Bethlehem AD: A Living Nativity in Redwood City, CA

Normally I have a new blog entry every Monday morning, but it's a day early this year because of Christmas falling on a Sunday and because this week's entry is all about Christmas!

I first visited Bethlehem AD in December 2001 and returned for my fourth time in December 2016.  I would have returned two Decembers ago when I got my first DSLR, the Canon 70D, but had gotten busy and sick during that time period.  I was really excited to return this year.  It was just as wonderful an experience this year as it was in years past.  If I can, I'd like to visit it annually.  The event goes on regardless of the weather, rain or shine, frozen ground or windy day.

I'll let the photos below mostly speak for themselves.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 200   16-55mm lens at 29mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 200   16-55mm lens at 29mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 500   16-55mm lens at 22mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 500   16-55mm lens at 22mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

One of the more unique attractions of Bethlehem AD are the animals: lambs, chickens, donkeys, an alpaca, and yes, camels!

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 50mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

One of the camels actually tried to lick my camera lens while I was trying to take a picture!

Bethlehem AD is organized by Tapestry Church in Redwood City, CA.  When you line up outside, the first sight you're greeted by are dancing angels on the roof.

Canon 70D   ISO 400   Sigma 70-200m lens at 91mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

And you see Roman soldiers patrolling the streets and the inside of the venue itself.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 200   16-55mm lens at 16mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 200   16-55mm lens at 16mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Below are the Magi, or according to tradition, the three wise men.  These dignitaries are actually the Redwood City Police Chief, Redwood City Mayor, and other members of the city council.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Real pottery is actually being made here by a real potter.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 23mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 23mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

And my favorite shot of the night!  It think what makes this photo so special isn't just the subject, but the background interest as well.  Everything about the photo exudes a sense of place.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 55mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

The centerpiece of Bethlehem AD is, of course, the manger.  It's such a powerful sight to see, especially with the angels dancing over it and the magi bearing gifts to the Baby Jesus.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 16mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Fuji X-T1   ISO 800   16-55mm lens at 16mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

These angels dance over the manger (and on the roof of the church across the street) for three and a half hours, regardless of the weather.

Canon 70D   ISO 400   70-200mm lens at 119mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

And that's a real baby in the manger!

Canon 70D   ISO 400   70-200mm lens at 70mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

Canon 70D   ISO 400   70-200mm lens at 70mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

Once you're done visiting the Bethlehem venue, across the street at the church there's more.  Inside the church itself is a choir singing carols.

Canon 70D   ISO 400   70-200mm lens at 76mm   f/2.8   1/60sec

If you don't actually want to be outside at the Bethlehem venue, you can actually watch the angels and the manger via live video feed inside the church.

And in the adjoining fellowship hall, you find a band belting out Christmas tunes, plus some homemade donuts, coffee, or hot apple cider.  You can easily spend two hours here, at the Bethlehem venue and in the church itself.

Fuji X-T1   ISO 400   16-55mm lens at 42mm   f/2.8   1/30sec

Bethlehem AD is free, though I'd recommend leaving a donation either at the venue or where the food is served.  Check out the Bethlehem AD website for more pictures and video, and also for the dates for next year.

To view more of my pictures from Bethlehem AD, check out my Flickr Album.

Gear used:  Canon 70D with 70-200mm f/28 lens and Fuji X-T1 with 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, plus the Nissin i40 flash with flash sync cable connected to the X-T1.