Photo Studio Holiday Card RB and Gears: The Evergreen Paradox

The McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: photography, photoshop and general mayhem

We started making these holiday cards 22 years ago to show off my photography, flex a little in the photoshop department and, generally, say thank you to all of my clients for another great year of making photographs for various marketing projects.

Of course, we also used them for our family cards as well. What can I say? My family knows I’m a little weird already. So I put my kids in odd “Hardy Boy”-esque situations. Big deal.

Well, my boys are not Lil’ Adventurers any more. They are adults. They have (mostly) moved out and are living their own adventures.

Luckily, they still want to come back and hang with Pops (not that they call me that!) and do that weird brainstorm thing where the ideas come fast and furious. And, in those moments, I am both proud and terrified of what my wife and I have let loose on the world!

I certainly hope that you have enjoyed reading them as much as we have creating them.

And, without further ado:

Happy Holidays to all of you and yours. We, at McKee Photography, want to wish you a warm, safe, happy, and above all, healthy holiday season.

See you in 2022!

Check out the card and the Rocketboy and Gears Adventures FAQ below!

Get in touch

Wishing you and yours a very Happy Holiday Season!






    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox front of card
    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox front of card
    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox back of card
    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox back of card
    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox inside card
    McKee Photography Studio Holiday Card: Rocketboy and Gears The Evergreen Paradox inside card

    The Evergreen Paradox Story Excerpt:

    “The tracks are all confused here. Someone got jumped bad!” Gears muttered. “Is that a hat?”

    He picked up the crumpled piece of cloth and it made a sad, broken jingle sound, like a muffled, pixy sized cowbell.

    “Wait!” exclaimed RB, spinning around slowly. “Did you hear that?”

    A low moan rose from the snowbank, barely rising above the wind whistling through the dark evergreens.

    “Oh, man. This just isn’t right. We have got to find him quickly, before the temperature drops further. You check that side and I’ll follow these tracks,” Gears directed.

    They trudged and dug through the knee deep snow, each following around the outside of the scene in opposite directions, their flashlights cutting small cones of illumination through the murky twilight.

    Gears suddenly shouted. “RB, I found him! Bring your medkit and leatherman. Quick!”

    Feet crunching through the crust, RB stumbled over to Gears’ position, pulling out his survival blanket as he ran.

    He pulled up short and looked down at the lump half covered in new snow.

    “The Season of Giving should never include beat downs on the list!” he quipped.

    They got to work stabilizing the Big Man, who groaned softly.

    “He’s going to be okay, once we get him out of the woods. We’re serving up First Aid, this season,” Gears finished with a laugh.

    “Followed by some justice!” said RB.

    Humming under their breath “Here Come The Consequences” from an old TikTok trend, they carefully wrapped up the unconscious man and prepared to move back to the lodge.

    Just then, a whistling sound cut through the woods, and a shadow crossed over the clearing, rapidly.

    RB glanced up just as the shadow crossed in front of the full moon.

    “Hold on. If he is down and snowbound,” RB mused. “Then, who is driving the sleigh?”

    Rocketboy and Gears FAQ

    2021 Photography. The Year That Was.

    Well, we are slowly finding our new normal. We are surviving and making images. Knock on wood, we are all healthy, although there have been more than a couple of scares that had us holed up in quarantine.

    But, we are all vaccinated and boosted and facing into the wind, ready for whatever 2022 might bring.

    Sadly, some of our crew has gone on to seek new career paths in other fields. And, some old clients (and friends) have not reopened.

    We figured out Covid Photoshoot Safety protocols and remote shoot supervision methods for current clients. Even though it does slow down the workflow, better safe than not!

    I am very grateful for those clients who have adapted to the times and hired my team and I to create their photography.

    I am also eternally grateful to my family, without whom this series would not exist. We all worked together to stay safe and sane… and keep me from Doom Scrolling all night.

    The McKee Photo Crew

    The McKee Photography Crew on a Holiday Tree Hunt

    How We Make The Photo Studio Holiday Cards

    Where do you get those story excerpts?

    Every picture tells a story. But, that story has to come from somewhere, right?

    We usually start brainstorming a scene that we think will be visually interesting. Through that process, the story of the book comes out.

    Sometimes, it is really dark, too! The Candi Canes story started with Santa’s illegitimate daughter having an addiction to candy canes.

    We, ah, dialed that back a bit.

    Then, after spending time editing the picture, I start writing as if I was an author. No, I am not an author.

    At least, not yet.

    But, I do my best and plunk down an action scene, as if it was a page from the middle of the book.

    Oh, and one rule is that one of the characters has to make a bad joke at the bottom of the page.

    Fishing for Gifts
    The Original
    The Original “Gears” for Rocketboy and Gears. Year 1

    The very first studio holiday card

    How did this holiday photo series get started?

    When Gears, er… Hunter, our oldest, was born, we wanted to create a photo studio holiday card to send to family, friends and clients.

    However, I was not a fan, creatively speaking, of the standard generic family portrait. So, my wife and I collaborated to create something a little more interesting. It kind of snowballed…

    And, has continued to snowball for the last 20+ years…

    My favorite comment was from my young second cousin. She mentioned how much she loved seeing the cards every year. And, that she really wanted to read the “books”!

    Your concepts are weird! How long does it take?

    Yes. I have heard that before. (Thanks, Aunt Peggy!)

    In the beginning, it was just my wife and I spitballing ideas and trying to figure out how to show people how the boys have grown and give me an opportunity to show off my retouching/compositing skills.

    Now, however, the planning process for the photo studio holiday card usually starts with pitch meetings in the first quarter, followed by various updates.

    Such as: “Wouldn’t it be cool to do it in a library that could be attached to last year’s office? What would that look like?”

    Rocketboy and Gears #21 Sketch
    Rocketboy and Gears #21 Sketch
    The Blender Set for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21
    The Blender Set for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21

    What is the inspiration for the series?

    When my wife and I were growing up, The Hardy Boys Mysteries and Nancy Drew Mysteries were always on our respective reading lists. And, I was always excited when I saw a collection of those books lined up on a bookshelf. To this day, that still gives me a thrill.

    When the Rocketboy and Gears concept really gained steam for us, those book covers, which have shown up as excellent memes now, became a touchstone for our creative process.

    How do you photograph these set ups?

    The set up for these shoots has become both simpler and more complicated at the same time.

    Since we are shooting with the specific purpose of compositing the boys into a virtual set, we just have to get really close with our lighting and lens selections.

    Sometimes, like in our 2008 shoot, that meant we had to source a slipper tub for the scene and figure it out from there.

    This year, we were only working with a chair. So, other than lighting and matching angles, it was the easiest shoot so far for the series.

    The set for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21
    The set for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21
    Rocketboy and Gears: Coal Case File
    Rocketboy and Gears: Coal Case File

    How has the process changed over 22 years?

    In the beginning, we were shooting film and scanning the image for some retouching. Nothing too serious.

    Then, with digital cameras, we got much heavier into compositing.

    The last few years, we brought heavy duty cgi, through the magic of Blender, to the party. That is when the sets got a lot more minimal and the worlds got much bigger.

    This year, however, I found myself going back to photoshop to drive the concept.

    How long are you going to do this?

    That is an excellent question! We have out grown the cute little boys battling the giant robot. We are even starting to push past the YA version.

    The boys college plans went a little sideways this year, so scheduling the shoot was fairly easy.

    But, at some point, I am sure they are going to be out of the house and then it will be much more challenging to organize these.

    The short answer, for me, is that I will keep on making these holiday cards as long as my fellow collaborators want to come and play with me!

    I can see, someday, in the future a few years, Rocketboy and Gears may pass on their batons to a new generation of crazy McKees…

    The Cast for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21
    The Cast for Rocketboy and Gears Adventures 21
    The Complete Rocketboy and Gears Adventure Book Series
    The Complete Rocketboy and Gears Adventure Book Series

    Happy Holidays, Everyone!

    Stay safe and healthy out there.

    Law Firm Rebranding Photo