I’ve been MIA for months. Months and months. I’ve been holed up in my office 55 hours a week and then working feverishly in a kitchen 20 hours a week as I pursue a big, audacious dream. Most of the pictures I’ve shot in the past year are of food. Breads, rolls, maple bourbon sticky buns, cakes. That kind of stuff. Delicious, but not overly inspiring as photography goes.
I grew up in the greater Los Angeles area and I’ve lived the better part of my life here. There are some things that just smell, sound, or look like “home” because I’ve known them all of my life. They’re as familiar to me as color of my own eyes.
One of my most favorite things about “home” is New Year’s Day. I absolutely love the Rose Parade. Every year, I set my alarm to wake up at 7:00 a.m. It doesn’t matter how late I stay up the night before, I set the alarm to ensure I don’t miss my favorite part of January 1.
Last year, my folks were staying with me after arriving in town to celebrate my niece’s first birthday. I lived two blocks south of the parade route, so Mom and I ambled over to watch the parade. We had a lovely morning, and while I took my camera, the corner on which we were standing didn’t produce many good photos. This year, I toyed with the idea of walking down to the parade, but it was colder than all get out. Record low temperatures in these parts. Instead, I chose to stay in, wrapped in a quilt, still in my pajamas, and sipping hot chocolate. It was Bob Eubanks, Stephanie Edwards, and me. (All self-respecting natives know the only way to watch the parade is with Bob and Stephanie (for those of you in other parts of the country, go find the Hallmark Channel next year and you’ll learn why).) I was okay with my decision until the Firebird float came on the screen. That was the moment I knew I needed to go see the floats in the post-parade staging area.
Every year, after the parade is over, the floats are driven a few miles north of Colorado and for ten bucks, you can walk through and take as many photos as you’d like. I’ve wanted a picture or two of the Rose Parade to include in my gallery. I have approximately 35 photos that I have enlarged and paid to be custom matted and framed. The Olympics, my travels, nature… they’re all there. I have a few photos of the nieces and nephews in there. And I’ve wanted a photograph or two of the Rose Parade as a combined tribute to its beauty and its presence in my life. So I went.
All of these photos are from one float. I couldn’t get a shot of the float in its entirety because moving a sea of humanity wasn’t an option. I had to creatively shoot around bobbing heads as people walked directly in front of me, not realizing that in their hurry to take a photo they had just walked directly into mine. Nut balls. This photo of the Firebird (yes, the float played Stravinsky all the way down the parade route) was taken during the magic hour, unless you can’t tell by the warm hues running around left, right, and center. It also shows the largest portion of the bird. His tail feathers, shown above, were clearly inspired by a peacock’s tail. The float was absolutely stunning.
I uploaded a bunch of photos to be developed this week and I’ll pick them up in the next couple of days or so (when I can carve out thirty minutes to jog over and get them). I can’t wait to see how they all turned out! I’ll agonize over which photos to display, but it’ll be worth it in the end. (I’m particularly drawn to this photo as well as some of a gnome and others of butterflies.)
To have the beauty of the floats and memories of a tradition I’ve carried on for thirty-eight years isn’t bad. I’m a veteran of thirty-four potato-couching versions of the parade and four in-person versions. I’ve photographed floats and been photographed in front of floats. I’ve lounged on the curb and I’ve sat in the grandstands. I’ve even helped to decorate a float (the single filthiest thing I’ve ever done!). I’ve loved this parade all of my life. And I have a sneaking suspicion I will until the day I die. I’m okay with that. There’s a little girl inside of me that will, hopefully, never grow up.
FYI… if you don’t know, every square inch of the floats are covered with fruits, vegetables, barks, seeds, seaweed, and whatever else they can scrounge up from the plant world. And it’s absolutely breathtaking what they do with all of that vegetation.
Inspiration: A Moment in Time