Morgahna Godwin on lighting up the holidays with low-light photography.

We spoke to Morgahna Godwin, designer and photographer with charity fundraiser Light Up The Holidays, about the concept of the event, and shooting in low light to capture the magical effects of Christmas lights.

D-Photo: Can you give us a bit of an idea on what Light Up The Holidays is all about?

Morgahna Godwin: Light Up The Holidays was created to unite the talents of creative professionals, working within the entertainment industry, for a single cause, annually. Light Up aims to provide unique, memorable and entertaining experiences to spread holiday cheer to those in need. Previous charities supported include the Auckland City Mission and Live More Awesome.

How did you get involved with Light Up The Holidays?

I was brought on board by Light Up creators Andrew Potvin and Zac Johns. I admired the hard work they put into helping the Auckland City Mission and jumped at the chance to be involved. Unfortunately, there are so many New Zealanders that are in need over Christmas time and Light Up is such a great cause, working at a grass-roots level, to lift the burden and spread a little Christmas cheer. 

When were you involved?

This will be my second year involved with Light Up. Last year we pooled our creative talents to raise funds for Live More Awesome — a charity lifting the stigma surrounding mental health. I am excited about the prospect of helping such a great charity such as Variety. 

Morghana Godwin, Light Up The Holidays 2015. Amateur Canon 70D set-up, low light.

How tricky was it capturing images in the dark, and with all the Christmas lights? What sort of tips and tricks did you use to overcome this?

Low light is always a difficult variable to work with in photography — let alone adding Christmas lights and a swiftly setting sun. I think the ability to quickly adapt to changing light conditions becomes so very important. I always have a few settings I know by heart that I use as benchmarks under certain lighting conditions (depending on the lens and body). Recently I've begun to transition from a Canon system to a Sony specific set-up; which has taken some getting use to but has proved to be a brilliant switch in low-light conditions. Consequently, the limitations of your set-up determine your adaptability within certain lighting environments. I am lucky enough to work with a professional system that gives me a wide range of adaptability under various lighting conditions. However, I often find it more exciting to work with an amateur set-up that boasts many constraints. This is because it forces me to think about how light interacts with various objects, as opposed to how lights look as individual entities. Also, I love to play with the concept of gestalt, so using a limited set-up means that this is often the outcome under low-light conditions, creating a great communication element with the photograph's eventual audience. 

For people starting out in the photography realm, what advice would you give them for shooting in low light?

If you're starting out in photography, and you're shooting in low light, I would urge you not to think about what your gear can't do, but rather what you can capture by way of negative interaction. Negative interaction involves looking at the outcome of what the light creates rather than the direct purpose of the light's placement. And if you really want to develop an element of originality I would think about what you would capture if you had the versatility of a professional set-up and do the exact opposite. Working with what you have is much more admirable and successful than trying to replicate that of a professional set-up.   

Light Up The Holidays is on from Thursday, December 15 to Sunday, December 18 at Lilliputt Minigolf, 3 Tamaki Drive, Auckland. If you want to practice your low-light photography, just mention D-Photo at the door to get a discounted $12 ticket!