Warning: if you are an actual photographer you may just want to go to someone else's blog today, because this post is full of the blurry, badly framed photographs typical of an amateur point-and-shoot-er trying to take pictures at night in a very crowded venue.
If you haven't met Alison yet, you should. She is a warm, witty and wise woman who I think must single-handedly keep North Carolina tourism afloat. Her blog posts are full of wonderful photos about wonderful places to see, and one of these days I'm going for a visit.
Her post a couple of weeks ago about the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens was full of lovely photos of the light displays and the decorations, so when we made our traditional trip to the Butchart Gardens in Victoria on Christmas Eve I was inspired to take some photos of my own.
Alison warned me it would be difficult and suggested I bring a tripod. I didn't because I don't have one, and in any case it would have been really difficult to use because of the crowds of people. It was hard enough to get a clear line of sight, and almost impossible to move at any pace other than that of the mass of gawkers. But I tried, and here's what I got.
First, some contrast. This photo was taken during the day in February a couple of years ago...
...and here's the same area at night on Christmas Eve.
There are lights everywhere. I am overwhelmed just thinking about how many person-hours it must take to put up all those lights, and then I feel even worse thinking about taking them all down again. Where do they store them? And how do they keep all those strings of lights from getting tangled?
Some of the trees have lights on every branch...
...and some have no lights at all, except for spotlights on the ground below and a ghostly moon above.
There is a brass band and an ice rink and a carousel and hot chocolate and of course carollers...
...but the main attraction at Butchart over the Christmas season is their Twelve Days of Christmas display. I'm not going to bore you with photos of every day's exhibit (by which I really mean I couldn't get good pictures) but here are a few.
The partridge in a pear tree...
...and the three French hens (note the Eiffel Tower in the background).
The five golden rings are spectacular in real life - big rings of light floating silently in a big pond that looks black at night - but I'm afraid these photos don't do them justice. Here's the serious attempt...
...and here's the goofy attempt to look artistic by moving the camera. (It was Kim's idea.)
My favourite is the eight maids a milking.
The nine ladies dancing caused a lot of controversy and a huge bottleneck, as everyone tried to figure out exactly who the nine storybook characters were. Some were obvious: Alice, Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Bo Peep, Miss Muffet (complete with spider) and a generic evil witch (sorry, all you Wiccans out there). But was that Marie Antionette? And who the heck was the one in a green jester's costume, complete with silver shoes and Elton John's sunglasses?
Of course we whipped out our phones and did a Google search, only to find that everyone and their dog had posted a video on youtube of the nine ladies dancing, but nobody listed the characters. We were still puzzling over this at brunch the next day, so I called the gardens and barely got three words out when the operator interrupted me (politely, of course - this is Canada) and said she knew exactly what I was calling about. Marie Antoinette was really Cinderella (we should have guessed that one, except that we had mistaken Mary Mary Quite Contrary's rake for a broom and thought she was Cinderella), and the day-glo green girl was Dorothy from the book version of The Wizard of Oz (because the film version is copyrighted, dontcha know).
Mystery solved, and we all slept better that night.
The spookiest display was the eleven pipers piping, with marionettes modelled after Italian Renaissance characters. The music was playing softly in the background and the figures were moving oh so slightly and oh so slowly, and with the weird lighting making their faces look ghostly it was all just really creepy.
There you go, Alison. I didn't do it justice, so maybe you just need to come up here and see it yourself!