I recently went to Newport Beach for the first time.  Yes I know.  I’ve lived so close for years and years and just never made the trip down to Orange County.  We won’t get into that now.  It happens to all of us.  This was a Christmas outing, a chance to see the  famous Christmas Boat Parade and I went with a local community group.  It’s so nice to leave the driving to a bus driver.  But being tied to the schedule of a group tour isn’t nice when it comes to photography.  I have to wonder why I put myself in situations with such conflicting interests.  This post is about my photo adventure that night.  Don’t look for brilliance here.  This one is all about learning from mistakes!

On the night of the trip I took a camera and ventured forth with some vague notion that I would get a brilliant shot of boats and lights and holiday splendor.   Did I know how to shoot Christmas lights?  I don’t think so.  Why is it then that the day after the trip I happened to see a blog post about how to do it?  Must be bad karma or something.  Undeterred by lack of knowledge, I made an attempt.  Why not?

As we ate our dinner (included with the trip!) I watched the golden sunlight slowly fade.  There was no chance of getting outside to capture a sunset picture.  I was trapped inside by poached salmon!  Darkness rushed down after that and people crowded the streets around the harbor.

Tourists wearing Santa hats queue along Newport Beach streets during evening of the Boat Parade

My slow shutter speed which I needed to get enough light, just couldn’t keep up with all the movement of the crowds.  Blur was inevitable.

Still, we were going on a harbor cruise!  Surely something wonderful would happen.  And it did.  But not photographically.  Black sky and black water punctuated by massive clusters of lights on two passing objects going in opposite directions.  Whew, that was too much for my exposure calculations.

Brightly decorated boats chug about the harbor as part of the Christmas Boat Parade

Of course it didn’t stop me clicking that shutter and trying every setting I could think of.

In the end did I get a brilliant shot?  Did I capture the flavor of the event?  Perhaps.  What’s important is that I tried.  I checked it out.  I experimented and was willing to make mistakes.  So what if one image was shot at 25000 ISO?  Okay it’s a little noisy, I’ll admit that.  I was feeling a little frustrated at that moment.  In the end, I learned a lot.  I had a great time.  And I would try it again.

Life and travel are all about experimenting, about taking a chance and being willing to fail.  Not everything will be brilliantly successful.  But the failures have value too.  In a way, they’re small successes because they push us to additional experiments.  Doing nothing at all is the true failure.

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