Every year I get more and more excited to create and show our annual family picture. It’s hard to believe this is the 4th year we have done this! Each year has felt like a different process, and the one comment I get more than anything else is, “Where do you come up with this stuff?” I like how the concept for this year’s picture came about, and thought it would be fun to share the story with you.
This fall, our family vacationed on the Washington coast for a week, which was pretty amazing. On a number of days, we noticed there were hundreds of pelicans and seagulls standing on the beach, staring out at the ocean for up to 7 hours at a time it seemed. Not that I was timing them or anything. I had better things to do than worry about how long birds stayed on the beach. But seriously, get a job you lazy birds. Nobody could figure out what the heck they were doing out there just staring at the ocean. One day I went for a long walk on the beach. Every once in a while a wave would wash over a sand dune, and these tiny fish would get beached for a few seconds until the next wave washed over and they swam away. After seeing that, I’m guessing those lazy birds were just sitting on the beach, waiting for a free lunch. The pelican equivalent of day drinking panhandlers.
On the last day of vacation, I got it in my head that I wanted to create an image with a bunch of birds in it. As much as I had grown to resent their laziness and lack of drive, I took my camera down to the beach with my sister, and tried to sneak up as close as possible to get some pictures. Well, aside from being extremely lazy, these pelicans are also very cynical with some serious trust issues. I don’t know if I could get closer than 75 feet to them without every single bird flying away. Talk about bird issues…
Our daughter Isla does this really cute thing, where she puts her hands out in front of her like a T-Rex, and bobs up and down while she takes big steps toward the person she is going to “scare”. My sister joked that it was too bad we didn’t have a pelican costume for Isla, so she could sneak up and get closer to the birds. That was it. The clouds opened up, I heard angels singing, and I saw God smiling at me. Thanks to my brilliant sister, Allison, I knew what had to be done for the 2012 Keatley Family Picture. With a new focus and determination like never before, I came up with all kinds of tactics to get the lazy birds to fly in all different directions, and I shot about 1,000 images of birds for the next 30 minutes or so.
Once back home, I began researching costumes and decided I wanted them to look frumpy and not very realistic. The idea was not to make us look like actual pelicans, but that it would be overly obvious we were in these sad costumes, which at least some of us did not want to be in.
I would like to thank my family for putting up with the things I ask them to do and wear for these pictures. Isla, I swear you will thank me in 20 or 30 years. Thanks to my sister,Allison, and her husband, Simon, for helping me chase and herd birds on the beach like a bunch of crazy people. Thanks to Nichelle’s mom, Denise, for making the perfectly frumpy costumes, and thanks to one of my best friends Ian Goode, from Gigantic Squid, who made the retouching magic happen. Thank you for your interest in my work, it’s a blessing to get to do this for a living. Until next time, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all. Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
Below is a little collection of images from this project. The first group of beach and bird pictures are a few of the images used to create the environment. The second grouping is a little behind the scenes look at the human / pelican studio shoot, and the final group contains some of my favorite outtakes that didn’t make the cut. Enjoy.