Perfect family photo falls short again

Shooting a good photograph can be difficult. It seems like it should be an easy task, but there are many variables that go into getting that perfect picture. Some of those variables include lighting, the equipment you are using and the cooperation of your subjects. There are also some variables that are extremely difficult to account for, such as other people in the background. A little more than a year ago, our family took a boat ride while at Orange Beach for the annual Alabama Press Association Summer Conference. While most of my time during the conference is spent in meetings and seminars, the ride on the catamaran is a fun family excursion. Our two-hour sunset cruise in 2017 was the first time that our family had been on a boat together. At that time, we were a family of six. We wanted to commemorate the fun time at sea with a perfect family photograph. It is difficult enough for Andrea and I to snap a picture that we both agree is favorable looking of us, but add four children to that and someone inevitably will have their eyes closed, be making a crazy face or possibly even be making some weird sign with their hands. On the boat that afternoon, we pulled the family together near the front of the boat to take a photo. One of the workers on the boat took the picture for us. She said, “Oh, what a nice looking family,” as she held the phone up. I glanced at the family portrait as she handed the phone back to me, and I thought it looked nice. It would be a couple of hours later when we would realize that our family had added a member without us knowing it. Someone had photobombed us. Andrea was looking through the photos of our boat trip, and she said, “Who is this woman?” I looked to find a total stranger with a huge smile right in the middle of our family picture. Andrea was a little aggravated, but we both laughed about the unexpected photobomb. The next night, we met the lady at an APA function. She was very apologetic, but we told her it was a funny prank and a funny story that we could always tell. Earlier this week, we took that same boat ride, and I told Andrea that it would give us a chance to redo the family portrait. A lot had changed since last July, because Zuzu was born in August. This year we had an actual new member added to our family. After an hour or so in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, I tried to round all our family members up so we could take the family portrait. Zuzu was growing a little fussy, because we thought she was getting tired, so we wanted to get the picture before she got difficult to deal with. Our other three girls were easily gathered, because they were already hanging out on the front of the boat. Our 15-year-old son Stone stayed inside the body of the ship where all the food and drinks were stationed. It took me a minute to get him outside with the rest of the family. Just as Stone sits down with us, I heard a horrible sound. It was Zuzu. She wasn’t growing tired. She had grown seasick and just hurled straight down her mother’s back. Andrea turned to me and said, “She just puked on me.” Even after five children, it is impossible to ignore the fact that you’ve been covered in hurl. I responded with, “we’ve got to get this picture.” I’m pretty sure that she wanted to throw me overboard, but the family photo was special to Andrea as well. She said, “Get someone to take it now.” The same worker from the year before grabbed my phone and took the picture for us, again noting the cuteness of the group. I looked at the phone closely and said, “No photobombers!” Andrea returned to the inside of the ship, and no one else even realized that Zuzu had been sick. It was the next day before I had time to show the family portrait to Andrea. I was glancing at pics on my phone, and I commented how great the family picture was. Everyone was looking at the camera. Everybody was smiling. Mission accomplished. Not so fast! Andrea looked at the photograph for a little over a second and said, “Where’s Joy?”

My heart sank. I grabbed the phone. “Where IS Joy?” Our 6-year-old daughter was not in the photo. I know she was with us, because I had gathered everyone. Upon a closer look, Joy was seated behind her older sister Breeze with only a portion of her head showing. She was looking in a completely different direction. I called her into the room and asked why she didn’t look at the camera when we were taking the picture. “I don’t remember that. Maybe I was looking for dolphins,” was her response. The fantastic family portrait on a ship at sea had eluded us for a second year in a row. I don’t know if we will try again. I’m not sure if my nerves can handle it. Who am I kidding? We are already determined to get that perfect family portrait next year. James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or