How to screw up shooting a Christmas parade… Step One: Make sure your batteries are dead

light horses at the Vankleek Hill fair

…this could have been my dumbest two consecutive days of shooting since I first picked up a camera.

I showed up for the Vankleek Hill Santa Claus / Christmas parade hoping to collect some lovely shots of Christmas lights and kids smiling and fawning over Santa. My oldest son was also in the actual parade — as part of his Cub Scout pack, and I wanted to get some shots of that as well (that’s him in the above photo, with the green and black hat).

Over the past few years, Vankleek Hill has held their Santa Claus Parade in the early evening… which, if you know Canada, means it’s dark. Really dark. Like Darren Aronofsky, ‘anti-meth’ ads dark [YouTube: link]. Then we make it darker by turning off all the street lights, because someone thought that’d make the lights on the floats stand out.

But it never works out, because nobody really puts lights on any of the floats. At least nothing much more than the regular, dim, single strand of lights people would normally put on their roof-lines — the only way it’d work out the way organizers want it to, is if everyone making a float was Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” [YouTube: link]… the kind of Christmas lights that can be seen from space, or melt the asphalt under the float.

All of that to say, I was going to need my flash if I was going to get anything of the parade. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the parade started to slowly march past me that I actually turned my equipment on and, not only was the battery for my Nikon D5100 on its last red notch, I had only brought one memory card to share between it and my Canon SX240.

So — because my Nikon is better for night shooting, while my Canon has a better ‘slow flash’ option (which is way nicer than shooting with a full-flash) — I spent the next hour flipping the card back and forth (and occasionally dropping it in the snow) until Santa arrived, which is when the Nikon finally died. I managed to get two shots of Santa with the Canon, then it died as well.

The next night I shot the Hawkesbury ‘Santa Claus Parade’ for the local paper, and I made sure my battery was charged… unfortunately I totally forgot to use my slow-flash and shot the entire thing ‘au naturel’ with my Nikon. So, of the 200+ shots I grabbed, there were about 20 in focus. In my defence, it was cold… like, really cold. Like, as cold as Christian Bale’s relationship with his cinematographers [YouTube: link].

…Next post, Step Two: Always dress for a fall day when you’re shooting on a winter’s night.

Facebook ImageVankleek Hill Photos copyright

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