Capturing a Christmas Miracle

Every year, like many families, we try to send out a holiday card. I’ve been doing this since Nico’s first Christmas, 14 years ago. Each year, my holiday card includes a photo (or several photos) and a newsletter. Yes, I am that kind of mom. The one who writes about her family in a yearly recap, although I like to think my recaps are kind of cleaver, since I try to write them in prose or to the tune of a Christmas carol.

I enjoy writing so the newsletter part of my Christmas card is usually pretty easy. However, no one in our family, or extended family, is a photographer, so the picture part of our Christmas card is a much more difficult task. This year was no exception. In fact, this year’s Christmas card photo was probably even more complicated since Erica now spends the majority of her days at her mom’s house, and it felt like we would need a Christmas miracle to get the entire family in one location, looking camera-ready.

On Sunday afternoon, Erica and Nico had to attend Confirmation class at our church. Then they had to meet with Olivia and the rest of their acolyte team to practice for the Sunday evening Advent church service. There was about a 15 minute window of opportunity to get a photo. Luckily, our church is directly across the street from a beautiful photo spot, the Pasadena City Hall courtyard. We all met at the courtyard about 2:30 in the afternoon. It was not the “Golden Hour” for photography, but the light was still really nice. In fact, when we arrived we realized we were not the only ones who wanted to take pictures. There was a fashion shoot in one area, two wedding parties, and about three other families all taking photos. We wanted to take a picture in front of the city’s Christmas tree but it was in a shaded area and would have been too dark. We opted for a spot in front of a beautiful fountain in the center of the courtyard.

Olivia offered to let us use an SLR camera that her mom had loaned her. Olivia was confident she knew how to use the timer. Juan told me I didn’t need to learn how to use the timer on my own camera since Olivia had it under control. Juan brought along his new iPhone 5. He also brought along a couple of TV trays, tripods and a cardboard box since we were going to need to set the shot up and then run into the picture. Talk about Amateur Hour. All around us there were professionals taking nicely staged family photos, and wedding pictures. Not us. Nope, we take our family Christmas photos using high-end equipment like this:

The photo "equipment" used to take our family photo.

Just to make it more interesting, we gave ourselves only 15 minutes to take a family portrait. As if that wasn’t enough pressure, the girls started bickering, Juan started stressing, and then Olivia realized she really didn’t know how to use the camera timer after all. Good thing Juan brought along his iPhone 5. He took a couple of pictures, one which was useable, but Erica didn’t like herself in it. At the last minute, and in an act of desperation, we asked a complete stranger walking through to courtyard if he wouldn’t mind taking our picture. Olivia set the camera focus, handed the camera to the stranger, and got herself into position. Then we all tried to look like we were in good cheer, and I said a silent prayer that our “photographer” would not run off with the camera. The stranger snapped two shots. One of them made it to the Christmas card. A Christmas Miracle.

Christmas Photo 2012

 How do you take family portraits? Do you send Christmas newsletters?

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