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Mammatus fill the sky over a low-precipitation supercell at Earth, Texas, May 16, 2021. Photo ©2021 by Chris Kridler, ChrisKridler.com

 
I try to put together a roundup of my favorite photos at the end of the year — video will appear separately, maybe! — and it’s always challenging to pick which ones to feature. I didn’t keep the list to a top ten, but I did keep it under twenty, in no particular order. And I’m calling this list my “favorites” instead of my “best,” because there are probably some better photos, whatever that means … and if I spend any more time looking at these and trying to whittle them down to pure gold, half of 2022 will be gone. Ahem.

Storm chasing is always my prime font of images, my biggest inspiration, and not going to the Plains in 2020 (while doing the responsible thing during the plague) really hurt. So I counted on 2021 to do a lot of soul-filling last spring, and it really delivered. Though I didn’t get much in the way of photogenic tornadoes, I had a fantastic chase with Alethea Kontis and other friends, in which we saw so many gorgeous skies and supercells that it was almost impossible for me to pick just a few photos.

I was pleased to have a few other sources of photographic delights in my own backyard. One was all the birds coming to our feeder. Another was an incredibly busy year of rocket launches from here on Florida’s Space Coast, driven by SpaceX’s ambitious schedule. I included just a few of those pictures here.

The world is in rather a sorry spot, so I turn to art and nature to get me through. Capturing moments of beauty is still a pure joy. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Roll over the images below to see captions, and click on any one to start a slide show of larger images.

The parade featured a lot of nice folks throwing candy to the crowd.

 
Why yes, there was another holiday parade today between Rockledge and Cocoa, this one landlocked (see previous post for photos from the boat parade). It had all the charming elements one wants from a Christmas parade: fire trucks and miscellaneous municipal vehicles, kids marching, dancing, shouting and riding on floats, and candy thrown at spectators.

I especially enjoyed seeing my awesome in-laws riding their trikes while holding their adorable papillons. Decorated, of course – the tricycles and the dogs.

This is a short video roundup that will give you the (sweet) flavor of the event. I shot this in Cocoa Village, Florida. Happy holidays!

Rockledge-Cocoa Christmas boat parade, December 10, 2021.

Rockledge-Cocoa Christmas boat parade, December 10, 2021.

Our town is so small, it usually has joint events with the town next door. In July, it’s fireworks. In December, it’s parades, on land and on the water. Friday night it was the Rockledge-Cocoa (or Cocoa-Rockledge) Christmas boat parade, and it was kind of adorable.

If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, people dress up their boats with lights and inflatable decor (picture giant polar bears) and set out on the Indian River Lagoon for an extremely short trip between Rockledge and Cocoa, Florida. Other towns have this, too – I once had the experience of riding on a boat in the Cocoa Beach boat parade, and while it was interesting, it was longer than most operas. It’s fine from the shore, where everyone was having parties, but on a boat, especially a boat without a bathroom, it can feel rather endless.

But I digress. The Rockledge-Cocoa parade is not endless. It’s short and sweet. In Rockledge, several people gathered at the municipal dock on the historic river road next to the Indian River Lagoon to watch. Here are a few photos I snapped of the experience.

I didn’t get a lot of sleep this past week, partly because of a trio of night rocket launches from here on Florida’s Space Coast. Technically, while one was a SpaceX launch a week ago just after sunset, the other two were in the wee hours. Those are the ones that killed my sleep schedule, but it’s hard to resist a chance to nab streak shots.

All of these were shot at ISO 100 and f/18 on my Nikon 500. The time varied based on how long I decided to keep the shutter open; I judge that on the fly and try not to let the rocket escape my frame (usually). A tripod is essential for this kind of shot. For the first and third shots, I used my 12-24mm lens (set at 12mm). For the fog shot, I used my 10.5mm fisheye in an attempt to catch the reflection of the rocket’s ascent. This doesn’t always work, but it helps if the lagoon is still or if you’re on a wet beach.

SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral with a load of Starlink satellites on December 2, 2021, as seen from Cocoa Beach … and over the tikis at Minutemen Causeway.

This launch of an Atlas 5 rocket with a Space Force playload on December 7 was delayed from 4 a.m. to 5:19 a.m., and in that time, fog socked in my location on the Indian River Lagoon in Rockledge. It gave this photo a dreamy quality.

SpaceX launches a Falcon 9 rocket with a NASA X-ray astronomical observatory aboard on Dec. 9.

A beautiful “mackerel sky” greeted us here on Florida’s Space Coast this afternoon. Like the scales of a fish, these altocumulus clouds create a fluffy pattern across the blue.

I set up the GoPro to film a short timelapse of these clouds as they moved across the sky, right up until sunset.

A “mackerel sky” of altocumulus clouds in Rockledge, Florida.

The railyard in Garden Spot Village’s model train setup.

I’m traveling right now, but it’s not what it sounds like. I’m actually dealing with a family crisis and trying to work in the scant time in between. Still, I took a short break today and visited a wonderful model train display. I would say toy trains, because it sounds more fun, but I think the serious train guys might object.

The display is located at Garden Spot Village, a retirement community in New Holland, Pennsylvania. It was open for a couple of hours today during a fall festival. So I spent a few minutes decompressing and imagining myself in the tiny world of the trains through the eye of my iPhone.

This is a laid-back little video. The models range from various gauges traversing sophisticated settings to cute Thomas the Tank Engine trains. The attention to detail is fantastic. If only I’d had more time to capture it all! I suppose the same could be said of life. My thoughts are certainly running that way as I see a dear family member struggling with age and illness.

Treasure the time you have, friends.


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