A Picture Perfect Picture A Pain to Perfect

September 7, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Ahh…the annual family photo.

The kid’s birthday is coming up and to celebrate that auspicious occasion, we reserve an afternoon to take a family photo to serve as a marker of another year gone by.  Just this once, maybe it won’t make my wife and I a nervous wreck.

It’s not that I don’t like our annual family photos.  Actually, I cherish each and every one of them.  Each one is a testament to another year of growth and discovery for our three kids.

It’s taking the picture that’s torture.

You see, my wife Maya and I are the proud parents of nine year old triplets, which, of course, means that I spend the bulk of my time each day either at parent/teacher meetings or buying a squadron’s worth of rations at Costco.

Anyways, our picture-taking day always starts out with the location.  Which picturesque setting would be the perfect background to display our happy, well adjusted family?  Maybe this year we’ll find the perfect spot with the skyline of San Diego behind us, or perhaps on a sandy beach in La Jolla.  There’s no shortage of scenic locales here in San Diego.  Finding a location is a snap.

This however, will be the last sane and simple decision we will make for the rest of the day.

We drive out to the location.  We walk out to the picture perfect spot, I set up a few chairs or a blanket to sit on, as well as the camera and a tripod.  Maya and I sit down, we have the kids sit around us, we wait until sunset to get the perfect lighting we want, and we ask our babysitter to start taking pictures.  She tries to get the kid’s attention to look at the camera and snap the picture.

As with every other year, the babysitter will fail.  It’s not the babysitter’s fault, mind you.  For whatever reason, if you set up a camera in front of us in an idyllic setting, the one place our kids will not look is at the camera.

Of course, maybe I’m just being too demanding.  If I was just going for a picture of my kids looking at their shoelaces, or having one of them flick the other’s ears, or maybe have one of them kick me in the shin, no problem – mission accomplished.

No, being the particular person that I am, I’d like them to smile for the camera for the picture perfect shot.  Which means, I have to start yelling.

Ethan, look at the camera!
Savannah, look at the camera!
Ethan & Savannah, look at the camera!
Tyler, stop looking at me.  Look at the camera!
We’ll go when I say we can go!
Put that down!
Take that grass out of your mouth!
Good Ethan!  Now smile!
No!  Smile and look at the camera!
Come back here!
Put your hands down!
Who’s kicking me?!?
Stop kicking and look at the camera!

And of course, there’s always the popular, “Look happy or so help me…”

Of the 170 plus shots that were taken, 87% of the photos have one or more of the children not looking at the camera, 10% have one or more of the children not in the picture for various juvenile reasons, and the remaining 3% are unusable because either Maya or myself are glaring at the children, most likely in the middle of browbeating our kids to look at the camera.

If you haven’t already noticed, that means that with all that effort, as with every other year we’ve tried this, we didn’t get a single solitary picture we could use.

Fortunately, we live in the age of digital cameras and photo-editing software, which means that a picture perfect family photo is just a few clicks of the mouse away.

Some purists may say that digitally lopping off heads from one picture and pasting them into others makes the finished photo a fabrication or a farce.  For the most part, I agree with them.  At least I have my limits.

I’m willing to digitally clip out a happy smiling face from each of the kids in various snapshots and cobble them all together for the perfect photographic illusion.  I’m perfectly happy to adjust the brightness or contrast of the picture if that improves the picture.  But when my wife looks at the picture as I’m manipulating it on the computer screen and asks me to “fix her hair”, that’s when I draw the line.

Once you go down that slippery slope, there’s no limit to the “improvements” you can make.  I might decide to drop a few pounds, or maybe I can “upgrade” the steel watch I’m wearing to a gold Rolex.  Maybe the beach background would look better with some perfectly placed coconut trees with a sign hanging from it that reads “Welcome to Waikiki.”

For the past nine years, we’ve managed to create, what I call, a “realistic illusion.”  In the end, our annual family photo is never completely real, but that’s really beside the point.

I love these perfect pictures not for the picture itself, but for what it represents.  It shows a perfectly happy family together, and there’s nothing fake about that.

Birthdays a Case of Diminishing Returns

September 1, 2008 by trooce · Leave a Comment 

Ahh…sweet memories.

It seems not so long ago that I celebrated my 30th birthday.  I remember it fondly.

A surprise party.  All my best friends and family in attendance.  A beautiful cake.  My lovely wife, presenting me with my favorite cake from my favorite bakery with several candles on top to mark the occasion.  The opening of hand picked presents from the people closest to me and the singing of of “Happy Birthday” in a joyous celebration of this personal milestone.

Good times.

Fast forward 14 years.  A few of the details have changed.  Oh, I still have a beautiful wife, and there was a cake.  But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

My birthday dinner plans were cobbled together in a couple of minutes the day before my birthday.  On the day of the joyous event, my wife calls and tells me she doesn’t have time to buy any candles and asks me to pick some up on my way to my parent’s house.

Yes, you read that right.  I must run out to buy candles for my own birthday cake.

Dinner goes well, and as always, our family always enjoys opportunities to get together.  For dessert, the birthday cake is brought out, and this year the cake is not the one from my favorite bakery, but is instead a store bought cake from our local supermarket.  I know this because the price sticker is still on the cellophane of the cake box and in addition, I remember seeing the same cake earlier in the day as I was shopping for candles.

As the candles flicker on top of my ready-made cake, I prepare to blow them out.  But before I do, my mother stops me and says that we must not forget that my sister in law’s birthday is just a few days later and that we are celebrating for her as well.

There is a slight pause as I wait to see if she would like to “bundle” any other milestones or holidays under the auspices of what is quickly becoming known as the “all encompassing celebratory cake” as I note that “Groundhog Day” is only a few weeks away.

While it may not be hard for any of you to pick up on the latent bitterness as I recall my last birthday celebration, the truth is that I found the change to be more funny than anything else.  I don’t really have anything to complain about as I have a terrific wife and family.

Still, it’s not hard to extrapolate what lies ahead of me as I look ahead to my future birthday celebrations.
On my 50th birthday, all my friends and family will come to celebrate this major milestone in my life, topped off by a beautiful, home made cake festooned with candles and other festive decorations.  Of course, by that time I figure that I’ll be the one baking the cake so why not give it my all?

On my 60th birthday, we will most likely drop the whole “celebratory cake” thing and the formal celebration will entail me trying some of the free samples at Costco as I shop for my sister in law’s birthday cake.

They do sell candles there, right?