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. :)