Christmas Card 2013 – House Diorama (Click it to see it bigger at Flickr.)
In 2012 we couldn’t get a card done in time. Our dog had just died and Paris was away at college. The motivation and planning didn’t come together. But this year we’re back! Mary had the idea of a diorama and we decided to make one of our house decorated for Christmas.
Roof – We cut up some extra shingles from the new roof we got this year.
Bricks – We took photos of the different bricks, printed them life size, and cut them up.
Windows – Mary cut out the windows and trim, using colors similar to the house. We tried to keep the whole thing slightly cartoonish and handmade-looking.
Bushes – Those are made of leaves from the actual holly bushes we have. Dangerous work hot gluing those together!
Christmas tree – My grandmother made that ceramic tree a long time ago.
Wreath and “lights” – Mary strung up some beads to make lights and made the wreath from green pipe cleaners.
Gravel – Straight from the driveway. Not exactly correct but a lot easier than making grass and a sidewalk.
Finally, each family member made his or her “self.”
We started with a piece of foam core cut out for the house and glued the bricks and other parts to it. Then we backed with a piece of drywall also cut to the shape. Then put the whole thing on a large square of drywall so we could light it from behind and have the Christmas tree “inside.” We put pieces of colored paper behind the windows to create the appearance of rooms. The photos below show the set up.
As usual, these cards end up being a lot more work than we expect. But I don’t regret one minute spent working with my family to make something for ourselves, and other family and friends.
Christmas Card 2011 - Gingerbread People (Click it to see it bigger at Flickr.)
This year instead of using our bodies to make something we decided to use something to make our bodies. Gingerbread is the obvious seasonal choice for a medium. Yes, they/we taste good too…
Christmas card 2011 back photo
On the inside we decided to do a Sigler version of Mad Libs. Sorry Mad Libs for using your logo. Consider it free advertising. Mad Libs are fun and this idea gets out of long handwritten notes on every card. Nobody else seems to do that anyhow. Click the images for a closer view.
That’s how we do it. Hey! I just made a Facebook page for this blog. Please click the “Like” button over there on the right.
We just got the cards delivered yesterday. I normally wait until we have them mailed before I post about the latest card, but since some folks may not get theirs before Christmas I thought I would share it now.
As you can see in the video our dog Mika was determined to be part of the action. So, for the first time in his eight years we have included him.
And speaking of being included, if you’re not on our list just let me know and we will correct that.
I left the video camera running while we did this. The whole shoot took about 30 minutes. I think Paris had the idea for snowflakes. Originally, I wanted to recruit a ton of people, dozens at least, to make one giant snowflake somewhere in downtown Asheville, and shoot it from a building. But the ladies were thumbs down on that. I still may do it one year. That’s a lot of white clothes!
We hope you like it. If you haven’t gotten yours yet and you know you’re on the list email me. We still have a small batch that hasn’t been mailed. If you want one, no matter who you are, just let me know. We have a small number left.
Oh, yes. We finally got the cards in the mail, tah-day. Since only a few people have already received theirs I won’t post any photos or videos until later. Also, the killer blizzard this past weekend has interrupted our electicity, heat and work flow so I’m running behind on the media stuff. Come back soon.
There is no Photoshop trickery happening here. This image was captured in one take using a single long exposure photograph. Blah blah blah blah, or you can just watch this video. Jump below for the details.
This large scale light painting of a Christmas tree was made in our backyard. On the ground the tree was 55 feet tall and about 25 feet wide. It appears short and fat because of the angle of the photograph. I had the camera, and video camera, in a stairwell window at the back of our house. I’m at least four storeys (someone asked, that is in fact the correct spelling) in the air because our property drops quite a bit. We are in the mountains. But the back lot is nice and flat. I used rope to lay out the tree and enlisted the family and some conveniently located neighbors to move the lights around.
The kids were in the middle of the tree swinging the light sabers (see below) in circles to make the “ornaments” and Mars walked back and forth to make a “garland.” The Moms (Mary and Jill) made the tree outline by waving two light sabers each as they walked along the rope, invariably racing at the end of each take to finish in time. I used a kitchen timer and called out the remaining seconds.
I wanted to do some light painting myself so I took the tripod and camera outside and made some “Nöels” in green and red. Nöel (Which I now know should be spelled “noël” – oof, embarrassing. I was in the dark!) is way easier than trying to write “Merry Christmas,” backward mind you, in the dark, before the time runs out and the shutter closes. Plus, Nöel is so short I was able to turn the light on and off for each letter, and add the umlaut over the “o.” I put a strip of four of these inside the card, along the top.
Nöel Light Painting
We did something similar for the family shot on the back of the card. For this one I used another camera, mounted on separate stand, just for the flash. That way I could move the lights around to make the frame, then get back into position before the second camera flashed, which would make us visible in the photo taken by the first camera. Staggering the timers on the two cameras so that the flash would happen after I was done drawing, but before the shutter closed on the first camera was a challenge. Have I mentioned we were in the dark? The image came out too dark on the card but the original looks good.
Family Portrait Light Painting
This was a fun card to make, but I was stressing about the execution. I mentioned to my friend Gary a couple months ago that I was worried about the logistics and he said something like “only you would have a Christmas card with logistical challenges.” Why do things the easy way? Walk hard.
Camera: Canon G9, 15 second shutter time, ISO 100, some other stuff I can’t remember
Lights: Light sabers from FlashingBlinkyLights.com, only $36 for 12 (Note to parents: some items at FBL are PG13); one regular flashlight for the garland. Sourcing some good lights was probably the toughest part. I looked everywhere, poi stuff, glow sticks, gels, etc. This idea needed large swaths of light and these sabers were perfect, and cheap!
People: 2 moms, 6 kids (one toddler helping Paris), and a gigantic whining dog with me in the stairwell
This is our favorite card so far, and not just because it’s a bunch of pictures of us. It took two days, three separate shooting sessions, and more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert.
We were having our usual dinner table brainstorm back in November when Mars came up with “candy cane.” And that was like a lightning bolt of silliness to my head. I have been wanting to do a card using our bodies as props, and I immediately realized that with our martial arts gear and street clothes we had everything we needed to be human red and white stripes. Almost everything that is. I didn’t have any red pants. It took some hunting but I was able to find some $10 Sporty Spice wind pants at the local discount store.
Our basement has a high ceiling. It also has a killer skateboard ramp. We put our low-buck “green screen,” about 10 yards of cheapo green fabric, in the middle of the ramp flat bottom. I put the camera on a tripod, but then lodged it in the plumbing running across the ceiling. This set up worked pretty well. If I had taken the time to tack down the fabric to get rid of the wrinkles it would have saved some time in the editing. Also using better lighting would have made this easier. I just used halogen construction lights placed on each deck of the ramp.
With everything in place we started posing. Mary, Paris and Mars would lie on the fabric first. Then, I would climb up a step ladder, start the timer, jump down and throw the ladder to side because it caused shadows, and try to get into position in time. The hardest part to get right was the radius. We used blue tape as guide, but it took some trial and error. Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell if it would work and be in scale until I was editing the pictures together. “Everybody put your stripe clothes back on.”
Now that I’m finished posting the new music we got for Christmas it’s time for one last seasonal item: the 2006 Sigler family Christmas card. This year we struggled for a concept. Should we collaborate on something? Should we continue to make our individual themed handmade items? Paris had the idea of snow people. We rolled with that and decided to stick with the tradition inside the tradition, individual pieces.
Clockwise from the top left:
Paris used rolled colored paper strips.
Mars obviously used Legos.
Mary worked with yarn and felted the nose and hat. She also broke the mold with a two-ball shorty.
Tracy after a few failed attempts decided to use three lamps, he had made a while ago, for a minimalist, and sort of boring, snow-bot.
Kodak now allows you to put a stamp-sized image on the back of the card. We used a pic of our four hands in the same orientation as the snow folks.
For the 2005 Christmas card Paris suggested “trees.” As time was running out I continued to mention that we needed to get cracking on the cards. When I mentioned it one night at dinner everyone moaned. Frustrated, I said “you can make a tree out of anything!” Then, I grabbed the greens that were left in the salad bowl and quickly threw down a “tree.” I liked it so I got some dried cranberries for the garland and piece of pretzel for the trunk. Everyone got their trees done that night, with Mary’s being the most skillful, and time-consuming.
The backgrounds were removed and the trees were combined on a single white background. This time we had them printed at Kodak.
Mary and I have made each other Valentine cards since the mid-1980s. Last year we started making Christmas cards and got the kids involved. For this one everyone cut out full-sheet paper snowflakes, they were scanned, and finally combined on a red background. We printed these at home and even made the envelopes which had a large snowflake outline on it. The red you see here is brighter than the actual cards.