When I was younger, and actually, right up to when Dad died back in 2010, my family had a tradition for Christmas Eve. We would sneak up on each other and shout “Christmas Eve Gift!” and the person who was “got” would have to give the other person a gift on that Christmas Eve. Now, usually, no gift was given, as it was just the fun of being the person who got the other person by surprise.
One chilly Christmas Eve in Texas (yes, if you’ve been reading the news and seeing other FB posts, it does get frosty even in SE Texas), I’d gotten up early that morning, as I usually do, and I baked a huckleberry cobbler (huckleberries are just the best). I did my weekend routine of walking next door to Mom & Dad’s to spend the morning and have coffee with them, but this time, I also had a cobbler hot from the oven. I put the cobbler down on a chair next to the back door, and unlocked the door using the key Mom & Dad gave to me some years back. The house was all dark. I opened the door a little wider, and all of a sudden, Mom & Dad jumped out from behind the door shouting “CHRISTMAS EVE GIFT!” Thankfully, I’d set the cobbler down because it would probably have been dropped to the ground otherwise. Mom & Dad were gleefully chuckling over having gotten me (because, it was usually the other way around).
Now that I am living with my sister in Washington state, we don’t do that tradition. Apparently, Christmas Eve Gift was started (or restarted) after my sister had left for college decades ago, because she said they never did it while she lived with them, and she looked at me oddly for trying it out with her. Sigh.
So, no more Christmas Eve Gift, but still lots of memories.
To stave off the post-Thanksgiving-tryptophan sleepies, I decided to clean my living room window so that my lovely little Christmas tree would show up better from the outside. Naturally, I had to take tripod and camera out after dark to capture images of this one little tree glowing brightly in the night. Apparently, I am either the only person with a tree in the entire apartment complex, or I am the only person who likes showing off their tree through the window.
This photo was taken shortly after sundown. I deliberately set the f-stop to 22 so the lights would create little starbursts. The ISO was 500, I used my 24-70mm lens with the focal length set to 24mm, and the shutter was open for 30 seconds.
I switched from to my 16-35mm lens because I wanted a much wider-angle view of the complex and my tree. The only issue was the fact that the oak tree branches in the yard drooped quite a bit. The ever-so-slight breeze took those drooping branches and blurred them during the 30-second shot. The ISO was 250. I had to use noise-reduction with this image (yes, you can sometimes get grainy low-light photos even when using a low ISO) and I ultimately cropped out as much of the offending blurred branches as I could, giving this image a sort of pseudo-pano look.
Lots of frames in this image above: the front lights on the brick columns, the frame created by the apartment complex architecture, and the frame created by the oak tree limbs.
The Magic Tree. Easy to do if you ever decide to experiment yourself. Just put your camera and zoom lens on a tripod, set the camera for however many seconds you wish, then play around with zooming the lens in and out to get some funky effects while the shutter is open.
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