Not every year, but most years, my parents and I travel to St. Louis to visit our family; most of my extended family is from and lives in St. Louis, Missouri - as a result, St. Louis is something of a second home to me. This year was no different, especially as my last remaining grandparent pushes past 96 years old.
Since this is more of a family trip, I'll be sharing some highlights of the trip. I think the most logical way to do this is to break it up by day, since every day holds a different event.
Last Photoshoot of the Year
A lot of what I do for the Airports' concessions program is documenting events and brand activation. This is exactly what I did for my last three photoshoots of the year... with Santa Claus.
After completing that and some photos of new retailers, I popped in to the Airport Managers Office (I used to work in this office at Dulles) to wish all my friend there a Merry Christmas before I left town the next day. In Dennis' office (this actually used to be my physical office), I found a giant photo of Dennis' head that was apparently left over from some pranks - I had to get a picture with it.
Usually the trip by car has poor weather and slow pacing, but the weather is unseasonably warm and dry, and the trip was made in 15hrs non-stop (barring gas / bathroom breaks and driver swaps), making it one of the rare time the journey was made non-stop on the way there.
In the middle of nowhere Illinois I woke up from a nap and looked out the window to see the most stars I've ever seen all at once in my entire life. Light pollution really is a shame, and even though I travel this route almost every year, I've never seen such a clear sky - usually the sky is threatening snow this time of year. The biggest reason I moved to a 1D X years ago (rather than the 5D Mark III at the time) is its incredible low-light abilities. On a whim, I tried shooting the stars from a moving car. Even though I really dislike the 24-105mm f/4 IS USM lens (for reasons I may get into in another blog post - I only purchased it to do video work earlier this year), I've found it to be the most versatile zoom lens I've used... so despite its many shortcomings and my many frustrations with it, it is a good travel lens; this is what I brought with me on this trip.
The one thing that does shine on this lens it the image stabilizer, which allowed me to shoot 1 second exposures handheld wide open at ISO 51,200 to capture the stars. Remember, this is from the backseat of a car going 80MPH - the image stabilizer combined with the fantastic sensor of the 1D X allowed me to really push the limits of what is possible; I ended up with a pretty good picture considering I did it under the most adverse conditions for night sky photography.
It's been quite a few years since my family attended Christmas Eve mass; as my parents and relatives age, it's made more sense to choose an earlier vigil mass time. Christmas (Eve) mass with my family at All Saints Catholic Church in St. Peters, Missouri is a tradition I look forward to every year because how beautiful the small church always is at Christmas. This is the church where my parents were married, I was baptized, and most funerals in my family have taken place. The priest who celebrated this mass actually knows my family very well, since he visits my grandfather (who was a eucharistic minister for this parish until he aged to a point where he can no longer leave home).
Christmas in my family always works out pretty conveniently. My mom's side has always had Christmas in the morning (after Christmas lunch), and my Dad's side has always traditionally had Christmas in the evening (after Christmas dinner). This works great, because it means we can attend both Christmas gatherings without missing any of the festivities from both sides of my family.
My grandfather on my mom's side has always been fascinated with flight, although he never got a pilot's license; he's like me in that sense (though I hope to one day). He sees all the stuff I get to do with aviation and in a way lives vicariously through me. This year, someone showed him video from my glider flights, and he's been asking for prints of the photos ever since; this Christmas I brought him prints of the glider flights, plus photos from other helicopter flights and my trip in a hot air balloon. My cousin's kid Alex always loves to take pictures with my camera, so I asked him to get pictures of my and my grandfather together.
I always let him play with my camera, so here is a small selection of ones Alex shot on my camera. I of course edited these for color to match my own eye, but he's pretty good - no other edits were needed.
Next was Christmas for my Dad's side, at my Aunt Diane's.
My cousin Scott has a new 3 month old puppy, Danica (named after Danica Patrick, of course; Scott is a huge NASCAR fan). She's a sweet Jack Russell Terrier with energy abound; she made friends with my cousin Sarah's dog Oliver, and the two dogs played non-stop all day.
So here is me with all my cousins on my Dad's side.
My mom's birthday is right by Christmas, so traditionally it marks our last day in town so she can celebrate her birthday with family. This year, like the last prior few, has been more subdued, and more-so focused spending time with my grandfather, whose age is beginning to catch up with him; that hasn't stopped his sense of humor though.
The trip back home was pretty regular, and we actually made spectacular time. During a stop I watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen in my entire life... ruined by gas station and power line sprawl. And conditions were great until they weren't hitting a snowstorm bounding in the mountains of West Virginia; you'll have to watch the video for that. We did make it home safely and in still in record time for the return trip... I still prefer flying this trip though.
Something I've done a bit more work with over the last year, as you may know, is video; as a result, I've been incorporating video into my personal work a little bit more as well. Some pretty cool footage of the West Virginia snowstorm at the tail end!