I think of history as old and ancient – time. Colleen and I have been together a few short years. Yet…. all the ornaments I had went with Lisa. Colleen brought some and we acquired a few (lot), just like we acquired a few (four) more cats. As you see, we get a lot of help. That would be Nutley (aptly named).
Santa? A friend collected them. I never paid much attention. Colleen got an interest. And off we went. When we visited Winterthur, it seems that Mr. Dupont collected Santas too. How’d we compare? Not too bad. My hat’s off to Colleen’s sharp eye. I may find them but she’s the one with final approval. Honestly, I am impressed with how quickly our collection has accumulated in such a short span. Call it, making up for lost time. Mr. Dupont’s Santas are to the left.
A few hundred shots later, voila! We got around to doing the annual (2nd) Xmas photo of the family. What can I say? The technique is fairly straightforward. Whistle and call out, the cats come and line up. After all I am their meal ticket. Done! …It seems that none of my cats understand much less will listen. I can’t even distract them enough to stare into my lens. I took multiple images of each cat. There was only a single frame serviceable for Elle. She was having no part, whatsoever!! We got showered and dressed… don’t ask. It’s shameless for sure. As you can see it’s quite the crew. Maybe there will be a 3rd annual, or not!?
So, why photography? Technical? Science? Documentation and photojournalism. I was struck by the desire to document life in my family. I was not too good at doing so. I have sporadic pictures from my own childhood. My kids have a fairly comprehensive documentation of theirs. I hope they will document their own families. I was pretty good doing their childhood. I got a whole lot better. Lately, I’m the one who shoots the family photos at gatherings. I can’t be everywhere. And I still see lots of mediocre shots get passed around. Hell, I take a great number of them myself. But when I’m good, I am. And there are shots for the ages in and among my work. I’m better than I was and not as good as I will be someday.
The best part of Christmas? The after party. We kind of overdid it in the gift department. Conspicuous consumption. Guilty. Sorry. It was overcompensation for a childhood in which we each got exactly one present each year. The consequence of it all was that there was actually some serious cleanup required. Sometimes it was not as seriously undertaken as I might have wanted. Why bother with presents when the wrapping could provide so much entertainment?
These shots were taken while I clowned around in front of the Xmas tree. I did a handstand that went bad. I flipped over into the tree. I was forever reminded how the tree had been painstakingly decorated ornament by popcorn garland by…on and on. I have yet to receive forgiveness. My memory is long too. The crime was not worth the punishment. Get a grip.
Yeah, yeah, it’s early for Xmas. But then I might be late. These pictures were taken about two decades ago. Yup, little kids. Huh? I just got to scanning my old slide collection. I stopped in 2013 and just picked it up again. Thankfully, I’m still alive to do it. Digital is the only thing that will survive. No one’s gonna want to pull out and look at 100, 000 or so slides. Hey! I still have a projector. Yes! A slide projector! And a screen! Oh well, no one much cares. But then again… it was a tradition. Tradition? Yup. On Xmas night the kids started sleeping by the tree. They’d gather their blankets and stuffed animals and the latest Xmas book and… Nellie, the dog. They’d sleep through the night with the Xmas tree lit. Then they stopped doing it? I miss the old times, sometimes.
Manhattan Beach does their annual firework display at Xmas. They don’t compete with the neighboring beach community that does it in July. It’s a very large beach. You have to get a good seat. And so we did. The traffic was horrible. But we were already parked. I guess that was the limiting factor.
We sat alone with no one nearby and had the best seats in the house. It was chilly! And I got fireworks! Next July I’ll look for fireworks images. For now we got some great ones. How do you know he’s going up? He was. I suggested it would be easier to pull than push. But the image? It could be more likely he’s going downhill with the stroller…except he’s not.
On the technical side: I shot the fireworks handheld. This meant I could not use an extended exposure. Ideally: Use a tripod. Set the shutter speed to 3-4 seconds. Adjust your ISO and aperture accordingly. You get sharp trails of light and even multiple bursts. Handheld? Hey, it works too if you set up correctly. It’s what I did when I started. It’s not what I’d do now. But one adapts to the conditions provided. No, it’s not worth buying a tripod special for this occasion. I’m not OCD. Ha!
Manhattan Beach dresses for Christmas. They have festive lights. The pier is lit. We arrived on the perfect weekend. We didn’t even notice there was no snow.
Is this worth a post? Well, here’s the thought process. We came upon this scene at dusk. The lights and sunset, the trail of lights out along the long pier, my surprise and delight at finding this scene was visceral. We stayed for several days, three nights. And, in that time I tried to get a quintessential image. I knew the scene was special in terms of its graphics and color and potential as a night shot. Heretofore I would not have been able to capture anything of the essence. Film was simply not very good to do this task. Digital and the spiffy camera computer processor gives me something to work with. I never got exactly what I wanted. Wait around? Try again? Do something! Nah! Time moves on and my companions don’t want to stand around forever while I explore options. My modus operandi is to catch what I catch on the fly. It works and it doesn’t. Sometimes you are the bug and sometimes you are the windshield. Huh?
I know. But I had a post for Xmas. So, I’m squeezing this in at New Year. Happy! I’ve been in a lot of stores around Thanksgiving. Santa shows up before turkey. Turkey is for eating. You sell Santa for the holiday. Happy! … that would be all the holidays. This new year will be different… and better.
I have switched hard drives (not enough storage space) so many times I did not know what I would get when I did a search for brother John. It’s been a few years now. I try to remember on his birthday. This one image popped up. I didn’t take it. Ha! It’s an early iteration of my Manhattan apartment before many renovations. We all had mustaches. That’s funny (to me). I kept mine all these years, Eric and John were more casual. Their significant others did not insist… It’s Christmas. We had an almost uncanny knack of duplicating presents. This was the year of the overcoat/raincoat. Everyone got one. “Like minds think alike?” It happened way more than this one time. Yeah, Cabbage patch and pound puppies and tickle me Elmo, but overcoats? Gimme a break.
Great ideas! At Christmas each family comes and distributes their gifts into the waiting basket with your name on it. There are a bunch of variations on the scheme but it makes chaos so much more organized.
And for an even better scheme – use ribbon. String the ribbon from a central point and let the recipient follow his/her color to their gifts. You can put a few in the interim and make it even more fun. Either way, it’s a good idea. Too late for this year and there are a lot fewer kids around these days. But keep this in mind if you still entertain hoards for the holiday.
What do you get for someone who has everything? And I do have everything I can think that I need. Don’t try to think of anything. I have left many a person in despair. But this is about my recent Xmas excursion. The past few years I have been an Amazon shopper. Delivery and done. No lines, no stores, no pondering, no waiting for a great gift idea to fall upon you as you wearily trudge into another store for inspiration.
This year, along the way, I managed to Christmas shop in an actual store. I modeled. It’s not for me. The coat went to my brother Eric. The hat was for Dave. Where I am, the last thing I need is warm clothes. But the boys work and live in cold weather. So the warm gear will be welcome. What you don’t see and will not get to see, is the long underwear. Everyone got a pair. When Jules marries in March, it will be an outdoor wedding. No coat, suit and tie, in cool California weather, psst, a hint to the wise, dress warm. The party’s outdoors too. So long underwear will be our little secret. No one should be cold if forewarned.
How appropriate! Right after Christmas I am able to sneak in a dive shot that works for the holiday season.
These tiny creatures are about ½ inch in size. I do not see them too often. Now I have found a group of them and will take the opportunity to get better shots. The colors vary. There are blue, brown, yellow, and orange so far that I have seen. There are usually two trees that stick up and then there is a smaller side projection. The worms will disappear folding themselves into nothing as soon as danger is perceived. If you swim upon them and slowly move closer you might get a shot. But the tiny subjects are really at the limit of my camera’s ability.
Yes. Camera envy. I could get a much more expensive set up. Then it would be really like work. And there is the heartbreak if the camera gets wet and dies. And remember I am doing this for fun. Yes. Yes. It is for fun. There is a fine line between madness and fun.
I have tried to stage this shot all different ways. It is not easy to get a group shot. Someone blinks. Someone frowns. And those in front are larger than the group in the second row. The ladies hide their weight. Lighting is tricky. When it all comes together it is the annual family photo. And someone is always unhappy with how they look. This shot was about ten years ago. A lot has happened since then. Let it be at that.
It is another holiday I will miss at home this year. We had a lot of nice ones when the kids grew up. The annual tradition was to decorate the tree. We collected ornaments as we traveled so there were very few ornaments the same. And there were a lot of them at one point. The other tradition was who got to put Santa on the top of the tree. Somehow the kids kept track year after year. For a long time I had to lift them up without letting them fall into the tree. I was never forgiven the one time I slipped.
And there was a year when we were traveling on Christmas eve. In order to have time to make Christmas, Lisa decided not to tell the kids and we planned to have the day on the 26th. Shhhh just don’t tell. The airline pilot almost spoiled it when he spied reindeer off the plane’s wingtip. Lisa recovered quickly to Jules’ question by saying that Santa had to start early in order to arrive on time.
The next day the 26th was just like it was December 25th. The family arrived, I taped Xmas music from the radio complete with commercials, and we recreated the day without the kids noticing. I did not confess for about ten years.
Meanwhile we continued the tradition of Santa leaving a stocking full of small gifts. Santa doesn’t wrap so the kids could distinguish presents. The stockings continued well into the kids’ early twenties at which time I inquired as to when they knew there was no Santa. I guess we all kept the charade for a lot of years. Funny, though, the next year we stopped doing stockings. Bittersweet.
The tale of Xmas stockings goes this way. We had no chimney. But Santa arrived and brought the kids something for their stocking. He didn’t wrap them. And we left cookies – another story – on a plate for Santa. On Xmas morning, the kids would rush upstairs and examine their stockings first. I’d get photos and video. It was a close quarters narrow space because we hung the stockings on the stairway bannister. We never spoke of when the kids stopped believing in Santa. Really! They were in their twenties. Finally I asked when the moment came to them that there was no Santa… probably around the age of six? Well, they laughed sheepishly and told us they didn’t want to disappoint us. Too bad the spell was broken because that was the last year we did stockings. Oh the cookies… every year I had to eat the cookies and leave some crumbs so the kids would think Santa ate them. By the time Xmas eve comes you are pretty stuffed and even eating one more cookie is a chore.
I’ll mention one more anecdote. One year we were on Captiva Island on Christmas eve. Our flight was due to return that night. Rather than put together Christmas on December 25 we decided to tell the kids that Christmas was the next day 12/26. So on Christmas day we didn’t turn on a radio or the television and we actually pulled it off. The family came on 12/26; we all celebrated. I had taped Christmas music from the radio (the station played carols for 24 hours on 12/25). No one was the wiser. There was only a bad moment when the pilot on Christmas eve called out on the PA that he saw a man, a sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer outside the jet window. In reply to Julia’s question Lisa responded, “Santa has so many places to go, he’s getting a head start. I didn’t spill until the kids were past twenty.
This tradition ended pretty fast. For a while, every year Lisa would assemble a gingerbread house. It took her a few tries to work out construction issues. She wanted it all natural without any non-edible support. Believe me when I say that there were issues. When the kids were old enough they were the decorators. We’d have all manner of candy to apply. Though some people preserve the house and display it year after year, we ate ours in gleeful destruction. Then Lisa decided it was too much to do every year and we stopped.
There was a tendency to overdo the Christmas gifts in our house. It must have been a childhood compensatory thing. It means that there is ‘cleanup.’ Jane and David took it in another direction. It looked like they were having more fun with the wrapping than the gifts. As the commercial states, “It’s priceless.”
We always had a live cut tree since Lisa and I have been together. She told me her dad made a tree from cardboard once when she was little. Money being what it is, he said it just didn’t seem right to spend money on a dead tree. It’s another thing you do to correct things in your childhood. The kids always put the ornaments onto the tree. Initially it was just the ones you couldn’t break. Later on we still had to put the delicate ones above the height that the young nephews could reach. And finally with grown children we didn’t put up a tree at all last year. We went to my sister in law. …all grown up.
We’re in transition. The kids are grown but not yet married. There are no grandkids. Lisa’s tired of all the Christmas decorating (and especially the take down). So last year was a minimal year with presents exchanged and a Christmas tree visited at my brother’s house. But back when the kids were small…. We spent a few Christmases at the Westhampton house. No matter where, the kids were all excited about the tree decorating. Julia loved to read and I had hooked her into reading the Nancy Drew series. Meanwhile I had to test the strings of lights to see if they were working. As soon I tested the lights, Lisa would put them on the tree. She didn’t think I could do the lights quite right. And here’s Julia all set to go, right in the middle of it all. Yes, it’s a fond memory.
It’s Soho. And obviously, it’s near to Christmas. We were down shopping in a furniture store as I recall. The wet snow was covering the trees. I like this impressionist take on what would have been a wet dreary day. I don’t know the settings – film. But it works for me and it evokes a memory each time I look at this image. I am reminded of Maggie Sherwood, whose image totally blurred in the rain from a cab inspires me to this day.
In response to Happy Anniversary, my wife responded, “Are you really?” Well I suppose I am at least feeling merry. I wish a good holiday to all and happy new year. While there are many people who don’t celebrate Xmas, i didn’t realize that much of the world doesn’t have the same new year. And there are those unique holidays like Thanksgiving and Halloween. I also know that it is near impossible to stage a family photo. The old folks hate how they look in pictures. The kids never sit still. The fact that you have anything at all on film is just pure luck. So, don’t sweat it. And leave out the old people. I don’t even care if you blink. Happy and safe holidays to all.