Lighted Boat Parade

A long exposure of the lighted boats circling in front of Ross's Landing

A long exposure of the lighted boats circling in front of Ross’s Landing

The Lighted Boat Parade is a Chattanooga tradition, if a relatively new one.  Boaters decorate their boats with thousands of Christmas lights and then parade down the Tennessee River to Ross’s Landing where thousands of spectators watch.  Here, they are joined by the Southern Bell–a longer-lived Chattanooga tradition that offers boat cruises to tourists.  Then, they form a giant circle.

The Southern Belle provides the center of the boat parade circle.

The Southern Belle provides the center of the boat parade circle.

Since the boat parade immediately follows the Starlight Christmas Parade, we had to high-tail it back across the bridge to find a spot I could shoot from in Renaissance Park.  Having walked Renaissance Park 3x a day for nearly a year now, I feel like it’s really my yard.  And what a lovely yard it is.  While I’m not into yard work (making a park the perfect yard), I do pick up litter.  Part of me thinks this small contribution to keeping the park clean should entitle me to first choice of places to shoot from.

I love this look--who can resist Santa on a Harley?

I love this look–who can resist Santa on a Harley?

Plus, I really thought I had the insider’s track on a good spot to shoot from–the launch ramp under the Market St bridge.  After all, how many people even know the launch ramp is there?  The kayakers, a few fishermen, maybe a stray cat or two.

This boat was tough to keep up with while panning with a telephoto lens

This boat was tough to keep up with while panning with a telephoto lens

No.  As it turns out, about 5000 people know about the launch ramp and they all showed up there to watch the Lighted Boat Parade.

There probably would have been fewer people on the boat ramp if the park itself hadn’t been closed off along the riverfront.  The fireworks were fired from there, so this forced the crowd off to the edges of the park.

I set up my tripod somewhat precariously on a rock retaining wall held together by chicken wire.  This allowed me to get the long exposure shots I so love.

The lead boat caught me off guard, but I got this light trail from my camera on the tripod

The lead boat caught me off guard, but I got this light trail from my camera on the tripod

I also borrowed my husband’s new Rebel, unashamedly put my 70-200mm lens on it (I really should post a picture of what that looks like–it’s pretty humorous to see this big, heavy, amazing lens stuck on the tiny body of the Rebel).  I used that for panning with the boats.

This clean-lined boat slightly resembled a shoe

This clean-lined boat slightly resembled a shoe

I am getting better at panning.  Considering how dark it was and how slow a shutter speed I was shooting at, I was pretty proud that I got any closeups of the boats at all.  You can tell which ones were shot while panning because the background lights have a bit of a trail.  I especially like this effect on the candy-cane lighting the Tennessee Aquarium opted for in honor of the celebration.

Panning with the boat caused the candy cane lights on the aquarium to gain a trail

Panning with the boat caused the candy cane lights on the aquarium to gain a trail

The best boat in terms of entertainment value was one that had spot lights that would turn on, revealing a group of women in santa’s helpers costumes doing a dance to very loud music.  It was great.  I think they may have set a new bar for the other boats for next year’s parade.

This boat really went all out on entertainment value

This boat really went all out on entertainment value

It's not entirely clear what the dancers are doing, but it's funny

It’s not entirely clear what the dancers are doing, but it’s funny

As for great decorations, I think this boat takes the prize:

I think this boat's decor was a really crowd pleaser for anyone looking for tradition

I think this boat’s decor was a really crowd pleaser for anyone looking for tradition

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