You see model trains a lot during the holiday season, but nobody does model trains like the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis. Jingle Rails is their annual train display. Models travel through famous local scenes and national landmarks from the American West. You’ll find downtown Indy, complete with a scale model of the Soldier and Sailor’s Monument, lights and all, along with Lucas Oil Stadium. There’s also Las Vegas, Yosemite, and new this year: Route 66.
The Men of Jingle Rails
Equally as interesting as the trains are the old men who are really into it. I happened to notice one gentleman making a repair, so of course I had to take a moment to capture it…
Jingle Rails is sponsored by the Indiana Railroad. Their signature red locomotive travels overhead throughout the entire exhibit.
Had enough trains yet? No? Here’s a few more…
Thanks for visiting our Jingle Rails coverage for 2018. We were there last year as well, so you can check that out here: Jingle Rails 2017. I work to take new angles each year.
2018 Holiday Events
As legendary Hoosier Michael Jackson once said, “Don’t stop ’til you get enough.” So by all means, please enjoy our other posts from this season. Click the image below.
Next up for our holiday events is Christmas at the Zoo in Indianapolis. This is always a great event at the Indianapolis Zoo because in addition to Santa’s Village and lights throughout the zoo, a lot of the animals are out and about and available for visits.
The Bicentennial Pavilion houses Santa’s Village which includes Santa’s house, decorating cookies with Mrs. Claus, reindeer, a mirror maze and more.
The tunnel of lights at the edge of Santa’s Village is a popular spot for portraits and selfies (above).
Christmas at the Zoo is one of the best places around to visit Santa. He has a very tastefully appointed study in the village. This Santa has nailed the classic Santa look and he’s very good with the kids, as you’d expect.
Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center
Follow the lighted walkways to visit attractions like the Simon Skjodt International Orangutan Center.
Visiting the animals at night is a great part of Christmas at the Zoo. Max, a three-year-old orangutan, was kept up late by visitors, but his mom did her best to get him calmed down and back to sleep.
The oceans exhibit is a popular spot during the cold weather. It’s close to Santa’s Village and a good place to come in and warm up for a bit. The kids enjoyed these cownose rays (above) because they look like they’re smiling. The California sea lions (below) like to swim laps, passing as close to the glass as possible.
Christmas at the Zoo is a must-do for families in central Indiana. I recommend arriving early to enter Santa’s Village right at 5:00. That way you can do the Christmas activities with little to no wait and spend the rest of your evening just walking through the zoo, enjoying the lights and animals.
This week we visit Newfields Winterlights in Indianapolis, now in its second year. With over 1.5 million lights, this is THE light display to see. Newfields is the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the surrounding grounds.
In this post I talk about photographing in the difficult lighting conditions we encounter at this time of year.
Winterlights Before Sundown
When you think of light displays, you probably think of nighttime. However, if you wait until total darkness to start shooting, you miss out on some great opportunities.
The above photo shows the Lilly House during Newfields Winterlights. This image is made after sunset, during what’s known as the “blue hour”. A couple benefits of having the ambient light left in the sky in this photo is that it throws some additional light on the primary subject (the house) and it adds some subtle color and texture to the sky.
Let Lights Stand Out After Dark
Once it gets completely dark outside, I like to take the opposite approach I talk about in the last section. I embrace the contrast of the lights against the darkness. In the photo above I found a line of sight where I have lights filling the frame at varying distances from the camera.
Bokeh, Bokeh, Bokeh
For the uninitiated, bokeh is the visual quality of the out-of-focus areas of a photo. People often ask how to achieve that “blurry background” (see photo below), but bokeh can occur in the foreground as well (see above photo).
People often assume that you need an expensive lens for this, but that’s not exactly true. The two most important factors are a lens with a wide aperture (f/1.4, 2 or 2.8) and the distances between the camera, the subject and the background. The foreground should be close to the camera and the background should be a good distance away.
For the image below, I am standing a few feet from the subject, shooting at a low aperture (f/1.4). As a result the background has a nice blur. For the above image I am standing just a couple feet from the lights in the foreground. My focus is on the tree in the background that is about 50 yards away, again shooting at a low aperture (f/2.8). A telephoto lens heightens this affect. For the image above, I’m using a 70-200mm lens at 200mm.
The image below, inside the Lilly House at Newfields Winterlights, shows how you can use both a foreground AND background blur in the same photograph. This image is shot with a 24mm lens at f/1.4.
Underexpose Holiday Lights
I typically underexpose images with holiday lights. That means I make the images darker than what the light meter recommends, so the image appears somewhat dark on the camera screen. If you go the opposite direction, you risk the lights being overexposed. When that happens, you lose the subtle detail in the lights and you can’t get them back. Sometimes overexposure is an interesting affect with holiday lights, but it’s better to do it purposefully.
Embrace the darkness of interior spaces. Expose for the brightest point and underexpose at that. Don’t use flash! Tape it shut if you have to. Flash will kill all the subtlety of warm winter lighting.
If all you have is a lens with a high minimum aperture (~f/4 or higher), well, I suppose your best bet is just shoot at a high ISO (1600, 3200) and see how it goes. If you have just a little bit of money to spend, there are a few options of lenses you can get to make low light photography easier.
Another stop we made on our holiday tour of Indianapolis was Jingle Rails, presented by The Indiana Rail Road Company, at the Eiteljorg Museum. Eight model trains travel through miniature scenes including downtown Indianapolis, Hollywood, Las Vegas and western landmarks such as the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. After the Jingle Rails photos, you’ll see a few general shots of the museum which has plenty to explore too.
Jingle Rails runs through January 15th, so be sure to check it out!
This week we headed to the Indianapolis Zoo for their annual Christmas at the Zoo. 2017 saw the addition of a new Santa’s Village under the Bicentennial Pavilion. With Santa in his study, Mrs. Claus in her kitchen and reindeer in the barn, there was plenty to see and do.
The kids enjoyed multiple trips through the “Snowflakery”, which is a short, but surprisingly tricky mirror maze. PRO TIP: Keep your hands in front of you so you don’t smack your face into a mirror!
Head to the zoo early and you’ll probably see a good number of cool/cold weather animals out. We took a short walk through the the forests (located next to the pavilion) and saw tigers, bears and eagles out in the cold weather.
Winterlights is the newest of the major holiday attractions in the Indianapolis area. A part of the 152-acre Indianapolis Museum of Art campus, recently rebranded as Newfields, the event features more than a million lights, winter treats and displays set to holiday music. The family and I decided to check it out this week and we highly recommend a visit!
Pro tip: Arrive just before sunset. The colors of twilight in the sky behind the lights is a nice bonus, and night falls within half an hour, so you get the full effect of lights at night, too.