Merry Christmas everybody!

OK, it's not just the cough medicine talking; I am aware that Christmas has passed us by.  I believe I remember telling everyone that Christmas, and really 2011 in general, kicked my butt this year.  So despite our best intentions, we never even got around to our favorite of all December traditions: the annual making and distribution of the snarky Christmas card.  I did hear from many people with concerns about whether or not they were removed from our Christmas mailing list, and if you're one of those people who felt slighted, let me just say it's not you, it's me. There's a very good reason why you didn't get a Christmas card from us this year:

I suck.  The end.

The Shortlings absolutely love a Christmas book that was given to us a few years ago where the main character, Mr. Moose, was so involved in trying to make Christmas perfectly perfect that he forgot to get a tree until Christmas Eve.  All the trees were gone by that time, so he stuck out his arms and let his family decorate him instead. While we were putting away the Christmas decorations, the girls created an hommage to the book and I grabbed a camera, thinking it might be a good opportunity to send "New Year" cards instead.  Given the last year of my life, I say that'll do, pig, that'll do.   

Happy 2012, and here's hoping we all have enough antidepressants to get through it.

Full disclosure: I'm not happy with the photo and how it came out on the printed card.  It's much too dark, but the delicious irony coupled with the fact that this also falls right in line with how crappy 2011 was for me, was enough that I didn't even complain to the printing company; I just dropped them in the mail with no explanation.  When faced with righteous indignation and lots of work vs. procrastination and laziness, laziness wins out every time.

This is what the photo should have looked like

Sometimes people ask me about taking pictures of kids and how I get mine to be so photogenic.  Get ready, because I'm about to share a little-known photographers' secret with you: 

digital cameras.

You see, back in draconian times, you either had to install your own darkroom on top of the chest freezer in your laundry room (don't mock me) or (gasp) PAY for every developed photograph in order to see it.  Either way, it was a lot of expense and work and it forced you to be judicious about your shutter clicks.  With the advent of digital cameras, you can take literally hundreds of pictures and then pick out the one or two from that hundred that actually worked.  Show off only the good photos and suddenly, your kids are the most photogenic on the block.  

Add in a few Photoshop skills picked up from the interweb and viola, you are the envy of amateur photographers everywhere.  (Professionals know you're just a bum with a medium-priced camera; you can't fool them.)  You just have to be willing to spend inordinate amounts of time ignoring your kids while clicking through photos on a monitor to delete the scores of pictures that you screwed up in one way or another. 

Here's the SOOC shot above.  Un-cropped.  Un-altered.

It's an okay photo, but much better with a little Photoshop magic, right?  Imagine what one could do if one ever read the manual.  At least I think there's a manual.

But, even more importantly, here are just a few of the photos that didn't make the cut at all.

You might have to enlarge to see why this one was rejected.  The Caterpillar was simply not having a photo shoot that day and she actually has a cartoon frown on her face.

"Look at the camera, honey."  "Ummm... No."

The Dormouse tries to hold The Caterpillar's head up to get her to look at the camera.  Not only is the illusion of the Christmas Tree entirely gone, but this made The Caterpillar even madder, which no one thought was possible.

Chalk this one up to Playing With Exposure/Photographer Doesn't Know Basic Shutter Speed Settings.

Caterpillar decides she is done with the event and starts to take off lights.  Also: WILL SOMEONE GET THAT CAT OUT OF THE WAY?!? (Many more photos rejected due to cat interference.)

Everyone yells, "No, NO!  Don't take them off yet!!"  Caterpillar begins to cry.  Moments of consoling to follow.  Also to notice: cat ear in foreground of following several photos.

Finally convince Caterpillar to play along (upside down smile notwithstanding) and get her to hold up her arms.  Dormouse moves so head is blurry.

Caterpillar losing patience again.  Dormouse talking while photo is taken, providing chipmunk-like cheeks.

Telephone rings.  Dormouse looks toward phone.

Dormouse's face almost completely obscured.  This appears to be the closest thing we're going to get in the way of happiness from The Caterpillar.

Both of them look like they've been placed in a torture chamber.  Not entirely sure they're wrong.

This is the only photo of the day where The Caterpillar smiled.  Idiot photographer couldn't hold still and so the whole picture is blurry.

There were at least two dozen more that I didn't bother to post here, all taken within the eight minutes of the entire photo shoot from beginning to end.  

So you see, folks?  The key to good photography is persistence, devotion to the craft, and a dogged determination to make your children miserable.  

Now go forth and create.

This is actually my favorite photo of the day, but I knew it would be too dark for the card, so it was rejected for print.