We usually go see a holiday lights exhibit each year. Until this year, for the previous 5 years, we’d all load up in a car and head to Callaway Gardens to see their Fantasy in Lights show. That show peaked in excitement for us about 3 years ago, and Frog asked if we could see something new. Around the Atlanta area, there are a number of great holiday light exhibits, including our next door neighbors, but last year we went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens to see the Garden Lights exhibit, and we had heard that the display was supposed to be even better this year.
Initially I was looking forward to an exhibit that included staying cozy in my car, so I was pushing to go to Lake Lanier Islands, but MM pointed out that Monkey wouldn’t be able to see much from his rear-facing carseat. I really wanted Monkey to be able to enjoy his holiday light show! At 3-months-old, Monkey isn’t one who is going to get into everything, but the one thing he does like is lights. He was infatuated with our Christmas tree. He would sit and study it for long periods of time. When we went to stores and restaurants that had strings of lights up for the holidays, he gazes at the lights with great admiration.
The other big selling point of the Botanical Gardens for our family is the opportunity for photography. When we go to the drive through light exhibits, it’s a challenge to get good shots. You don’t want to take too long and hold up traffic behind you. MM and I enjoy taking photographs, and Frog has been getting more and more into taking photos. I wanted to test out some of the Bokeh techniques that I had been collecting on my photography Pinterest board. I generally use the Program setting of my Nikon D70, but these photography articles have made me want to test out the manual or apperture-priority settings. So a few days before Christmas, we headed over to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.
When we arrived, we found a sizable crowd at the event. (We got to the Botanical Gardens less than 30 minutes after it opened.) I was extremely grateful that we had left our SUV-stroller at home. (SUV-strollers are those strollers that are so large that they only fit is a super-sized vehicle, like a big SUV or minivan.) Trust me, we do have one, and it is used, but one of my pet peeves in life is going some place crowded with gigantic strollers adding to the cramped chaos and claustrophobia. I was traveling with Monkey in the Bjorn, which generally is my favorite way to travel with him. I think that leaving the stroller behind also improved our mobility quite a bit, so that we were able to get to some great shots and not be weighed down. The biggest downside to my babywearing was the fact that I can’t easily take pictures when I have a baby strapped to my chest. I would have clocked Monkey in the head if I tried to take any pictures. (MM and I did switch off towards the end of our trip so I could try out the Bokeh techniques.)
Frog brought his iPod Touch, and I’d like to share that it has a fabulous camera, far better than my smart phone. It rivals the average point and shoot digital, just with fewer features. He also listened to our hint when we arrived: Turn off your flash when you take pictures of Christmas lights! I’m sure most people know this, but I was still shocked by how many people were snapping pictures of the light displays with a bright flash ruining all of lights’ beauty and glow.
The Gardens had put into place these “trees” that were completely fake and covered with lit blooms in diferent colors. We saw white, yellow, pink and purple. They were extremely pretty. Frog took several photos of them, including the one above that shows the structure of the faux tree. (Isn’t his Touch camera impressive?!)
After you walk past the artificial trees, the forest is filled with red and white snowflakes hanging amongst the branches. We also walked through the forest canopy and found a forest of lit trees below us. There were also carolers singing to us as we walked through the exhibits.
The brightest and prettiest section is an area of the garden with small, pruned trees. (I think they may be crape myrtles, but it is hard to tell in the dark.) It is quite breath taking. There was a docent instructing us to keep moving, but Frog snuck around to the side of the light display to snap a quick picture. He also got a picture of the lit-up Chihuly fountain because he knows that I love Chihuly. (Frog explained to me that if he didn’t use the flash for this picture that we wouldn’t be able to clearly see the sculpture or water.)
The section of the Garden Lights show that catches the children’s attention is the lawn with a light display that is synchronized to music. Something about the changing lights that move and flash to the music make little ones want to wiggle. (Unfortunately, Monkey didn’t seem to make the connection between the lights and music because the lights were a bit too far away for him.) Frog took a video of the lights and music for us to keep as a memento.
We walked through the indoor light exhibits in the greenhouse areas, and once we returned outside, we all had hot cocoa and cider. Frog let me try to get a good shot of him with the lights as a backdrop. It took several to get one that I finally liked…
Frog reported that the trip to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens was awesome, and has been showing his photos to everyone who would pay attention since we got home. All of the photos here, except the ones with the kiddos were taken by Frog. The pictures of Frog and Monkey were taken by me (pics of Frog) and Monkey (pics by MM)… but wait, you say, there weren’t any pictures of Monkey. Did he even enjoy the light display? Well, you tell me:
MM titled the picture mesmerized, and I agree!