Straddling Your Bed With An Overhead Tripod For Totally Non-Scandalous Purposes: Christmas Card Photo 2016


This year's Christmas card was a doooooozy. Such a doozy, I put together an outtakes reel (see far, far below). The reel doesn't even include the initial iterations of my costume, which included a purple yoga ball and purple glitter spray paint that is now covering most of my possessions.

The concept for this year's card started with a simple desire: I wanted to own a pair of real, professional, pointe ballet shoes. Every year I end up spending a small fortune on costumes/props/production design (some years more than others), so I wanted to buy something for this year's photo that at any other time would have seemed like a frivolous purchase. Well, more frivolous than usual purchases.

As you might have read in a previous post, I've been kind of obsessed with The Nutcracker Ballet. So I thought of this section of the Clement Clarke Moore poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas":

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;  

The original thought was the pets and I dressed as sugar plum fairies, until my much smarter friend Johanna reminded me that the poem is referring to actual sugared plums, and not the ballet, which actually premiered about 70 years after the poem's first publication. So I had to nix the fairies idea, but I decided my dancing sugar plum, since it was still dancing, after all, would have pointe shoes.

So the image would be two-fold, the top-half the sugar plums, the bottom half the children nestled snug in bed. The past few years of photos I've had to stage and execute over Thanksgiving weekend with the help of my family. This is pretty stressful, because I have to bring all the supplies and try to get the photo I need before I've taken up too much of my family's time. So this year the plan was to do it all by myself (if possible) so there wouldn't be time or people constraints.

This required investing in some photography supplies, namely a backdrop and a backdrop-hanging apparatus.  The plan was to use the backdrop-hanging apparatus (frame?) to capture the overhead photo of us sleeping in bed. So I did what anyone would do, I set up two large tripods straddling my queen-size bed, which supported a black rod across the top. From there, I attached a little bendy-tripod that I then fastened my DSLR to, with the camera pointing towards the bed.

I left it up for several nights, trying out various focal lengths and lighting set-ups. As luck would have it, one night my internet went out. I contacted Comcast, they sent a twenty-something guy out the next day. I cleaned the whole living room--and nothing else--in preparation, since that's where my internet hook-up and modem/router live.

But the technician quickly realized that my living room cable was on the fritz, and asked me if there was another one in my unit. Without really thinking, I said, "Yes, in the bedroom" and led him to the closed bedroom door. As I swung it open, I remembered that the first thing you see upon entering is a giant black tripod with a camera posed over the top of my unmade bed. I heard a guffaw behind me, but nothing else.

I briefly considered trying to explain to the technician why I had an over-bed camera set up, but I honestly couldn't come up with anything I'd thought he'd believe.

Me: "I don't have it up all the time, just right now, for my Christmas card photo."
Him: ...
Me: "I know what you're thinking, why do you take your Christmas card photo as an overhead shot of your bed?"
Him: ...
Me: "It's because this year's card required a picture of all of us--my pets and I-- in bed."
Him: ...
Me: "CLOTHED. In Christmas pajamas, actually. It's really cute. Nothing gross or weird. Really, really normal."

So instead, I didn't say ANYTHING about the tripod over my bed. I pointed to the cable hook-up, and waited.

He was texting a lot, and told me it was to his girlfriend about Christmas gifts. But I'd be shocked if he didn't fill her in on his current customer's strange bedroom set-up. And in 2016, in Seattle, it's not really that strange. It's only a story worth telling if you know me at all, even a little, tiny bit. In which case, it's pretty ironic and embarrassing.

So! The photo outtake video. Disclaimer: at about 1:50 in, you'll notice that I am waaaay over-exposed. I was worried the other photos were too dark, and the exposure didn't look that bright in the little LCD screen of my camera. So that's why that happened. Also the music cuts out a the end for a bit. Watching a two minute video these days can be like a special kind of hell, so if you need to not watch the whole thing, I get it, and I'll never know anyway. I cut out a TON of pictures, and tried to have each photo go as quick as Picasa (apparently no longer a thing?) would let me, but it still ended up 2 minutes long.

What ISN'T in this video is pictures of my dad tirelessly photoshopping the whole thing together for me. A) I can't afford Photoshop and b) I don't know how to use it, so he was essential to making this happen.

This was my first year trying to do one of those 'photo as card' things, as opposed to photo inserted in a card, and it went off with several hitches, and I'm not sure it's saving me any money like I thought it would, but I am glad that lots of people I love and like have a 6x8 of the following image in their possession.

(Can I get boring and lame for a second? Because this is such an expensive tradition for me to keep up, I've had to cut my list of people who get a card from me. If you are on the list and would like to stay there, I only ask two things:

1) Reach out to me by text, email, FB/blog/insta comment, in person, whatever--that you like getting the cards and enjoy them. If I don't hear that from you, at least once within recent memory, you might fall off the list.

2) Keep me updated on your address. If I get one 'return to sender' from you, you're off the list. I can send the card itself to someone else, but now I'm out an envelope and 49 cents. Not cool. And if I actually took the time to emboss my return address on your envelope, even NOT COOLER.

I'm not trying to be a bitch here, acting like my cards are a gift from God that people better compliment me on or I'll get mad and 'cut them off,' because obviously everyone sees it eventually on the internet anyway. It's more that I'm stressed about money (as many of us are). 

As you may see in my next post, I took on a second job. Which sucks, because I already work one that's full-time. But I live in an expensive city, I adopted four animals that all require food, supplies, healthcare, etc., I'm still paying off college loans from a decade ago, and for some reason I want these cards to be as good as they can be, and that costs me money every year. If I could afford to send every nice person I've ever met one of these cards every Christmas, I would. So if you didn't get a card this year and you have in the past, let me know you miss them, and make sure I have your current mailing address, too. Or don't give in to my need for affirmation. It's your life.)


andrea said...

Seriously you are amazing!

Linda said...

Your Christmas cards are the stuff of LEGEND. It's been adorable to watch the family grow year after year! I still remember the first one I got where Oz was Tiny Tim with a little crutch!

Thanks for sharing this!


Kristen said...

Your cards are MOST ASSUREDLY a gift from God, and if anyone says otherwise I'll cut him/her. (Hope threats of violence count as "reaching out")