Fear and Fear Itself

The hula hoop never seemed so exciting before.

The hula hoop never seemed so exciting before.

Tonight’s images are from some of the most dynamic participants in the Starlight Parade.  I think the gymnasts were the most thrilling.  Although the fire twirlers are evocative, perhaps it just comes down to the degree of difficulty between twirling brands with burning ends and flipping and hand springing across asphalt–and, the probability of disaster.

While fire, of course, creates its own sense of danger and requires respect, the probability of lighting oneself on fire seems to be rather low, although I was concerned about one young woman’s choice to wear a gathered skirt.  The probability of falling on one’s face mid-flip onto also-known-as-cheese-grater black top seems quite high.

It could be that this is just my personal experience.  I feel relatively safe handling burning things and have actually never (knock wood) caused an uncontrolled fire.  I’ve also never burnt myself playing with sparklers, candles, burning marshmallows (which strikingly resemble the firebrands twirled in the parade), campfires, camp stoves, or grills.  I believe the only non-cooking-related fire injury I’ve ever suffered from was when I tried to light a bunch of birthday candles with a lighter and the metal part of the lighter overheated and burned my thumb.  It was only a minor burn.

While I’ve had my share of bad burns in my lifetime, none of them have involved flames.  What woman my age didn’t at some point accidentally brand her neck with a curling iron?  Or get in a hurry and grab a pan out of the oven without getting a hot pad first?  Or how about wipe out on a moped and get a third degree burn from the muffler?  We’ve all done that, haven’t we?

And speaking about wiping out on a moped, this brings me back to the fear of asphalt.  The most painful accident I ever had (including many broken bones) was when I took a ride hand turn on my bicycle way too fast for the space I had.  I was turning onto a narrow side street coated with what’s fondly known as “chip and tar.”  Instead of the smooth goo they put down for asphalt, they spread a layer of fine gravel and then spray it with a tar coating to stick the gravel in place and keep the dust down.

My rear wheel slipped across loose pieces of gravel.  I went down hard enough to slide about a foot or so.

When I got up and looked at my knee, I pretty good chunk of it was missing.  I looked more carefully and realized there were fine curly-queues of a substance resembling wide dental floss coming out of my knee.  I later learned they were “shavings” off the tendon below my skin.  Still gives me the creeps to think about it.

In the end, I have come to the conclusion that the human brain works very simply when it comes to fear:  We fear what we most know to be terrifying.

This woman is marching, looking straight up, and twirling firebrands.  I'm impressed.

This woman is marching, looking straight up, and twirling firebrands. I’m impressed.

Father and daughter watch the parade next to me.

Father and daughter watch the parade next to me.

Graceful and dangerous--very entertaining.

Graceful and dangerous–very entertaining.

I was really worried she was going to catch her skirt on fire.

I was really worried she was going to catch her skirt on fire.

Gymnast and shadow about to be re-introduced.

Gymnast and shadow about to be re-introduced.

This guy was fearless on the asphalt street.

This guy was fearless on the asphalt street.

Bring on the Parade

Not sure if there's still room to sleep in this camper, but the tree sure looks nice.

Not sure if there’s still room to sleep in this camper, but the tree sure looks nice.

It’s hard for me to look at my parade pictures today.  I remind myself that every child shouldn’t suffer because of the 20 lost on Friday.  Perhaps the loss makes Christmas (or whichever holiday each family celebrates), hope, and cheer that much more important.

I realize the feeling I have is the same one I always get following a tragedy.  It’s best described as “heightened visceralness” (even if it’s not a real word).

Most of the time, I go through life thinking about what I need to do in the next hour, the next day, the next week.  I push aside any bubbling sensations in my stomach, throat, or guts and stay focused on what I need to get done.

In the process of disconnecting from my visceral reactions, I also seem to disconnect from my own life.  I often walk into rooms and wonder why I’m there, fail to realize my husband has come home or left, or drive somewhere without being able to recall any part of the drive.

When I am reminded how tentative life can be, first I choke.  My throat closes, I have trouble breathing.  Then I cry.  Then I am left with rumblings in the pit of my stomach that I suspect are the disquiet of knowing I am doing nothing to change anything.

I have a sneaking suspicion that these visceral reactions happen every day, but until I am literally choked with tears (which doesn’t happen often), I refuse to pay attention to them.

Now that I am paying attention, I am reminded once again that I must pay attention to now.  To the moments I have.  Like the moment I am in right now sitting on the sofa, typing, dog curled next to me with a warm foot pressed against my leg.

To fail to notice each moment because I’m so distracted by the news is to give a piece of my life to a dead gunman in Connecticut when it’s far too late to make a difference.

And so, I close my browser full of news feeds and videos about Sandy Hook elementary.  I pull up the photos I’d prepared for yesterday’s post.  I think of all the smiling children at the Chattanooga Starlight Parade with a warm feeling akin to a mental hug.  I say to myself, “Bring on the parade.”

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down.  Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.”

~Gilbert K. Chesterton

That said, here are the next set of photos from the Starlight Parade in downtown Chattanooga.  I’m normally not that excited by cars in a parade.  But, I did enjoy the creative decorations folks came up with.  I especially enjoyed the children around me calling out the names of familiar characters they saw go by.

 

This VW bus makes for a more creative way to enter a float.

This VW bus makes for a more creative way to enter a float.

The lawn mower racing team made a striking night time appearance.

The lawn mower racing team made a striking night time appearance.

Smiles adorned this float.

Smiles adorned this float.

This ancient fire truck hitched a ride so it too could make an appearance in the parade.

This ancient fire truck hitched a ride so it too could make an appearance in the parade.

The Chattanooga Zoo opted for simulated animals instead of live ones.

The Chattanooga Zoo opted for simulated animals instead of live ones.

Not a great shot, but I love thinking about how much more fun the Grinch would have had taking this down the mountain!

Not a great shot, but I love thinking about how much more fun the Grinch would have had taking this down the mountain!

A brightly lit Rudolf adorns this collectible car.

A brightly lit Rudolf adorns this collectible car.

Electric Eclectic

Carefully arranged dancers make an artistic float.

Carefully arranged dancers make an artistic float.

Let’s talk about the word “eclectic.”  According to dictionary.com, it means “deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and divers range of sources.”

I think the Starlight Parade qualified as eclectic.

Is this a giant Elmo or am I just out of date on kids characters?

Is this a giant Elmo or am I just out of date on kids characters?

Let’s see:

  • Semi Trucks
  • Santas on Harleys
  • Vintage VWs
  • Marching Band
  • Cheerleaders
  • Lawnmower racing team
  • Ballerinas
  • Flame twirlers
  • Lighted twirlers
  • Roller derby-ers
  • Military Color Guard
  • Antique Fire Engine
  • Rescued Dogs
  • WWII Duck
  • Gymnasts
  • Corvette collection
  • Bread mascot
  • Double-decker London tour bus
  • Soccer players
  • Chinese dragon
  • Baseball mascots
  • Soccer mascots
  • Girl scouts
  • Hula hoopers
This little ballerina reminded me of an impressionist painting I have a vague memory of.

This little ballerina reminded me of an impressionist painting I have a vague memory of.

 

Oh, and, how could I forget:

  • The cast of all 6 Star Wars episodes.

 

If rebels and empire-ists can ride together peacefully, can't we all get along?

If rebels and empire-ists can ride together peacefully, can’t we all get along?

Now that I think about it, just the Star Wars characters decked out in Christmas decorations alone was probably enough to qualify for “eclectic” status.

Of course the best shot of a storm trooper I got was of the only one with no Christmas lights.

Of course the best shot of a storm trooper I got was of the only one with no Christmas lights.

“Eclectic” has sometimes been used as a polite way of saying “messy,” “cluttered,” or even, “no taste.”  But sometimes being eclectic works quite well.

In the case of the Starlight Parade, all divergent themes were tied together by the overarching theme of Christmas.  As such, it kept the interest going for the full hour the parade lasted.  You just never knew what was coming next.

This mascot stopped long enough for a family to get a picture.

This mascot stopped long enough for a family to get a picture.

And, yes, we saw the lawnmowers and VWs and cheerleaders in the Mainx24 parade, but that was during the day.  See the difference?  This time it was dark.  And they were wearing lights.  Completely different effect.

I was slightly disappointed with the Star Wars group, I must admit.  I kept waiting for Yoda to pop up with a lightsaber and start flipping around while fighting Count Dooku.  If Yoda was there, he was quietly meditating behind so many Christmas decorations I couldn’t see him.

No acrobatic lightsaber fights erupted during the parade.

No acrobatic lightsaber fights erupted during the parade.

 

The Star Wars characters were courtesy of two local chapters of a national organization of Star Wars costumers.  One is called Rebel Legion.  These folks are serious about dressing like the heroes of the Star Wars episodes.  If you want to dress like a villain, however, you have to join the Fighting 501st Legion instead.

This is a hobby I’ve never considered.  Tutorials on their website teach how to create authentic costumes.  They include advise on Wookiee hair punching (which confused me until I saw a photo of a mask with hair being punched through it to create a hairy face), making your own blood stripes (which turn out to be red bars sewn on a sleeve), and creating a realistic lip curl (a mechanism to get a Wookie mask to snarl when roaring).

I don’t see myself turning into a costumer in the near (or distant) future, but the diversity of interests in this world is pretty amazing.  What really amazes me is these folks spend a lot of time and money creating these costumes all for the purpose of appearing at charitable and community events in exchange for smiles.

Much like the car decorating hobby, I don’t quite get it, but I appreciate the effort at creating joy.

The lighted sign appeared like a thought bubble above this curious baby's head.

The lighted sign appeared like a thought bubble above this curious baby’s head.

Rebel without a Cause

This little guy led the high school band like he was ready to graduate.

This little guy led the high school band like he was ready to graduate.

Since the Starlight parade was held after dark, I was hesitant to take my old 40D as my second camera.  The 40D doesn’t do well at higher ISO settings.  Fortunately, my husband was willing to share his new Rebel T4i, which has better ISO performance and higher resolution than my out-dated 40D.

I don't think anything could distract this cheerleader.

I don’t think anything could distract this cheerleader.

I had to think long and hard as to whether I wanted to put my wide angle lens on my 5D Mark III or on the Rebel.  The last parade I shot, I put my wide angle on my 5D and my telephoto on my 40D.  This seemed logical since the 5D is full frame and the 40D is a cropped sensor.  If you want to go wide, go wide.  If you want to go tight, go tight, right?

This little girl watched intently throughout the parade.

This little girl watched intently throughout the parade.

But, when I was shooting the parade, I found my 24-70mm lens on my 5D was often too wide and my 70-200mm lens on my 40D was too tight.  Plus, when I shot the subject loosely so I could crop to the framing I wanted, I was cropping a lower-resolution image from the 40D.  As a result, I concluded I should have reversed the use of the cameras so that I would have had the higher resolution for the photos I was doing the most cropping on and a wider field of view on both.

This young woman gave quite a show twirling her baton and tossing it well into the dark.

This young woman gave quite a show twirling her baton and tossing it well into the dark.

But introducing the Rebel T4i into the mix was a new problem.  It’s lighter to hand hold than the 5D, but not well balanced with the 70-200mm lens, which out-weighs the Rebel by 2 pounds.  This makes holding it somewhat precarious.  However, by holding it by the foot on the lens, I felt a little more confident I wasn’t going to drop it.

This was the youngest twirler performing big tricks--I guess that's how she got the sash.

This was the youngest twirler performing big tricks–I guess that’s how she got the sash.

In the end, I decided to go with the same plan as for the previous parade:  cropped sensor with telephoto and full frame with the wide angle.  The decision was made easier when I realized I didn’t have a bracket for the T4i to attach it to my tripod.

It does look really stupid to walk around with a T4i with a 70-200mm lens on it.  I instinctively held my hand over the T4i when I spotted another photography coming my direction.

Grainy close up of some of the girls on the tiny tots twirlers float I mentioned yesterday.

Grainy close up of some of the girls on the tiny tots twirlers float I mentioned yesterday.

That said, other than the flip out touch screen on the T4i, which I found annoying, and the imbalance with the lens, I really liked the tiny Rebel.  The shutter was quiet and handled rapid fire shots faster than the 5D (probably because of the slightly lower resolution).

The flip out touchscreen will be handy for shooting video and does make viewing images in bright light easier.  I just don’t like to put the camera up to my face with the flip screen open and then get annoyed when I have to open it again immediately following a shot to check an image.  In the end, I was pleased with the images, although they were a bit noisier than I was expecting.

This little guy was very energetic throughout the parade.

This little guy was very energetic throughout the parade.

The Next Parade

Well, it’s that time again:  the next Christmas parade.  If the Mainx24 parade was challenging with it’s bright daylight, the Starlight (aka Street light) Parade was even more with its very dark setting.

With my 5D Mark III on a tripod with a ball head attachment that also allows for panning, I was able to pan with the parade.  This is the only way I was able to get anything in focus.

I started out with a non-panning shot of the crowd in front of the Tennessee Aquarium.

In honor the celebration, the Aquarium displayed candy-cane-stripped lights

In honor the celebration, the Aquarium displayed candy-cane-stripped lights

The Tennessee Aquarium has glass pyramids on its 3 separate buildings.  The two buildings in the image each have two lighted edges.  From some angles, you can see all four lighted edges.  From other angles (like the view from our balcony), one of the lighted edges disappears behind the front glass surface.

This is a fun phenomena when walking along the riverfront.  If you start at the West end of Renaissance park, all four edges are visible.  As you walk East, the one edge gradually disappears from view.  I have thought about putting a mark on the sidewalk at the point where the one edge disappears completely.  I might be the only one who notices.

The crowd was getting pretty excited by the time the parade started.  People kept surging into the street to see what was coming.

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What was coming was a fire engine, fortunately with its sirens silenced.

The Howard High School marching band soon followed.  They had also marched in the Mainx24 parade.  I found myself wondering if they have a shortage of funding for band uniforms–their drum corps was wearing matching sweatshirts and beanie caps.

They stood in front of us for a long time, waiting for the traffic in front of them to make the turn ahead at slow speed.  The drum corps continued to drum a beat and the rest of the band swayed in time.  The young man to the left seemed to be grooving.  It was fun to watch.

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While the band waited to move on, the horn section swayed to the beat of the drum corps

The same dog shelters that were at the Mainx24 parade were also at the Starlight Parade.  However, they opted for more vehicles and fewer dogs.  What they lacked in numbers, they made up for in size.

A giant inflatable dog made up for the lack of live dogs--hopefully they all got adopted

A giant inflatable dog made up for the lack of live dogs–hopefully they all got adopted

Instead of mini-cheerleaders, this parade had twirlers.  I’ll share some photos of individual twirlers later, but this was their float with the tiny-tot-twirlers riding and waving instead of twirling.  I imagine this was a wise decision.

To avoid chaos, the tiniest of the twirlers traveled on a trailer

To avoid chaos, the tiniest of the twirlers traveled on a trailer

A group of girl scouts walked by next.  they all wore red pajamas and santa hats.  Most of them seemed to be busy talking amongst themselves, but one girl scout gave me a long smile while I panned with her.

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While the rest of the girls scouts chatted, one girl scout smiles for the camera

Through all of this, Tisen clung to Pat’s side at the curb while I kneeled in the street shooting.  Doesn’t seem like he likes parades much.

Tisen kept giving me "when are we leaving" look

Tisen kept giving me “when are we leaving” look