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How They Ended Up On the South End of North-Flying Reindeer

January 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


We shot this Christmas card in the studio with this setup, then composited it against a night sky and a sleigh for a take on what happens when your family tries to hitch a ride with Santa -- and just barely makes it. Made a great Christmas card!

Sometimes fun shots come together magically. Fittingly, this family Christmas card is one of those.


It started a couple weeks before the shoot with the idea that we'd do something with everyone base-jumping in parachute gear. This sounded awesome, with everyone falling at the camera (i.e., me while I shoot) and landing in foam. But, a few flaws. For one, it wasn't all that Christmassy. Second, we were having trouble getting base-jumping gear. Wayne and Karen Brown of the Ocean Adventure had generously offered to let us borrow their sky diving kit, but they were out of town and wouldn't be home in time. Then there was the small detail whether I would actually be able to get out of the way fast enough –– not just once, but the dozens of times it would take to get good images of everyone falling at me.


So, plan B was to go to an indoor skydiving facility. Flaws here were cost, plus we weren't sure we'd get permission to do the shots (we never got as far as asking though). Again, not very Christmassy. And, while I was blown away with the idea, there was a good chance I'd be blown away by the idea.  So that got nixed.


Plan C was to go back to Plan A, but more Christmassy with everyone falling toward camera from out of Santa's sleigh, so no parachute kit needed, though I have it on good authority that Santa is a skydiver (which may have something to do with the reliability of reindeer-based aircraft propulsion.) So, this was the plan going into the shoot, even though we still had the can-I-get-out-of-the-way thing nagging us (well, it was nagging me).


That morning, I got up early knowing I'd need to be setting up the studio two hours ahead of the scheduled shoot time. Over coffee, I mentioned the concept to my wife, which led to some jokes about the Pixar animations, Prep and Landing (my daughter loves them). Prep and Landing shows us that Santa's sleigh launches and lands much like FA-18 Hornets coming and going from the Nimitz, and this led to jokes about what would happen if you tried to sneak aboard Santa's sleigh at launch and timed it just a hair late . . . .


Hey, that's it!


I called Ted (the dad). He liked it, too: funnier, more Christmassy, better chance of working, and added bonus, his family didn't have to change out of their pajamas. I zipped to the studio, did this set up, they arrived, we shot and a few hours in Photoshop later, everything came together like magic –- a way better creation than anything we'd imagined any time in the previous two weeks.


I guess there is a Santa Claus.




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Twitter @KarlShreeves