December 30, 2014

Our 2014 Family Photo | Behind the Small Miracle

One day back in late October, after football season ended but before hunting season grew intense or basketball began, a small miracle happened:  We got a family photo.
I'm telling this story for safe keeping, in hopes my children some day grow up to understand that small miracles like these were important to me.  That it was worth enduring a few occasions throughout their growing years to achieve them.  
I cherish our candid photos.  But a group shot of us as a family is nice to have every couple years!
I also share because I wonder if I'm not alone in this challenge of getting my family in a photo together, and to enlighten anyone who looks at our photo as idyllic..   Ha!

I prefer shooting in evening light just at sundown. So we got cleaned up and waited for that lovely late day lighting.  I think this was a Sunday, so we probably waited for the Vikings to lose their game on the radio.  
(Problem #1.. Daylight changes fast in the northern Fall, and the sun as I know it all summer is a little more wily to work with.  It drops off fast at a changing angle.. no warm lingering light.. small window of opportunity.) 
We all set out beyond our backyard to set up a photo.  Problem #2 is that my tripod has been missing an important piece for a few years.  Without the missing piece it's not possible to secure or level my camera in vertical/portrait position.  So I have to level it by adjusting the legs all wonky (two long legs and one really short one.)  And then the camera is heavy, and on non-level ground I struggled to keep it standing upright.  It tipped over a time or two.
Problem #3 was that my favorite lens for portraits requires being very far away.  I have a remote shutter release just for these kinds of things, but you have to be pretty close for it to work.  We were out of range.  (I've still never been able to put it to use.)  Instead, we had to dash back & forth several yards, pushing the self timer button and hoping to get back in the picture in time.  One attempted click of the shutter at a time. 
Problem #4 is that we aren't the most naturally photo cooperative bunch.  Some of us are awkward in front of the camera.  Others are very lacking in enthusiasm for photos.  We got several shots of Lilly yawning.  Several more of Mason "resting his eyes."  And in general, all of us just haphazard.  
Problem #5 was that it was chilly and windy.  For some reason, my kids don't mind being out in below zero temps if they're playing on a frozen pond or being pulled on a sled.  But 35+ degrees while taking a photo is like cruel and unusual punishment.  Strong wind also blows the hair of some of us all over, which it did to me in 99% of photos taken.
Problem #6 came sometime after the camera tipped over and we ran back & forth pushing buttons trying to set things up in a rush.  The exposure settings were somehow changed, which I didn't realize until well into the ordeal.  I had no idea how the change was made or how to change it back.  (It took digging out the manual later.) The shots were drastically overexposed, turning out images of nothing but bright white.
Before I knew this, I was snapping away.  I had sacrifice the idea of a family shot so I could ditch the timer & tripod, and just take the bull by the horns and photograph the five kids with camera in hands, efficiently.   I'm pretty sure those photos would have been great, but they were ALL blown out white. 
Exasperated with a camera that wasn't working right for me at this point, I called it a flop and gave up.  Light had faded, I was losing what good will from my subjects I may have had, noses were red from cold.  I actually called it "The Greatest Flop Ever."  
I've kind of grown accustomed to not getting nice family photos of us, so in a way, it wasn't that big of a deal.  But in a way, I was more defeated than ever.  My family is my life's great work, and taking photos is one of my life's great passions.  A nice picture of us now & then is important to me.
Feeling matter of fact that it was a fail, I was in no hurry to go through The Greatest Flop Ever shots.  So later, when I did, it was a miracle to find a single photo well focused and nicely exposed, of us all  looking mostly normal and composed.
This photo was the one and only that turned out.  I don't care at all that half the family isn't smiling.   I know we're all looking at a teetering tripod far away, debating whether the indicator light had already blinked or not.  Some shivering cold, others telling them it's not that cold. 
This is us.  I'll take it.  I'll treasure it forever. 

Our 2014 Family Selfie:

At the time of this photo, Mason & Eric were 16, Johnathan 11, Lilly 10, Beau 7. 
A few weeks later Mason & Eric turned 17 and Johnathan 12. 
Time keeps slipping into the future.  My kids are growing, changing, and gradually readying themselves for leaving the nest.  I'm thankful to have a still frame of us all right now, together in 2014, for our family's timeline.

Here's to self-timers and family photos, past, present, and future!  
And to those of you who hire a photographer.. Good call.  :)   


  1. I'm so happy you got the shot! And so happy taking a family picture isn't difficult just for me!

  2. i love it. a handsome family. definitely!

  3. That is a wonderful photo. I think you summed up all of the problems of taking a family photo quite well! Same issues here!

  4. Ha, ha! I laughed at your family photo story. Sounds just like me trying to get my family to cooperate! My kids, growing up with a camera-happy mother, are not thrilled when it's Christmas card photo time. Like you, I did manage to get one good shot. And plenty of out-takes. If you look at my post before Christmas you'll see one of those funny photos.

    But your family photo is lovely! Your children are so beautiful. You have much to be proud of.

  5. Family photo ops become more rare the older our kids get. So glad you were able to grab a moment!

  6. That is a wonderful picture, and the story behind it makes it even more special! It's a fantastic picture, and I would treasure it forever as well. Happy New Year, Amanda! So glad to have you and your family in my life. :-)

  7. What a wonderful family and portrait... Even with all of your problems, the photo turned out GREAT... Love it...

    Happy New Year. I will have meniscus tear knee surgery on January 8... I'll be so glad to get this done ---to get rid of this knee pain....


  8. Thanks for the smiles as I read your 'problems' getting a family photo. 'Been there, done that!' The picture of your handsome family turned out wonderfully. Happy New Year.

  9. Perfect . . . Love it!
    Handsome guys but . . . oh my, are those girls ever GORGEOUS!
    Happy New Year . . . thank you for the 2014 family portrait!

  10. I think the photo is perfect! Happy New Year!

  11. Thats a great picture - family shots can be hard - we always have somebody with closed eyes, or distracted by a fly. And there are only 4 in my shots! The family resemblance in the shot is wonderful!

    One day I will get to spend a whole winter in the snow - and I'll probably wonder why!!

    Cheers and a happy New Year - Stewart M - Melbourne

  12. A great photo - How fantastic that one of the many succeeded! You must be so happy for this treasure! And yes, standing outside and freezing should be a minor thing - the children will appreciate this photo so much later on - as mom one needs to be insisting on some things sometimes :) I got my first tripod this Christmas, and I am gonna try to learn the adjustments of the camera timer, and maybe buy a remote control - I would love to make a family portrait as well, inspired by your fantastic photo!
    Happy new year to you!

  13. It's a great family photo, Amanda. I haven't been able to get all my family together for a picture for years until this summer when my daughter got married. I am so happy to have it.

  14. Oh my goodness, I love this photo! You really did have an ordeal trying to get it though haha. I have always wanted a good photo of David and me, but it's hard to just get everything right for the two of us so I know it was hard for you! Mason and Eric look sooooo much like their dad. Lilly is growing into such a beautiful young girl and your young boys are getting so handsome. That's a good looking family right there! :)