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Christmas Card - Behind The Music

  • Sunday, December 11, 2011
  • Jeff and Kari

  • Presenting our Christmas Card picture for 2011. We are quickly coming to the realization that we are reaching a creative point in our pictures that we probably cannot sustain.

    This is particularly exemplified in this year's card. The short of it--approximately 3 weeks of concept development/execution, two location changes, three photoshoots, and two editing sessions for the final product.

    And the long version...

    First of all, the concept itself. Jeff was very disappointed with himself this year. Every picture previously taken to this year Jeff came up with the concept himself. Despite starting the brainstorming weeks in advance, his ideas this year were lame. He finally came across a picture similar to our own on the internet site Flickr. The immediate appeal to Jeff was the complexity of the shot itself. However, the original picture had some limitations (ie distracting background elements, no color, etc) that Jeff thought he could improve on. Little did we know how long an endeavor it would soon turn into.

    First off, the ornament itself. In order to make everyone somewhat visible we had to find a pretty large ornament that was also extremely reflective. As you can see from Rachel's finger in the picture, the ornament was pretty good size (8+ inches in diameter I'd say). It required an entire trip in to town by itself just to purchase the ornament.

    Second, Jeff wanted nothing distracting in the background. This proved difficult as the ornament reflected >180 degrees of scenery. Luckily, we live in an area with plenty of farms around.

    At least it seemed easy on the surface. But, Jeff wanted color--larger than life colors. The original area we picked out had a perfect little pine tree on it. The only problem was the grass itself. For those outside of Texas, we experienced a record drought and heat wave this summer. As a result, the majority of the grass in the area was an unflattering brown. We wanted green for Christmas! So the hunt continued. We found a neighboring irrigated field and commandeered it.

    Our next hurdle was the weather. Our first attempt was frustrated by grey skies. Our second attempt produced some decent shots, but 20+ mph winds blurred the already grainy reflection. That and the fact that little Rachel couldn't keep her exposed finger out in the 30 degree weather for very long. We had to wait for another week or so for the weather to cooperate.

    Lighting our faces was the next hurdle. Flash photography was out because you could see the flashes in the shot. We therefore had to shoot the picture at dusk when the setting sun would still light up our faces without casting shadows (hence the glowing faces and rim of sunlight around the ornament). We had a 10 minute window or so of cooperating light. Also, dusk was also the only way to get a frontlit picture with a super blue sky behind us.

    Of course the most difficult element was wrangling the kids and dogs for those few minutes of vanishing light. While not as crisp a shot as Jeff originally wanted (he was wanting to have another crack at it), it was good enough for the masses.

    And the final question? Where's the camera? It was mounted on a tripod in the field a few feet behind us. We were all standing about 2 feet from the ornament and Jeff was pushing a remote behind his back to fire the photos. It was tough to keep the boys' hair out of the frame, but after almost a hundred shots the only editing that was done was to crop the camera out and put grass back in its place.

    So, there you have it. Definitely our most technical shot. Definitely our most labor intensive (as far as finding a location and then getting all the elements to cooperate in turn). Probably won't be topped--but then again Jeff has 11 months to start planning the next one...

    Merry Christmas, but now the models are going on break!


    Tiar Hatley said...

    That is not a picture, it is a work of art. You can tell the difference by how much time and energy you put into it. That is beyond impressive, not just that Jeff has available brain cells to be creative but also the patience of both of you. Its hard enough to get my children looking nice and then to sit still for a second. It is beautiful and I can't help but smile and look on in amazement. So Kudos to you guys and a very Merry Christmas!!!

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