunted around a couple of craft shops and found some holly shapes. The same shop also sold white glitter so I got some of that as well.

To light the figures I used my trusty LED torches and, with the camera set on a tripod, I used a lens with a handy macro setting to achieve really shallow focus and simply moved the figures and lights about until I got a result I was happy with. It took time and patience but I finally got the shot I wanted.

I even got myself organised enough to get some cards printed up and then hit a bit of a brick wall - I'm so used to email and social media messaging I had to undertake a rush appeal for people's snail mail addresses. Still, I managed to get some sent out... Happy holidays everyone.

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What camera? I used a Nikon D700 The lens was an AF Zoom-Nikkor 24-88mm. The shutter speed was 1/60 on f4, ISO 200.

Where did the figures come from? They were all found at Spitalfields Market. I find Thursday is the best day to hunt for vintage items.

Who printed the cards? I used the London-based online printing service Moo. They do a lot of interesting products such as business cards and stickers.

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