Sunday, December 18, 2011

My Top Ten Christmas Movies

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton brings his special brand of creepy to a holiday story that lives on the threshold between Christmas and Halloween. The movie is more sweet than scary and it's fun to see the characters from each holiday learn to appreciate the other.

9. Mickey's Christmas Carol

It was a close battle between this and Muppet Christmas Carol, but ultimately Mickey won out. I'd seen Scrooge McDuck in "Duck Tales" throughout my youth and was always a fan of Mickey, so this classic Dickens tale, played through these characters, has a special place in my heart.

8. The Santa Clause

In what is arguably the best performance by Tim Allen (I know that's not saying much, but can you think of a role in which you liked him more?) "The Santa Clause" was one of the better Christmas movies made in the 90's. The sequels, however, absolutely suck.

7. Miracle on 34th Street

I've seen both versions of this movie and they're both well-made and fun to watch. Richard Attenborough (the old guy from Jurassic Park) is a fantastic Santa in the new version, but Mara Wilson (little girl from Mrs. Doubtfire) was a little too much... then again, she always is. :)

6. Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer

This movie is indispensable as holiday viewing. You've got an elf that wants to be a dentist, a prospector that sings about silver and gold, and a reindeer with a nose that makes a weird noise when it glows (why the creators thought it had to make a noise is beyond me...) but this movie is absolutely charming.

5. Elf

Elf is the best Christmas movie made in the last decade. Will Ferrel was born to play this role, and Zooey Deschanel compliments the film nicely. There are so many funny moments in this movie and you've gotta love the tribute to Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. It's a Wonderful Life

Likely the most heartwarming of all Christmas movies. It spins a tale of hope and love in the terrifically dark times of the great depression.

3. Christmas Vacation

This movie still brings me to tears laughing. I'll argue up and down that this is the best "Vacation" movie out there. So many classic scenes in this movie... the squirrel in the tree, the turkey dinner, putting up the lights, the snotty neighbors, Eddie, the home movies, the cigar explosion... it's all comic genius...

2. Home Alone

"Home Alone" resonates so well with me because I was the same age as Kevin when the movie came out. I remember distinctly thinking about what it would be like to spend the holidays alone and loved the tactics used to keep his house safe from burglars. The scene where he becomes friends with the scary old man was eye-opening for me. Honestly, the film embodied everything that Christmas should be to a child - the friendship, the wonder, the comfort of family. I LOVE this movie.

1. A Christmas Story

No Christmas movie will ever surpass this movie for me. No, not even "Home Alone." This movie IS the essence of Christmas. If you could take all the experiences you had as a child during the Christmas season, and you threw them into a jar, you would have this movie. Everyone stood in line with some annoying kid who wouldn't leave you alone as you tried to remember exactly what you were going to say to Santa. Every kid had the bullies that would terrorize you in the snow. Every kid had the dumb friend that would stick his tongue to a pole. Every kid did something bad (along the lines of saying the queen mother of all swear words) in the weeks leading up to Christmas where you feared not for your life.. but WORSE... that you wouldn't get presents from Santa! And every kid woke up on some Christmas in their childhood to find the perfect present - exactly what they'd wanted... and didn't think they'd get - under the tree. This movie tells the story of Christmas as we've all lived it - the good moments and the bad moments - and for that reason it is the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

Mercur Cemetary and Dry Canyon Mines

(Blog catchup post: #2)

In August, I went out to explore the mining area just north of Ophir, UT with my brother, Tyler, and my cousin, Ryan.

Our first stop was at the Mercur cemetery, which was one of the most desolate, plain cemeteries I've ever seen.

Yes, this grave was littered with little plastic babies. Very creepy. Love Tyler's expression.

Ryan and Tyler check out the multitude of headstones.

Most of the graves looked like this, with a very simple, nondescript headstone (literally a stone) and a pile of rocks. It was eerie and fascinating all at once.

This was the one and only mine we explored. Most of the mines are barred off for good reasons. Abandoned mines are incredibly dangerous and shouldn't be taken lightly. They're so fun to see, though! By the way, you'll notice it looks like I'm wearing a backpack. I'm not, but I had been. :)

Tyler and Ryan in front of a barred up mine.

Here, the guys pose in front of an ore bin.

The area is very popular with shooters and the ground was peppered with a confetti of shotgun shells.

Not sure of the face I'm making here, but I obviously approve of this structure. I almost walked out on it, but it was shifting pretty heavily under my feet. Safety first, right?

This picture brings such joy to my heart... :)

I felt that a picture of a cactus in the fading sunlight would end this post nicely. Behold, and ponder the desert.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Pine Hike

(Blog catchup post: #1)

Near the end of July, I went hiking with my uncle Brent and cousins Chad, Allie, and Ryan. As late as it was in the season, there was still tons of snow near the top of the mountain.

This is a particularly nice sign. We chose the White Pine Trail. Someday, though, I'll do the Red Pine Trail. Then I'll be a real man.

I wasn't in this picture, sadly. In fact, we had a beautiful group picture that I took with a timer, but the camera had focused on the background so we were all blurry. I could have chosen to include that in the pictures, but it didn't look good and I would only have done so to appease my narcissism. ;)

Ryan and Chad bust gang signs in the wilderness. Not sure why, but I like it. :)

A beautiful mountain twig nestled warmly between a mountain creek and the snowpack that should have been melted weeks ago.

This is a forest. Isn't it beautiful?

Nearly to the top! The lake is just over that lip of trees you see in the background.

Most of the last 30 minutes of hiking was up a snow field. It was a butt going up, but SO fun going down!

This is White Pine Lake. You should click here to see the full panoramic size. It's much more breathtaking.

Another shot of the lake. I'd had visions of jumping in on the way up, but when I saw all that snow I decided against it.

We got down the snowfields by sledding down on our backpacks! It was an absolute (albeit cold) blast! Chad is in the foreground, with Ryan coming up behind him and Brent in dead last.

I found these plants to be just stunning! It's the texture, I think...


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Disneyland 2011

Earlier this year.... like... months ago... I went to Disneyland with my dad, my brother, and my brother-in-law. I'm only writing about it now because I officially suck at blogging and I'm playing super catch up. :)

I'll start with this picture - the obligatory "stand-in-front-of-the-Disneyland-entrance-and-smile-because-you-can-still-feel-your-feet" picture. I'd like to mention that the guy that took this picture had an incredible camera, so when I put my lowly camera in his hands, I felt assured that he knew what the he was doing. Ya know, probably had experience taking nice pictures and such. But NO! Not only does the composition suck (yes, THANK YOU for including the ethnically ambiguous smiling guy in our picture!) we are also entirely out of focus! DAMN YOU POSER PHOTOGRAPHER! DAMN YOU!!!!

Ahem.. anyway...

I took this picture because I like the way they remodeled Space Mountain, which we rode on at least three times. LOVE that ride.

This is the single greatest thrill ride I've ever been on. Nothing (and yes, I've been on some crazy intense rides) matches the first time I rode this.

I still have a secret desire to one day unleash myself in the middle of the swing ride and fly free - partaking in the miracle of human flight for but a few blissful moments - before splashing delicately, like a swan, into the waters below.

I last saw this show when I was nine. Yeah... freaking NINE!!! I remember thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Now, not so much. It's lame. Really gay. And freaking weird.

Love this picture of the ferris wheel at dusk...

This is the World of Color show, which is, in person, about 2000 times better than this picture. You must see this if you visit the park. Bring a poncho. :)

The ferris wheel again... so colorful!


Monday, August 22, 2011

Do I Still Get My Millions?

The following took place between approximately 2:00 to 8:00 am this morning:

I found myself standing alone on a dark road painted in deep browns, reds and greys. The sky was black except for a stroke of soft blue on the horizon where the sun would be rising in a few hours. There was no breeze. Everything sat perfectly still. Ahead of me was a desk and sitting behind it was Mark Zuckerberg. I had serious business with the man, so I walked over and took a seat.

He leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on the desk, then said, with a face as expressionless as the landscape around us. "You think you're entitled to some of this money?"

I nodded. "Yeah, well... the idea for the facebook was partially mine." My voice was calm, but filled with strength.

"Everyone says that."

I knew it was true. Everyone wanted a piece of the fortune that had been made on the facebook and claimed that they were entitled to part of the proceeds. To Mark Zuckerberg I was only another flea, biting at his wrists, leaching off his successes. In my eyes, though, I wanted what was fair, and I knew I had an excellent case.

"I want fifty million."

"No way." His answer came even before I had finished saying "million." "I can't do that." He paused for a moment and looked up into the blackness above us. "If I give you that much money, I'll have to give everyone that much. It wouldn't work" He looked back down at me and grabbed a pen from his ledger. "You're right, though. I do owe you something..." And with that he began writing on a piece of paper.

I could barely believe what I was hearing, but masked my excitement by putting on a face as serious as his.

Mark handed a piece of paper to me "Here. It's a check for twenty million. I won't give a penny more."

(To be Continued)

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Rocket's Red Glare

The best part of the Fourth of July is the fireworks. Anyone who tells you differently is a communist. :) Honestly, though... you can't celebrate the birth of a nation as great as ours without filling the valleys with the bursting of bombs and the sweet smell of sulfur. And while all of this is happening, I like to try to capture it on film. Digital film. Only communists use the traditional stuff anymore.

On Saturday night, I went down to watch the Stadium of Fire with some friends who live only a few blocks outside Lavell Edwards Stadium.

Our vantage point was such that I could get a pretty good shot of the fireworks. I set my camera to a 10 second shutter speed, an aperture of somewhere between f8 and f11, and let the magic happen.

While I love the way these turned out, I wish I had paid more attention to the white balance. I think I had it on auto, so sometimes colors would be pushed to white by the camera.

Love the blues in this one.

My personal favorite.

On Sunday night, we had a great dinner with the family and played games out on the deck in the late evening. It was heavenly. At dusk, though, the sky around us erupted into a cacophony of fiery popping and sizzling and I had to get up on the roof to record some of the action.

Using a long shutter speed again, I was able to illuminate the mountains behind the fireworks with the city lights.

The bursts of color were much smaller than with the stadium of fire, but so fun to see above the treeline of the city.

I went for more of a panoramic effect here. It was HARD to capture these, as I never knew where the next mini-show would pop up. Regardless, I had a ton of fun. :)


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bell's Canyon Hike

One of my favorite local hikes is Bell's Canyon, due to its proximity, relative ease, and scenery. I decided to hike it at sunset a few days ago when the skies were clear and warm. I brought my tripod so I'd have the opportunity to take multiple exposures and push the water in the photo into a silky blur.

Here's what I came away with:

I love the gold on the surface of the water in this picture.

The wildflowers are incredible this time of year.

Love the way the valley is painted with the late evening sun.

Smoooooth :)