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This is the blog for Monique M. McCullough - author of Color Me Georgi the "best new children's picture book to get your kids to learn, and love, their colors! No crayons or markers needed - just imagination and magic hands!" Now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and good bookstores everywhere! 

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Camera Lens

It is a few short days until Christmas and, at least for us, the parties have been held and it is now down to family dinners, a couple of community festivities, and a few last-minute catchups for 2017. There are traditions to be kept and new memories to create; it is a wonderful time of year. 

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In Australia, the week after Christmas is a unique time when many shops shut down, people spend lazy days at the beaches (our summer Santa visits in a Speedo after all), and there is a rhythmic wind-down to the year like a clock slowly ticking away to beach time.

In that quiet week after St. Nick circumnavigates the globe, I try to reflect on my own direction; where are my arrows pointing and where are my eyes looking?

The shutting down of the daily humdrum, for me, is very helpful in that reflection process. In my Great Southern homeland, this meant having a few cold beverages while watching the blazing  Australian sun crouch down behind crimson skies aglow with dancing heat waves. Hanging in the air was usually a smokey haze from a distant brushfire that had been burning for days. 

This year, however, I am far from the melodic sound of waves crashing ashore. Strong black coffee and crackling mountain bonfires will be the theme this year as I slow down my internal pace. I strive to to not be running around "crazy  busy" (that term drives me crazy!), to truly slow down and to fully absorb the spirit of the season. 

But, let's rewind a few weeks to this scene…

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This photo is of my son on the day we picked out a Christmas tree up in the North Carolina  mountains. It was dusk, there was a bitter wind, the kids were hyper, and I was really ready to just get "the perfect tree" strapped to the top of the car and drag it home. Then I noticed the most peculiar thing in the viewfinder: there was a criss cross of light in my lens. No matter how I moved my camera, that annoying harsh line of light was still there! At first I thought the lens was dirty, so I cleaned it. Nope, still there. Then I fumbled around with the settings and optimistically peeked through the viewfinder again. Nope, still there!!! 

I was so frustrated and cold, but what made it more annoying was that the kids were in epic cuteness mode and I couldn't seem to capture the moment! The dark lines of conspicuous shadows kept jumping across the sweet cheeks of my little subjects!

My fingers were red and stiff from the frosty conditions, and the tree I was hiding behind wasn't offering much protection. So I decided to find a new spot on the hill and sat there for a moment just noticing the beauty before me. Then, a glutton for punishment and still wanting to capture this memory, I decided to try again and resorted to the number one trick in the book to fix anything: turn it off, and turn it on again. It worked!  Cue the angels' trumpets! The weird shadow was gone and in that split-second the light was serene, this photo was snapped, and I had learned a valuable lesson from a camera lens: be willing to move, be present, be persistent, and, when all else fails turn off, and turn on again. 

It certainly is a lesson I will try to remember as I look forward to the year ahead and the direction of my compass. Shift slightly, get down, look up, turn the buttons off and on, and things that were once in the shadows might just come in to perfect light.

MMM