“Have you checked our shitters, honey?”

My fifth annual Christmas Card.. Wow. Five years. That’s pretty damn cool.
Originally I had a very different idea in mind for this year. I was planning to go a bit crazier and take my cards to a different level for such a milestone card. However things don’t always go as planned, and I had to switch things up a bit.

“It’s not going in our yard Russ, it’s going in our living room.”


Christmas Vacation has long been one of my favorite holiday movies. I remember watching it when I was younger because it’s one of my Dad’s favorite movies. And while some of the jokes may not have made as much sense, it was still hilarious.
I’ve considered parodying this movie for my Christmas card the last three years. And each year I’ve thought “No, I’ll wait, there’s too much that goes into that movie and that card would require a lot of people and props…”

My original plan this year was for Nutcracker… but that had to be changed sadly. I’ll do it next year.

So in a rush to put this card together last minute I started locking down models and searching for props.

First was to figure out which characters were the most well known and would immediately be recognized. Fortunately I’ve seen this movie enough times to know which scenes I wanted to do. I posted this to Instagram:


I already had one model lined up. Lindsay.
She was already on board with me for my Nutcracker Christmas card plan. When that changed, she was still down for Christmas Vacation.
I quickly started lining up other girls. Ultimately I added in the character of Ellen Griswold, too. And my old friend Elizabeth returned again for her fourth time on one of my Christmas cards – this time to play my wife. hahaha!


Left to Right: Lindsay – fantasy girl, Rachel – Mr. Shirley, Kitana – Cousin Eddie, Elizabeth – Ellen Griswold.

After I had nearly everyone confirmed it was time to start buying costume pieces. I didn’t have a lot of time, and while I had a budget allocated for this project, I now had three times as many people on the card as originally planned.



First up was a trip to ROSS for costume pieces for Rachel. She was going to be the first shoot


I also found a hat that would work well enough for Kitana’s Cousin Eddie photoshoot


Texted Rachel and told her she would be wearing mostly ribbon and a huge bow. I had to get a smaller bow because she’s already a tiny girl and I knew it would cover quite a bit of her if I got a bow too big.


And the following day we got Rachel photographed as her character for the card!


We also have a MASSIVE teddy bear at our house, which Rachel wanted a photo with. hahaha!


The next day I had a few more errands to run before Kitana’s shoot that weekend. Had to get a hose…


Also had to pick up her bathrobe. I was a little surprised that I found a reasonably priced one. Good thing I checked Forever 21. LOL


Knocked out Kitana’s shoot pretty quickly that morning.


Here’s the setup I had going on at home. Some stuff still scattered around the house after a remodel a few weeks prior.


With the second photo done I could start working on some basic layout of the card to figure out positioning of everyone.


Obviously had to get a photo with the teddy bear, too.
He’s the most popular thing in our house right now it seems like.


Later that week I shot with Lindsay. The hardest part of her whole image was that her bodysuit was black, and we needed her in red for the character. Well, it’s much cheaper to spend an hour in photoshop than go buy a red one-piece swimsuit in the middle of winter. Particularly if you only need it for one photo.


Had to get a shot with the bear, too.


Lindsay is a fitness model and always looks amazing.. perfect girl for the fantasy character on this card.


Later that night I was texting with Lindsay about something. She asked how the color changing was going… I sent her this.

Haha! For her bodysuit color change I converted the black suit into a bright royal blue in RAW. From there I moved into Photoshop and converted again into a bright red. It definitely took some time since the shadow detail quality degrades pretty quickly with drastic color changes. But, I just reminded myself that this is for a 6 inch wide card, and if I didn’t tell anyone I changed the color, no one would even notice it wasn’t red to start with. Ha!

Adding the character of Ellen Griswold was a last minute addition. I actually thought Elizabeth was out of town, so I hadn’t really talked to her about the card.

And with Ellen’s character there truly is only one scene you can do that EVERYONE would recognize if they’d seen the movie:


The SWAT scene at the end of the movie where Ellen is holding Clark’s junk is definitely the funniest scene with the two of them.
And Elizabeth is one of the few people I’ve known long enough that doing this scene wouldn’t be awkward – in fact we were laughing our asses off the whole time trying to remain serious as we shot the photos.


So I had to find costume pieces for this scene. I bought Liz a short skirt that was a color I knew I could change to dark green. She already had a flowy top that would work. I had old slacks, a sweater, and Santa hat (from my Santa costume from previous years).
I had to buy a blue shirt and looked everywhere but couldn’t find a Christmas tie.


I have a video clip of us during our shoot. It’s honestly probably only funny to me and Liz otherwise I would share it. But either way we a great time recreating the characters of Clark and Ellen.
In the photo of us above I had to do quite a bit of editing. Liz was easy, I just had to change her skirt from purple to green. However, for me: Changed navy slacks to grey, my darker blue shirt to a lighter shade of blue, my blue tie to bright green, added snowmen to my tie, my light beige sweater to darker brown.
But in the final image it worked out great!


Liz took a photo with the bear, too!

The last character I wanted to add was Uncle Lewis – the crotchety old uncle who was smoking cigars the whole movie. sslw

He ended up being the hardest person to lock down because I was running out of time and couldn’t find someone to step in for the character. Fortunately my roommate Anthony was down to do it AND even had a fake wig/toupee that would work perfectly.

The last night I was in town before heading up the SF Bay Area to visit family I photographed Anthony as Uncle Lewis, and also photographed the Christmas lights I bought to use as background filler.


And as you saw above, the final card ended up working out pretty great!

Kitana’s awkward pose as Cousin Eddie was perfect and was actually the very first test shot we took! Ha!
Lindsay always looks incredible and her figure worked great for the fantasy girl pose from the pool dream sequence.
Elizabeth and I managed to get a great pose and facial expressions for our part.
Rachel’s tied up version of Mr. Shirely worked out great for a hot-girl-in-ribbons shot.
And Anthony’s Uncle Lewis was absolutely hilarious. I think we only took about 10 photos, but it was great.
Lastly, I doubt anyone noticed, but the burned out tree is an edited version of the tree I used in my very first card! Got a little extra use out of it! Ha!


Once in the Bay Area the next day I ordered all the cards printed and picked them up the following morning.
Each year I get little calendar cards included with the order and just pick some random hot photo of a model I’ve shot that year. I think I’ve used Sendy’s photos three times now. But Sendy’s gorgeous, so why not?


Enveloping and checking addresses…


Keeping up with people’s addresses is the hardest part of this project. The list has grown to over 200 people – this year I sent/gave out around 240 cards. So managing my list is a project in itself.
The color codes to the right of the names/addresses are which years the people signed up and received a card. I keep a tally of who got which. Only about 56 people have received all 5 cards.


Trip to the post office…


My annual “fist of cards” photo. This was the first group to go in the mail. 210 cards.
Annoyingly 44 of them got sent back to me because they mailed them to the return address and the “To:” address.

I’m still dealing with a couple stray cards that have been sent back. And I have a few left that were never signed up for.
But all in all, it was another successful year for my annual Christmas card.

I’m looking forward to Christmas 2015 this year. I already know what I’ll be doing for it, and I already know that it will be awesome.

To those who signed up, Thank you! And I hope you enjoyed the card.
To those who didn’t, well… there’s always next year!

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