Photographically capturing the outdoor experience in a manner that convinces people life’s better outside—away from the TV, gaming stations and potentially devastating affects of the breakneck pace we keep today—is a huge challenge. The foods and smells that are often a favorite are particularly tough, one reason I’ve invested so much time and effort trying to create a mouth-watering smore for The Year Santa Came Back.
I’ll wait before passing final judgement, but I think the version here is light years ahead of my previous attempts. Let me know what you think.
In the meantime, here are a few unexpected oddities if you need a chuckle. Feel free to laugh at my expense. My family does.
Smores are Dust Magnets
We all know these things are sticky, gooey messes. No one warned me that once you put one down on a wood table it’ll never move again, though. Seriously, I was looking for a crowbar to adjust a few degrees while taking photos. It was like someone nailed down my smore for The Year Santa Came Back.
Sure, you can force it. But it leaves a white rectangle where it was initially placed that looks like a CSI investigator’s chalk outline at the murder scene of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
Then there’s the dust it attracts like a magnet. Floating home in on that creamy goodness, land, permanently affix and remain invisible to the naked eye until you open the images in Photoshop.
Lesson learned. Take photos fast, in a sealed and airless vacuum you can’t hear grandkids ask, “Are you done yet?”
Glow Worms are Brighter
To create a camping ambience—without inviting hungry bears—I used a camping lantern in the background. Sure, in a dark forest they look bright, but they pale when you’re running a pair of strobes. Yes, I could have left the shutter open one, two or a dozen seconds, but then the lighting would be yawningly even and boring enough to convince even a stingy toddler it was time for bed.
I compromised by putting an orange gel in front of that left strobe slightly to the back. It adds more warm light from the direction of the lantern, and seems convincing.
Most Smores are Ugly
Have you ever tried to make a photogenic smore? Seriously, the chocolate runs away, marshmallows burn and graham crackers break.
Sugar flakes off, flies collect and then huge gaps appear, the size of Carlsbad Caverns. Big, gaping holes they are, sucking light and making one wonder if Jimmy Hoffa’s hiding somewhere within.
That’s where the hungry grandkids come in handy. They’re eager to disappear homely campfire treats faster than the mob handles problem bosses.
One Pleasant Surprise
That camping lantern is a 30-year-old Coleman Peak 1 I used on more search & rescue trap teams than I care to admit. It’s not made for walking, obviously, but when someone’s lost a camp is often established at trail junctions or high points where lights and/or campfires are burned all night. The idea’s simply that if the victim is still awake and nearby they’ll see the signal and, if able, come in that general direction, call out or somehow signal their location.
That old lantern turned one without a hiccup on the first try. I didn’t even have to change the mantle. They don’t make ’em like that any more, and unfortunately, Coleman doesn’t either.
No, it’s not for sale. I do, however, have a matching set of hideous smores listed on e-bay, if you’re interested.
Smore for The Year Santa Came Back
No, the image isn’t perfect. I may continue to fine tune, time willing.
Like I said before. If this or any of the other part of my children’s Christmas book—The Year Santa Came Back—convinces a family to venture outdoors this year, together, it’s a huge success in my mind. That makes the extra effort on this page, and others, worthwhile.
Some of the best times in life are waiting outdoors, away from it all, and they’re only better when you’re with people you love. So get out there and enjoy it.