We've made it a tradition in our house, going back to when we were first married, to go out to a Christmas tree farm each year and cut down our tree. Yes, it's way more work than popping a fake tree out of a box but we love doing it. It's like a treasure hunt with no map: You know exactly what the treasure looks like but you have no idea where to find it. Given that we live in sprawling suburbia, we often drove a pretty good distance to a suitable tree farm. The return trip was always fun — us doing our Griswald family impression, blasting down the interstate with the tree strapped to the roof of the car, praying that it wouldn't blow off and kill somebody. But a few years ago we found a tree farm very near home. It's one of those places, one of those "I can't believe this hasn't been bulldozed and turned into a subdivision" places, tucked away in the next suburb over. And it's, ummm, rustic.
This is not a tree farm with rows of perfectly pruned and spray painted trees lined up like six foot tall green dominos. This is a "Here's your saw; here's your cart; good luck" kind of place: Lots of acreage, paths that meander all over said acreage, and a wild mix of trees. Wild as in "haphazardly placed by Mother Nature." Wild as in "forget pruning and shaping; these babies are all natural."
Some years, it's taken a lot of wandering and hiking, and some desperation, to find a tree. As we're not of the "Let's put the tree up right away — like on Halloween!" ilk, we tend to wait well into the season before venturing out for the yearly hunt. This year, we were actually kind of early (for us).
And so these are some pictures from this past weekend's hunt in which we ended up with not one but two trees: one not terribly tall, but tall enough, and the other fat and downright short for a spot upstairs.
Photo geek info: It was a bleak, gray day and the colors were very flat so I decided to try out Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro plugin to convert everything to black and white. Summary of the experience: the software works well, is very flexible, and generates some really nice tones. The only downside is that there's no way to batch images in Lightroom. You can do it with the "costs twice as much" Photoshop version but not with the Lightroom version.
It was another successful Thanksgiving feast: we gathered, we ate (way too much), we hung out, and we avoided all political and/or social arguments. All in all, a very successful Thanksgiving. Somehow, though, I managed to not get a picture of the turkey.
Before I head out of town again tomorrow, I thought I'd get the rest of the Miami photos uploaded. All in all, it wasn't a (photographically) productive trip — there are a couple of okay shots but definitely nothing portfolio-worthy. It was, however, sunny and there was a beach so I can't complain. The shot above was from the last night of Miami Music Week. If you're into electronic dance music, Miami was the place to be that week. At our hotel, the Fontainebleau, there were performances by David Guetta, Deadmau5, and (pictured) Steve Angello plus a whole bunch of smaller acts. And there were other shows every night up and down South Beach, and across the bay in Miami proper. When you combine Music Week with Spring Break at South Beach, it was a great time for people watching, especially of what the girls weren't wearing.
[pullquote author="Pretty Much Every Straight Guy Who Wasn't Blind"]"Holy crap! Did you see THAT??!??!"[/pullquote]
The idle rich/jetset crowd was out in force which added to the fun. After Music Week ended, all of South Beach seemed... I dunno, kind of sedate, I guess.
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The business meeting season is back upon us.* For those that don't know, I spend a good deal of my professional life as an art director for live events. I've been working for the past couple of months on art direction and production for a biennial event for the Panera Bread restaurant chain. That event finally happened last week in Washington, DC. And while it was a ton of work, you couldn't ask for a better group of people to work for. From top to bottom, Panera is staffed and run by some of the smartest and nicest people you'll ever meet. They are, in many ways, a dream client. These are just a few shots of part of the set and some of what it looked like backstage. The whole backstage area is hard to capture in a photograph: Equipment is stretched along behind the set, cables run everywhere, and it's dark — often really dark. The light on the people you see here is either generated by computer screens and monitors, by little table lights called Tensor Lights, or by stage light spilling around set pieces and drape.
* Business meeting season is typically January through April when it seems like every large corporation wants to do their annual get-together. For those of us that work live corporate events, that means we travel, travel, travel these months.
This is as close to Black Friday as I was willing to go, and I shot it with a long lens. The whole Black Friday idea makes me gag. I just can't conceive of giving up my Thanksgiving dinner and time with family because I'm sleeping in a tent and peeing behind a light pole in a Best Buy parking lot, trying to save a couple hundred bucks on a flat screen tv. There's nothing in the world I need badly enough to do that. BTW, I shot this on my way to someplace important: Starbucks. :-)
Each year, my wife and her sisters take turns hosting Thanksgiving. This has worked out well as it evenly distributes the "OMG, I'VE GOT TO CLEAN MY HOUSE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM BECAUSE THE WHOLE FAMILY IS COMING OVER"-issues that are part of hosting. This year was Trish's turn. Each segment of the family brings something, or sometimes several somethings, and the host usually does the turkey. Our contribution this year: green bean casserole and gigantically mammoth croissants (easy!). It was fun. We were stuffed.
The images were shot on a Canon 5D with 50mm f/1.4 lens. Shot as RAW files; converted to B&W in Lightroom. A link to the full set of images on Flickr is in the right-hand column.
Back when we lived in Michigan, Fall meant (among other things) visiting a cider mill. There's just nothing like fresh cider and greasy little donuts to make the season special. As there were plenty of cider mills around, we could visit a different one each weekend — or pretty much whenever we wanted. When we moved to St. Louis, we were bummed to find that cider mills just aren't as much of the Fall culture as in Michigan. Eventually, though, we did find something similar. There aren't nearly as many cider mills, and the ones that are here don't sell greasy little donuts (maybe it's a Michigan thing?). But what they do offer is a chance to pick your own apples, or pumpkins, or both. In our family, we go for both.
And so it became a yearly tradition to take the kids out to pick apples and pumpkins in early October. Each year we make the treck across the river to Illinois to one of the handful of farms that are open for picking. We grab far too many apples and usually too many pumpkins, too. Interestingly, the tradition has continued even as the kids have gotten (much) older. Older, like, two are in college. But they still want to go, and we're happy to take them. As they go to two different colleges, both out of town (and one out of state), coordinating the picking trip has become a challenge. This year, we made two trips to two different farms to accomodate the college schedules.
More pictures are on Flickr (there's a link in the right column).
We were on vacation in Pentwater, Michigan over the 4th of July. This was Pentwater's annual fireworks show as seen from the public beach in town.
Taken at Lambert-St. Louis Int'l Airport (STL) ✈