Wilhelm Photography Blog


The Evolution of the Wilhelm Family Christmas Card

The making of our Christmas card started out a silly, super amateur, low quality joke about our dog. What used to take part of an evening to create now takes days of shooting and editing for me. All year this card is in the back of my head with thoughts like, “What am I going to do this year?, How can I make it better?, and Why did I ever do this to myself?”  However, once it is done, it is one of my favorite projects of the year because I get to create it with the family. My kids are completely aware of the whole process now and are fantastic little actors. It is exciting to explain my vision, know they are going to actually keep it a secret, and watch them pretend in front of the camera.

I am excited to have this blog as an avenue of sharing my card with friends, clients, and those that I hope to meet in the coming year since I’m unable to mail it everyone! Come back to see the new card each year!

I shot the first card with 35mm film and the next few with a lousy 2 megabyte  point and shoot.  You can see that as our equipment progresses the image quality does as well.  After starting a business and investing in professional gear we have been able to pull off crazier scenarios.

Every year, we hear one of three questions:

1) What are you doing this year for your Christmas card?

Answer: I can’t tell you! First of all, I don’t usually know. Second, sometimes “plan A” doesn’t work out.  Third, it is a surprise, of course!

2) Can we be added to your mailing list?

Answer:  Our mailing list is getting ridiculous, so I am very glad to have internet and Facebook to share easily with all of our friends, family, and clients!

and until our boxer, Wallace, died…

3) How did you get your dog to do that?

My answer: Really big treats.

Here are our cards starting from 2004 in case you want to see them all!

2004 Where’s Wallace

Card Caption: Merry Christmas from Ben, Tonya, and… Wallace?  Wallace? WALLACE?

2005 Merry Mistletoe

2006 The Star of Christmas

2007 A Simple Family Portrait

2008 Up, Up, and Away!

2009 Wallace Saves Christmas

2010 “You aren’t taking a ridiculous photo of me this year!” ~ Wallace

2011 “Just Wrapping Things Up for Christmas.”

2012 was a sad year for our tradition.  Wallace passed away in January, but we have a card to close the chapter on this series.

2012 “Sorry, without a dog we just don’t have enough talent to do our Christmas Card this Year.”

2012 Wilhelm Photography

2013 Walking in a Wilhelm Wonderland

2013 Wilhelm Photography Christmas Card

2014 We Got a Hippopotamus for Christmas

Our family got a big surprise this year! Fortunately for me this isn’t our real gift. I just rented the hippo *wink*If you don’t know the song that inspired this you can hear it here: I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oOzszFIBcE)

Hilarious family Christmas Cards

2015 May the Force be with you

I didn’t intend to ride the StarWars trend but it happened anyway. I still can’t believe the Death Star made it into my Christmas Card! Although this required some major photoshop work, if you click the image to see the original post, you will know actual damage occurred in my home last year for the making of this card. If you follow the blog, you also know that we did very elaborate costumes from Episode 1 this year for Halloween which inspired this design. You can see them here: StarWars Halloween 2015


If you follow my photography, you understand why my card says Merry Macro Christmas. January 2016, I decided to promote my love for macro (close-up) photography by posting a daily “Good Macro Morning” image each week day.  I found that I have lots of friends who don’t think I am totally weird for hanging out with insects. My macro work went from not having a place in my business to winning awards, getting published, and being featured numerous times by other large macro forums. It was a fun year of photo sharing for me, and I am so thankful to all of my great friends who supported me. That being said, it seemed only right that I take a queue from the 1989 movie Honey I Shrunk the Kids cover photo to combine my family and my passion for macro into one ridiculous Christmas card. I was a afraid that the reference might be a bit to old, but my kids knew why it was funny so I went with it. I think the rest is self explanatory. We have an addition to our family this year. Our nephew moved in with us, and we are happy to add him to all our holiday routines.

2016 Back


This one was like a comic strip. I still don’t have an elf on the shelf, and I don’t intend to ever start.



2018 Jurassic Park Christmas

Please think it’s funny that there are ripples in the hot cocoa on the back of the card 😉

2019 Christmas Impossible

When I caught the sparkle out of the corner of my eye as I scanned some vines in the yard, I thought  maybe I caught a glimpse of the light hitting the dew. No bug around here is gold and shimmery, right? Wrong. The tortoise beetle is small, stunning, and today’s creature feature.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 1

 A subfamily of the leaf beetles, Cassidinae are tortoise and leaf-mining beetles. These ladybug-sized beetles get the “tortoise” name because of the dome-shaped shield that extends to cover their head and legs. Although, there is no evidence that this protects them.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 2

These beauties have living tissue under the translucent cuticle that allow the already colorful and metallic bodies to change color. I noticed this before even doing my research when I chased a gold one only to find him be a orangey red by the time I set up my tripod.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 3

My daughter has been hunting for these all week. We learned that the South American version is even more exotic in color and some actually make jewelry out of them which made them even more appealing to her. She notices EVERYTHING, and actually found tortoise beetle larvae. We watched as it moved and lifted a covering up and down as we got closer. Turns out, this covering is created by a “fecal fork” that collecst dried fecal matter and the molted body layers and are used to camouflage the larvae from predators.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 4

These beetles have lots of predators. They don’t roam far. Some have hatched, fed, and reproduced on the same leaf making them both predictable and easy for predators.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 5

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 6

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 7

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 8

They aren’t considered leaf-miners for nothing. All the holes you see in these images are their doing. This means that your plants are not really going to appreciate them even if they are shiny.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 9

DSC_9253Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 10

Those holes make great escape routes. The beetles are great at hide and seek.

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 11

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 12

These are fast at maneuvering the vines they devour and fly which made them tricky subjects this week!

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 13

Wilhelm Photography: Tortoise Beetle 14

These were a treat for me to learn about and photograph! Be sure to share and pin your favorites!

Thanks for coming back for another Creature Feature Friday. I am excited to show you a creature you are familiar with in an unfamiliar way. Many of us have seen an inchworm before, but I have some that just might surprise you today.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm 1

The inchworm is moth larvae of the Geometridae family. There are over 12,000 species in North America alone.  So, if you think that “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” you would be wrong. In the past, I only recognized the little green ones as inchworms.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

They actually come in a wide variety of colors so that isn’t what you should go by.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Inchworms have 3 pairs of legs in the front and only two or sometimes three pair in the very rear.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Because there are no appendages along the long middle, when they walk, they draw up their rear all the way to the front causing that characteristic loop you recognize.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

It is that funny walk that gives them their name and the nicknames: measuring worms, spanworms, and loopers.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

This next one is my “treasure” of the week.  He is a camouflage looper.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

This inchworm glues bits of plant (in this case petals) to his back to blend in with his surroundings.

Here is the patch of flowers he ruined making his costume:

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

He blends well. I missed him the first day I was shooting for this.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Funny thing is that each day when I went out to look for inchworms to photograph, he was the first one I spotted.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

It was harder for me to see the ones that were colors I didn’t expect to find.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Lavender and green was an especially lovely find.

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

WP Creature Feature Friday: Inchworm

Now if you don’t know the song  written by Frank Loesser about the inchworm, let me introduce you. I have had it stuck in my head all week so I feel like I should pass it along 😉  It was first  performed by Danny Kaye in the 1952 film Hans Christian Andersen. But I prefer the version he did on The Muppet Show, Season 3, Episode 16, 1978. Here it is if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4klZ-U1Qy14

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I was traveling yesterday for some photo sessions and stayed with my Grandmother for the night. We were talking about the upcoming holiday weekend and I was admiring her decorations, and suddenly realized I needed to share the amazing way she has been decorating Easter eggs all her life. I have always seen them on display, so I have often taken them for granted. But a few weeks ago I made a feeble attempt to cut an egg like my grandmother and was humbled as it crumbled in my hands. Although I had much of my camera gear with me, I was really not set up to photograph these correctly on my spur of the moment whim. Please bear with my mixed light and altogether improper light for these images. I know how to correctly photograph art and I couldn’t pull it off with what I had available, but I just need to get photos to share before I left.

 How my grandmother decorates eggs 1My grandmother collected old jewelry, gemstones, and tiny figures for her creations.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 2Many of the eggs shown here are goose eggs. She would carefully cut, add hinges and then completely line the inside with images from old greeting cards.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 3

Her eggs were hand painted with tiny pictures overlaid. Stands and finials adorn most of her eggs.

The one below is intricately cut around the design. This openwork allows you to see through the egg. The flowers are all trimmed in tiny gold cord.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 4

Here are several chicken eggs with scenes in them. The tiny designs include a sledding scene, Madonna and Child from an old Christmas card, and children playing on a spring day.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 5

My grandmother used to go to egg shows and trade with friends each year. This was a bird house she made…

How my grandmother decorates eggs 6

Most of the chicken-sized eggs were hung on a tree. These are just on stands for the photos.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 7

She made this one to commemorate her 25th Wedding Anniversary. The finial is made from a locket style ring that opens.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 8

This dining room egg includes a stained glass window, and furniture custom made from popsicle sticks.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 9

This egg will always be my favorite. Made from an emu egg. This is made in the style of a jewelry bow and lines with blue velvet and fine stones.

How my grandmother decorates eggs 10

All of her eggs are hand cut. The scenes were crafted from cards, figures, custom pieces, and silk plants. The outsides were decorated in all manner of pearls, brick -a- brack, sequins, and ribbon. These are just a sampling of her more elaborate eggs, but there are many more. When I hear people talking about decorating eggs, I know they think about dying them in vinegar with a little color tablet, but this is REAL decorating! Hope you enjoyed them. Happy Easter!