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ZooLights!

December 23, 2012, 2:10 PM

You can tell that my life has been busy lately.  This happened a week ago and only now am I finally getting a chance to write about it.  Nonetheless, though, I had fun last weekend.  I got together with my friend Melissa, who I know through a few Anons, and who I first met at the Silver Spring Zombie Walk in 2011.  We went around the mall in Wheaton a bit, and then headed into DC for ZooLights at the National Zoo.  That was a lot of fun.

First of all, I had not been to the National Zoo in ages.  I think that the last time I was at the zoo was, I believe, the summer of 1996.  Back then, Mom and Sis and I went on a weekday, and I remember its being my first time ever making any sort of Metro transfer, and my first time on the Red Line.  Prior to that trip, we had been to Washington a few times, but never before had we done anything other than one train.  I took the Blue Line on my first trip, and several Orange Line rides.  That first transfer was interesting, because I had never been to Metro Center before, nor had I ever transferred.  It had never crossed my mind that one line crossed over the other.  Then when we got to the zoo, I recall our being not so impressed with it at that time.  But at the same time, it was also really hot out and I was not doing well on the hill that the zoo is built on due to my being somewhat out of shape.

Back in the present, though, I’m in really good shape, and it’s time to see Christmas-themed lighting.  I will admit that I had some fun (in a mean way) with the identity of the main sponsor for ZooLights: Pepco.  Pepco, you may recall, is the for-profit utility that has the notoriously unreliable power grid in DC, Montgomery County, and PG County, and that keeps asking for permission to raise rates.  My comment was that with Pepco sponsoring it, I was somewhat surprised that the lights were even on, considering that they often have problems with that.

And here are some of the lights!

 Lighting at the entrance on Connecticut Avenue, seen from across the street from the zoo.
Lighting at the entrance on Connecticut Avenue, seen from across the street from the zoo.

 Entrance to ZooLights display slightly back from the street.  This is visible in the photo above, in the background.
Entrance to ZooLights display slightly back from the street.  This is visible in the photo above, in the background.

One of the things that they had plenty of were trees wrapped in lights.  The trees, when wrapped in Christmas lights, looked so awesome.  It basically highlights the natural shapes of the trees in bright colors.

I particularly liked this one, wrapped in white LED lights.
I particularly liked this one, wrapped in white LED lights.

These two photos are of the same tree, with one photo taken with flash, and one without.  The one without flash is close to how it actually looked in real life.  The one with flash is pretty neat because it shows off how the tree is wrapped in the lights, and the glow of the lights is also still visible at the same time.

These two photos are of the same tree, with one photo taken with flash, and one without.  The one without flash is close to how it actually looked in real life.  The one with flash is pretty neat because it shows off how the tree is wrapped in the lights, and the glow of the lights is also still visible at the same time.
These two photos are of the same tree, with one photo taken with flash, and one without.  The one without flash is close to how it actually looked in real life.  The one with flash is pretty neat because it shows off how the tree is wrapped in the lights, and the glow of the lights is also still visible at the same time.

Then there were also a number of animals in lights as well.

Birds.  (Someone please leave a comment below and let me know exactly what these are - I am not entirely sure.)
Birds.  (Someone please leave a comment below and let me know exactly what these are – I am not entirely sure.)

This little guy was in front of the elephant house.
This little guy was in front of the elephant house.

A toucan.  This reminded me of Toucan Sam (yes, the Froot Loops guy).  I also described how, up until the late 1980s, Toucan Sam used to actually stick a toucan nose on the people he was leading to his cereal.  Who else remembers that?  And why did he stop doing that?  No, it didn't make any sense, but it was funny, since it was like Toucan Sam had a bunch of toucan bills in his back pocket or something.
A toucan.  This reminded me of Toucan Sam (yes, the Froot Loops guy).  I also described how, up until the late 1980s, Toucan Sam used to actually stick a toucan nose on the people he was leading to his cereal.  Who else remembers that?  And why did he stop doing that?  No, it didn’t make any sense, but it was funny, since it was like Toucan Sam had a bunch of toucan bills in his back pocket or something.

Tiger.
Tiger.

Moo cow.
Moo cow.

These two photos show a wicker elephant all lit up, under flash and without.  My understanding is that this elephant is there year-round, but it's only lit up for ZooLights.  Pretty neat nonetheless, though.

These two photos show a wicker elephant all lit up, under flash and without.  My understanding is that this elephant is there year-round, but it's only lit up for ZooLights.  Pretty neat nonetheless, though.
These two photos show a wicker elephant all lit up, under flash and without.  My understanding is that this elephant is there year-round, but it’s only lit up for ZooLights.  Pretty neat nonetheless, though.

These three photos show an animation in the lights.  The first shows a chameleon and a fly.  The second shows the chameleon reaching out to catch the fly.  And then the last one shows the chameleon after having eaten the fly.  Then the whole thing cycles again.

These three photos show an animation in the lights.  The first shows a chameleon and a fly.  The second shows the chameleon reaching out to catch the fly.  And then the last one shows the chameleon after having eaten the fly.  Then the whole thing cycles again.

These three photos show an animation in the lights.  The first shows a chameleon and a fly.  The second shows the chameleon reaching out to catch the fly.  And then the last one shows the chameleon after having eaten the fly.  Then the whole thing cycles again.
These three photos show an animation in the lights.  The first shows a chameleon and a fly.  The second shows the chameleon reaching out to catch the fly.  And then the last one shows the chameleon after having eaten the fly.  Then the whole thing cycles again.

This was the end of a longer chain of lights that was animated.  The bird sitting on the perch at the left was stationary, i.e. always lit.  Then the other bird was shown in a number of different frames so that it would appear to be flying across the walkway and landing on the perch.  I somehow managed to get two of the frames in my shot, and so you can see the last three movements - still soaring (far right), then coming in for landing, and then on the perch next to the other bird (you can see the outline of the other bird's lights).
This was the end of a longer chain of lights that was animated.  The bird sitting on the perch at the left was stationary, i.e. always lit.  Then the other bird was shown in a number of different frames so that it would appear to be flying across the walkway and landing on the perch.  I somehow managed to get two of the frames in my shot, and so you can see the last three movements – still soaring (far right), then coming in for landing, and then on the perch next to the other bird (you can see the outline of the other bird’s lights).

Over the walkway at one point were these lights designed to look like falling snow, where the LEDs would come on going down the row in sequence to provide the "falling" effect.  Adequately capturing these for the camera was something of a challenge, but not out of the question.  This was shot from underneath, taken without flash.
Over the walkway at one point were these lights designed to look like falling snow, where the LEDs would come on going down the row in sequence to provide the “falling” effect.  Adequately capturing these for the camera was something of a challenge, but not out of the question.  This was shot from underneath, taken without flash.

After Melissa and I noted the so-so result of the last photo, I wondered how a long exposure would do.  So I perched the camera on top of a trash can and took this photo with a 15-second exposure.  It didn't look like much on the camera, but it actually looks pretty cool on the screen.
After Melissa and I noted the so-so result of the last photo, I wondered how a long exposure would do.  So I perched the camera on top of a trash can and took this photo with a 15-second exposure.  It didn’t look like much on the camera, but it actually looks pretty cool on the screen.

Another thing that was a recurring feature was light shaped like various things projected onto the ground.  Here, snowflakes are projected onto the sidewalk.
Another thing that was a recurring feature was light shaped like various things projected onto the ground.  Here, snowflakes are projected onto the sidewalk.

This is the machine that projects the light to the sidewalk.  A slight fog from the rain that we had earlier on this particular evening created the see-the-light effect.  It would have continued raining, but Melissa and I were too prepared.  It started to rain while we were at the mall, and so Melissa bought a pair of rain boots from Payless, and then we stopped at my house for umbrellas.  That's why it didn't rain.  You know that if it had, it would have poured, and we would have been soaked.
This is the machine that projects the light to the sidewalk.  A slight fog from the rain that we had earlier on this particular evening created the see-the-light effect.  It would have continued raining, but Melissa and I were too prepared.  It started to rain while we were at the mall, and so Melissa bought a pair of rain boots from Payless, and then we stopped at my house for umbrellas.  That’s why it didn’t rain.  You know that if it had, it would have poured, and we would have been soaked.

This is the full effect.  The projection lights, and the light on the sidewalk.
This is the full effect.  The projection lights, and the light on the sidewalk.

This particular light display reminded both Melissa and me of the Heineken logo.  You can kind of see how that perception comes about, I think, right?
This particular light display reminded both Melissa and me of the Heineken logo.  You can kind of see how that perception comes about, I think, right?

ZooLights entrance display at the other entrance to the zoo, at the bottom of the hill.
ZooLights entrance display at the other entrance to the zoo, at the bottom of the hill.

And finally, here's Melissa and me at ZooLights.
And finally, here’s Melissa and me at ZooLights.

All in all, a fun time was definitely had by all involved.  We definitely have to hang out more often.

And then here’s a bonus from earlier, at the mall.  A Pee-wee Herman suit was on a mannequin at JCPenney:

Pee-wee Herman suit on a mannequin at JCPenney in Wheaton

I wonder if the wearer of this suit gets a tremendous urge to “scream real loud” after a robot tells them what the secret word is.  I also wonder if they realized that their outfit was Pee-wee’s outfit when they designed this display.  Makes you wonder…