Sunday, November 27, 2011

One holiday over, and another just beginning

Ron never finished decorating his turkey
I love Thanksgiving, and now it's over for another year.

All of the leftovers are nearly gone ... not that they look so appealing at this point.

My sister wanted to go to Longwood before the end of the weekend since the holiday lights are officially up.  Typically, it's bitterly cold when we do this.  But, after spending the past three years wishing that I lived in California, California has done us a favor and come here.  It was downright balmy this evening.

It was crowded, but not nearly as crowded as it could be.  I know most of my friends are going to be wandering over to Longwood during the next month, and everybody likes taking pictures when they're there.  Here are some tips for getting the best shots with a point-and-shoot camera.

1) Turn off your flash. Yes, you heard me right: turn it off.  The dark is so overwhelming that the flash isn't doing anything when you take a landscape shot.  Unless you're taking a close-up of something/someone, don't bother turning it on.

2) Turn on your timer. Most cameras give you options for time length (2 seconds, 7 seconds, 10 seconds, etc.)  Choose the 2 second setting.

3) If you don't have a tripod (99% of the time I don't have one with me), then make a tripod.  Find a ledge, a fence, a bench, a low wall, etc., on which to rest your camera or your hands.

4) Set up your shot as best you can.  You may not always be able to get the exact shot that you want because you'll be hindered by your impromptu tripod.

5) Turn on your two-second timer and take your shot.  The timer will release the shutter two seconds (duh) after you push it.  This is helpful because you will eliminate some (or all) of the blur that would be caused by your hand as you press and release the shutter.  (For the record, Ron taught me this trick.) Also, hold your breath and make sure that feet are planted on the ground (shoulder-distance apart) so that you're firmly balanced.  If you can avoid holding the camera to your face and instead rest it on a firm surface, that's even better. All of this contributes to eliminating blur.

Also, if you do have a DSLR, obviously you will want to open your aperture completely.  If you have an actual tripod with you, you can close it up a bit if you want to increase your depth of field.  Otherwise, one of the unavoidable trade-offs to this technique is very small depth of field due to a large aperture. Pick your poison: blur or small DOF.

Ron: I've been rethinking Christmas gifts, and I think I definitely want one of these. Don't worry, I'll find a spot for it.
On a different note, this year's theme in the music room is ... CANDY! My favorite.  The gingerbread houses are insane this year: replicas of the DuPont house and the Conservatory.  They're entirely edible, and even the gorgeous frosted windows are made of beet sugar.

The Conservatory

The DuPont House
If you look closely, you can tell that the roof is made of burnt cinnamon toast crunch. (God, I love cinnamon toast crunch. I'm not allowed to buy it anymore because I just sit and eat it until it's gone. Ron gives me this skeptical look and goes, "Really? Are you sure?" when I pick it off the shelf. I've learned to put it back.)

The space in the above photo is one of my favorite spots in the Conservatory.  If you look at the photo archives in the DuPont house, you can see that the DuPonts would drain this space and set up tables and chairs and entertain hundreds of people at one sit-down dinner.  When the space wasn't needed for entertaining, it could be flooded to provide an incredible mirror effect.

You would think a pomegranate bonsai would grow fruit proportional to the rest of the tree? Guess not.

Rose House from the inside ...
... and from the outside.
I'm sure that this won't be the last of my Christmas lights shots. It's still November for cryin out loud.

This long weekend has been so exhausting in such a good way.  Friday night was crazy--a lot of the people who I was hoping to see at our reunion actually came.  Two of these people were friends from sixth grade, Audrey and Melinda (yup, they're twins).  I ate lunch with them everyday in middle school, and I was always lucky and was scheduled in at least one of their lunch periods throughout high school.  And then college came and I literally never saw them again until the 5-year reunion and now the 10-year reunion.  I don't plan on going to another reunion again, so hopefully we won't totally lose touch again.

I was also really happy to see my friend Jackie, who has always affectionately referred to me as "Pants." I used to know the story of how I got that nickname, but I don't remember anymore.  Jackie and I had completely identical schedules for three years.  I spent all day, everyday hanging around with her.  I knew I would have trouble keeping in touch with Jackie after we graduated, and sure enough I totally lost track of her.  I've always worried about Jackie--I don't know why "worry" is right word there, but it is.  Every November 2, I would always just take a second to say to nobody in particular, "I don't know where in the world you are Jackie, but Pants is wishing you a happy birthday today."  It turns out that Jackie joined the Navy after high school, so she literally was all over the world on those ten birthdays.  Now she's back in this area for good, so maybe I'll bump into her more often.

Ron and I finished the night at Iron Hill with my best friend, Ama, and our other friend, Ben (also my junior prom date).  I think we managed to walk in the front door around 2am.  I didn't wake up until 10am the next morning, and I never felt awake at all on Saturday.  I'm old, I guess?

Thus begins another week at school.  How is it freakin possible that I have two weeks left to the semester? Three, if you count exams.  This is totally ridiculous, because this was the first day of school, and that feels like last Tuesday. And so returns the angst of "How do I slow things down it goes too fast and I can't keep up someone please help."


Cat Lady, Esq. said...

Sorry the gingerbread man's smiling face takes away from the chandelier.

Jo Harper said...

I know, right? I meant to circle back around to take a shot from a different angle, but it never happened. Why do they have that dumb stuff on the walls? It totally ruins the whole effect of the room!