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The official photo blog of J. David Buerk Photography.

Christmas in St. Louis, 2017

As many of you know, much of my family lives in St. Louis, Missouri.  As always, I took along my camera, however given my still-recovering knee I brought it with no intentions of photographing anything in particular; my plan was to sit and let it heal, and that's largely what I did.  I did, however, shoot some photos as I saw them, so I'm including some highlights of my trip here.

Before I could leave town, however, I had to find someone to care for the bonsai Alyssa gave me.  I may have decorated it beforehand though...

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Roadtripping there led to I-70 to visit with Bernie and Natalie in Indianapolis while there was clear weather along the Northern route.  First though was a stop at a West Virginia rest area with an overlook of the carved-through mountain.  This mountain pass is usually completely coated in shimmering ice by December, so it was a new sight to see its bare rock in direct sunlight.

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Next stop was seeing Bernie and Natalie at a Steak N Shake not far from their home in Indianapolis.  Interestingly, we've done this enough times that some of the wait staff recognize us now, and gave us free coffee for the road.  Can you say *you're* a regular at a restaurant 600 miles away?

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Upon arrival in St. Louis I may have decorated my hotel room...

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I've developed somewhat of a tradition of taking my cousin Carrie's kids out each year to see the latest Star Wars.  This year, however, I had been doing a bit of punking and when they asked me when we were going to see The Last Jedi I told Ryan and Alex I'd already seen it a few days earlier (true).  "But we always go!"  Sarcastically feigning pain, "Ow, my knee *really* hurts...  I don't think I can see it..."

And then I started in on the mix of spoilers:  Han Solo dies!  Luke drinks green milk fresh from a teat... then he tickles Rey's hand with a leaf!  It's just like Battlestar Galactica except there's no whiteboard!  Kylo Ren kills Han Solo, and boy oh boy do I have some bad news for you about Carrie Fisher... BOOM!!!  *feigns gasping for air*

Obviously you wouldn't know what of that is true or false unless you've seen the movie; little did they know it's all true... but with a 2 ton asterisk on the end, and none of it is central to the plot.  Also little did they know I'd already bought the tickets.  So, Christmas morning came and I'd given them a Christmas card simply signed "Han Solo dies!!!" inside, with the tickets to Star Wars, Episode VIII: The Last Jedi in 3D for the next day.  The reaction of them realizing what it was was pretty worth it.

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Fast forward a few days to my mom's birthday, and we're all sitting around my grandpa's kitchen table visiting with him.  He's 98, and last year I gave him prints of some aerial photos I've taken, and pictures of me taking some of them; he's always been intrigued by flight, and is always asking what kind of aviation stuff I'm taking pictures of, so it was a fitting gift - I think he lives vicariously through me a little since I've been on some flights he didn't even get to experience in the Army.  This year I accidentally left this year's new prints at the hotel on Christmas, so I instead gave him the prints a few days later; it was for the best - he was more awake and focused than on Christmas with all the tiring activity.

This part really made my day - this is my 98 year old grandfather reading an article on AirlineGeeks.com profiling me and my marketing photography work in the aviation industry.  Here is my only remaining grandparent soaking in every word of an article about me.  His only question was "what is a Plane Pull?"  I showed him pictures and explained the charity event.

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This was almost a two week trip, but it flew right by, and as you've seen I don't have too terribly many photos to share from it due to my own preference of rehabbing my knee (12-weeks post MPFL Reconstruction surgery as of that week), and extreme caution to avoid ice and any slippery footing; St. Louis always harsher, more annoying Winters than DC - almost every day it is in the teens or single digits, accompanied by freezing rain, snow, or sleet.  There were only ~2 days of the entire stay that didn't have some kind of Winter precipitation - not a welcome sight for post-op knee safety, even if at 12 weeks my gracilis tendon has *in theory* fused with my bones and become a new ligament.

That same Winter weather was tracking North, so the I-64 Southern route was the obvious choice to return to DC.  St. Louis has a lot of decay in certain areas; I find it beautiful, although those aren't areas I would recommend going on a touristy photo-walk unless you're an experienced urban explorer (I am not).  The highway out of town takes you straight past some of these spots, so I always love seeing the decaying abandoned industrial buildings leaving St. Louis and into Illinois.

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Later, in Kentucky, one of the rest areas just a few miles from the Woodford Reserve Distillery had a display of Kentucky Whiskey memorabilia and selections from local vineyards.  I'm much more of a scotch person, but I think I'd really enjoy visiting the Woodford Reserve Distillery.

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Finally, some sights heading into Louisville, Kentucky; it's always seemed like it would be a really cool city to explore and perhaps even live in, but I've never understood why a city most famous for its baseball bats only has a AAA team which feeds into an Ohio team.

I've seen a few sitting in parking lots, but I've mostly only seen these when I visit the Infiniti dealer for service; this is the first time I've spotted a CV37 generation Infiniti Q60 driving on the road.  I do kinda like it, but it still just seems like a mashup of BMW 4 Series / Mazda 6 / Honda Accord to me; in other words, as a whole, unoriginal.  There is also the glaring omission of a manual transmission option.  I'll spare you the full car review, but I have quite a few complaints about the interior as well.  That all said, it's still a really sharp looking car.

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Hands down my favorite sight along I-64 is this oil refinery; the steam is always distinctive and visible for miles, and between the steam clouds and thousands of sodium lamps, it's roadside industrial Christmas.  This is the first time I've ever seen them burning off excess gas; the industrial candle lit the lumbering overhead plumes even brighter, adding depth with its flicker.

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That night, while editing some photos, I again felt compelled to decorate my hotel room; these AA powered Christmas lights are the best $7 I spent all of 2017!  They served as the perfect nightlight while editing that evening (the room lamps were all just too bright), and the perfect warmup in my groggy, pre-coffee state the next morning.

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By morning the band of snow in the North had swirled down and reached an arm down to the I-64 corridor; the <1" of accumulation was welcome in comparison to the >36" the same storm had dropped in a matter of hours North in Pennsylvania overnight.

West Virginia's capital building has always drawn me to visit, but I still haven't had the chance.  It looks very beautiful, from the quick glimpses you spot it passing through Charleston.

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Christmas in St. Louis 2016

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.

I haven't determined yet if the head is from a picture I shot - my hunch is that it is :-) &nbsp;This joke head will mean the most to folks in the Dulles aviation community

I haven't determined yet if the head is from a picture I shot - my hunch is that it is :-)  This joke head will mean the most to folks in the Dulles aviation community

Arrival

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.

1D X • EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM • 24mm •&nbsp;1s • f/4 • ISO 51,200

1D X • EF 24-105mm f/4 IS USM • 24mm • 1s • f/4 • ISO 51,200

Christmas Eve

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 Day

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.

Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Winter of 2017

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.

Mom's Birthday

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.

Departure

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.

Video Footage

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!