December 27, 2020 2 min read

I've always loved the photos of glowing Christmas trees in dinghies that are shared every Christmas. With the pandemic keeping me closer to home this winter, I wanted to find one of these boats on the Cape myself. I posted on Instagram and got a few responses, including a tree on the end of a dock in Falmouth and a tree in a dinghy in Nantucket harbor.

Nantucket was a bit too far to go on short notice, especially for a blue hour shoot at the end of the day. Fortunately, a friend tipped me off about a boat in a salt marsh just a few miles from my house.

Due to the multiple feet of difference in water levels between high and low tide, I needed to find a calm night where high tide was within an hour or so of sunset. If the water was too high, the marsh wouldn't be visible and the photo would be much less interesting. Too low and the boat wouldn't be visible above the marsh. If it was too windy, the water wouldn't reflect the lights of the tree like I was hoping for.

There were two nights in the week leading up to Christmas when all of these factors seemed to line up. The first night the water was as still as I've ever seen a tidal body of water - even the harbor itself had picture perfect reflections of the pilings and boats. The dinghy was lit up and visible from across the marsh and although I arrived late I still came away with a photo that I love.

A glowing Christmas tree sits in a dinghy in a salt marsh on Cape Cod.

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The reflection is just about perfect and my only complaint is that the tide was heading out and the boat, to my eye, was facing the wrong direction. I returned the next night when the tide would be rising instead of falling hoping that the boat would be facing the opposite direction.

A boat decorated with a lit Christmas tree floats in a salt marsh on Cape Cod.

I also arrived half an hour earlier and was able to get take some shorter exposure shots of the boat - a good thing because the water was moving much more swiftly and the boat was twisting and turning on it's mooring.

A Christmas tree glows in a dinghy floating in a salt marsh on Cape Cod.

A glowing Christmas tree floats in a boat in a salt marsh on Cape Cod.

Both nights were a great success even if my fingers took a while to defrost after being out shooting in the wind until after dark. There are a few parts of Christmas on Cape Cod that are unique and these boats have always been one of my favorites.


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