Blink and You’ll Miss It!

My folks took each of us to the Magic Kingdom for the first time ON our third birthday. It was a special day with just my folks and no siblings (not that siblings would’ve crashed my party–I’m the oldest!). I rode Space Mountain for the first time and wouldn’t touch a roller coaster for a good ten years after the traumatizing experience. And yet, my not-so-inner eight-year-old still loves visiting “the happiest place on earth” whenever the mood strikes.

I had plans to meet my cousin and her daughter at Disneyland this weekend. We were going to the Festival of Holidays to enjoy the Christmas lights and garlands all over the parks and to eat our way through Disney California Adventures’ international food kiosks. At the last minute they had to cancel, but I decided to go anyway. I’ve been wanting to photograph the Mark Twain at night, all lit up, with Big Thunder Mountain illuminated in the background. So I switched out the dead camera battery for a charged one (important picture-taking detail!), packed up the camera bag, attached my tripod, and set off for the park. For the record, tripods are allowed into the park as long as they will fit into a standard sized backpack. My camera bag is a sling pack and smaller than a standard backpack, so I was good. In fact, when they checked everything out and searched my bag, the security personnel told me they’d like to hug me and use me as an advertisement for following the website’s instructions (always check before lugging a tripod into a location).

Now, night shots aren’t my forte… possibly because I do most, if not all, of my adjustments post production because… former graphic designer. I fully understand the concepts of exposure and light, but understanding is not the same as application. I struggle with applying my understanding to ISO and f-stops. But I figure I’m never going to be too old to learn stuff, so I still like to experiment. I had a great time at the park by myself (I’m an introvert, don’t feel sorry for me!)… I enjoyed some fantastic–FAN-TAS-TIC–vittles at DCA and then marched across the quad to the original park and made my way to New Orleans Square. The rail on the edge of the water was devoid of people so I unpacked my tripod and set up my camera. I hooked up my remote (to avoid jiggling the camera) and adjusted the settings. I am not exaggerating when I tell you the exposures took twenty seconds. But I got a full reflection of the Mark Twain’s lights and Big Thunder in the water. Too bad the ducks were muddying the water or the reflections would’ve been as clear as the steamboat itself. Needless to say, I was very pleased!

Once I took my fill of pictures in that region, I started meandering toward the exit. Tactical error. The Candlelight performance was preparing to start. Oops. Massive logjam of people and I wasn’t on the side allowed to exit. As such, I found a corner and nestled in to watch the show. It involves a full orchestra, choir, and herald trumpets, so it’s not like my classical music loving self was hating it. I also pulled out my camera to obtain some photos listened in.

After the concert concluded, I remained sitting on the doorstep on Main Street as the sea of humanity began moving hither and to, waiting for the rush to die down. I wasn’t in a position to pull out the tripod, so I grabbed my camera and set it on the rail to hold steady. I took a handful of pictures from different angles. The exposures didn’t take twenty seconds as Main Street has far more lighting that New Orleans Square, but they still took about seven or eight seconds each.

A Merry Disney ChristmasWhen I got home, I uploaded the photos and found one in particular that captured my attention.

One of my favorite things about the Christmas season are the lights. They make my eight-year-old self so happy! (Especially when twinklers are involved.) I wanted a photo of the street lamp, which is quite Dickensian, with the various lights, but when I got home, I expected to see exceptionally blurry people at the bottoms of my photos.

Not so!

Turns out that between the speed people were walking and the length of the exposures, only ghosted images of mankind remained.

With the exception of this photo.

The photo is crazy. A complete serendipity! She’s just kind of caught in the moment, if you will. But if I’d blinked–or twitched, as it were–the moment would’ve been lost in a smear of squiggly lights and the unknown woman’s face wouldn’t have been captured. Or if she’d moved and walked away… gone. The moment missed.

I’m continuing to learn more and more about photography and how to get the shots I want, without involving as much post-production work. This photo had a very minor contrast adjustment… other than that, what you see is what I shot. That makes me inordinately proud. It’s clear, color and lighting are good, definition of the subject(s) is good, the composition is dynamic with foreground, background, and placement. And it’s interesting to me.

Much better than just a shot of a Christmas tree with Christmas lights.

So here’s to serendipitous photos and the will to keep trying and learning, deriving great joy from the battle… er, journey!

Inspiration: MagicMissing

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