Monday, December 6, 2010
I've been trying to see the annual Antietam Battlefield Illumination for years. Years. It's held on the first Saturday in December and it seems to snow on the first Saturday in December every year. In 2008, we tried driving through sleet, snow, and extremely icy roads until we noticed dozens of car wrecks, and decided to turn around and head home. In 2009, I was shocked when it snowed again. We didn't even make the attempt last year.
So, despite the fact that we rarely ever get snow in Virginia or Maryland in the month of December (last year was quite the exception - refer to the Snowpocalypse of December 19!), I was fully prepared for a freak snowstorm to hit on Saturday. It didn't.
We hit the road and headed up to Sharpsburg, Maryland and got in line 30 minutes before the luminary opened. And then we waited. For three hours. My butt has never hurt so bad.
But it was beautiful, and I'm really glad we saw it. One candle is lit for each of the 23,100 casualties of the Civil War's Battle of Antietam which occurred on September 17, 1862 - this is still the bloodiest day in American history. Twenty-three thousand casualties. It's a nearly impossible number to comprehend and seeing that many luminaries was really mind-boggling.
The most frustrating part of the visit was not the three hour wait to get in, however, it was attempting to photograph it. I knew it would be a challenge to do so without a tripod (we weren't allowed to stop or get out of the car), so I had to attempt to take photos from a monopod in a moving vehicle. As expected, it didn't work. All my pictures looked like shit a smear.
So I gave up on trying to document the event and embraced the ghost-like blur.
And then I went for some artsy shots instead.
Despite the graininess (I was forced to shot with a really high ISO to get anything to show up), I think these look like a series of modern paintings:
When we exited the luminary around 10 pm, there was still a 3 mile line/3 hour wait to get in. We had to stop at High's and stock up on junk food and ice cream for the return trip since we had missed dinner. Peanut butter crackers, popcorn, York Peppermint Patties, Mounds bars, and a half gallon of chocolate chip...wonder what the cashier thought we'd been up to...
Seven hours later, and we were finally home. And thanks to Larry's lightning-fast reflexes (and the Mazda's anti-lock brakes) we didn't even hit the kamikaze deer that launched itself in front of the car on US-40.
My suggestion for anyone making the pilgrimage to Sharpsburg next year? Bring snacks. And games. And a pillow for your butt.
So - #46 off the Life List: a well-earned check! Successfully photographing the event? Not so much.